Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Writer's Day Job

In the past 15 years, I've worked as a juice barista, a Gap clerk, an assistant to an asylum lawyer and then to an Emerson scholar and then to a mean-spirited self-help guru; I've worked as an office temp, a SAT tutor, an innkeeper, a medical actor, and a teacher at six different universities. The fantasy that "making it" as a writer will render other jobs financially unnecessary is usually just that--a fantasy.

Leslie Jamison 

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Nonfiction is Always Stranger Than Fiction

When something extraordinary happens, we often say it's stranger than fiction. But reality routinely, every minute of every day, outdoes all realist fiction in its strangeness.

Vendela Vida 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Erotica as a Literary Genre

One could argue that erotica is either a subgenre of "romance" or a separate literary category. Many romance authors sneak raw sex into their books without calling them "erotica" to avoid limiting the market for their titles.

Elaine Sciolino 

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Effect of M.F.A. Writers' Workshops on American Literature

Less than a lifetime ago, reputable American writers would occasionally start fistfights, sleep in ditches and even espouse communist doctrines. Such were the prerogatives and exigencies of the artist's existence, until M.F.A. [Masters of Fine Arts] programs arrived to impose discipline and provide livelihoods. Whether the professionalization of creative writing has been good for American literature has set off a lot of elegantly worded and soul-searching and well-mannered debate.

Timothy Aubry 

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Need to Write

Writing is life. Writers need their writing; they need their imaginary worlds in order to find peace in, or make sense of, the real world.

Terry Brooks 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Truman Capote on the Novel Prize for Literature

The Nobel Prize, to me, is a joke. They give it year after year to one absolutely nonexistent writer after another.

Truman Capote 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Literature's Prize-Winning Drunks

William Faulkner, Sinclair Lewis, and F. Scott Fitzgerald are probably three of the most notorious falling-down drunks in the literary history of twentieth century America. There were followed by Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, and John Cheever, whose drinking habits became well-known components of their literary lives.

Jim Fisher 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Writers Need Confidence to Create Great Fiction

To reach the highest levels of the craft, above all you'll need confidence. Unshakable confidence to leap forcefully into the realm of creation. 

Noah Lukeman 

Monday, December 21, 2015

Some Writers Outline, Others Don't

If you are writing longer pieces than Edgar Allan Poe tended to do, and you haven't outlined, you'll be marching boldly forward into the dark. 

Ian Jackson

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Do Book Writers Have Readers in Mind When They Write?

My own view is that if you write with an audience in mind, you are involved in useless speculation. I don't believe you should think about audience.

Susan Sontag

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Writers Who Write Too Much

Most writers write too much. Some writers write way too much, gauged by the quality of their accumulated oeuvre.

Richard Ford 

Friday, December 18, 2015

In Novels Setting is Important

I have always tried to keep the settings of my novels as far as possible within the confines of my own experience.

Ngaio Marsh 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Is There a Secret Formula to Creative Writing?

If writing could be reduced to a formula or algorithm, everyone would do it.

Jonathan Franzen 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Writing For an Audience of One

I wrote for fourteen years before I finally sold something, so it is clear that I am not writing totally for an audience. I write what I have to write--and then find out who might be interested in reading it.

Donna Jo Napoli

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Suicidal Writer

Many people ask why a writer commits suicide. But I think that people who ask don't know the vanity and the nothingness of writing. I think it is very usual and natural for a writer to commit suicide, because in order to keep on writing he must be a very strong person.

Abe Kobo

Monday, December 14, 2015

Pulp Writers of Old

I admire honest hacks, ghost writers and pulp novelists who make no claim to literary distinction, but are content selflessly to batter out reading matter for the semi-educated millions on an old typewriter, and raise large, happy families on the proceeds.

Robert Graves

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Prize-Winning Novels

Literary prize committees have always been unreliable judges of quality and any reader silly enough to buy a book for the stamp on the cover deserves a ghastly read.

B. R. Myers 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Unwritten Novel

A bad novel is better than an unwritten novel, because a bad novel can be improved; an unwritten novel is defeat without a battle.

Paul Johnson 

Friday, December 11, 2015

Exclamation Point in Literary Dialogue

Exclamation points in dialogue tend to make statements sound like lovesick teenage email. Try at all costs to avoid using them!

Allison Amend

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Writing Conference Manuscript Critiques

Creative writing classes and workshops tend to be gentler than writer conferences, but in all of these situations you may find yourself sitting around a table with a number of other writers who feel morally and aesthetically compelled to rip your story to threads.

Ann Lamott

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Academic Writing, A Blight on Literature

A friend of mine turned in a paper to a college course on behavior modification. She had tried to express in simple English some of her reservations about this increasingly popular approach to education. She received the paper back with the comment: "Please rewrite this in behavioral terms." It is little wonder that human beings have so much trouble saying what they feel, when they are told that there is a specialized vocabulary for saying what they think. The language of simplicity and spontaneity is forced to retreat behind the barricades of an official prose developed by a few experts who believe that jargon is the most precise means of communication.

Lawrence Langer 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

"Dry" Writing

We sometimes speak of academic writing, of courtroom transcripts, of material that does not compel our attention or elicit a strong desire to continue reading as dry. What we mean by "dry" is that it does not enable use to see what we read, it does not move us, and, most important, it does not stimulate our intellect with insight, its ostensible purpose.

Sol Stein 

Monday, December 7, 2015

Can Creative Writing Be Taught?

But you can't teach writing, people tell me. And I say, "Who the hell are you, God's dean of admissions?"

Anne Lamott

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Writing Nonfiction Books

Among all the home businesses touted these days, I can think of none that is easier to get into, cheaper to start, or offers more potential for recognition, respect, and reward than nonfiction book writing. It is, in my opinion, the ultimate dream job.

Marc McCutcheon

Saturday, December 5, 2015

For Purposes of Fiction, What is Plot?

An idea is not a story. A first draft is not a story. A moral is not a story. A character is not a story. A theme is not a story. A plot--now, that's a story! So where do I get me one? You might ask. At your writing desk. Because plots don't exist. They can't be shopped for or ordered on-line. They are coaxed into being. They develop. They grow in the course of the writing.

John Dufrsne 

Friday, December 4, 2015

Is The Ability to Write Well a "Gift"?

Writing is at the very least a knack, like drawing or being facile on the piano. Because everybody can speak and form letters, we mistakenly suppose that good, plain, writing is within everybody's power. Would we say this of good, straightforward, accurate drawing? Would we say this melodic sense and correct, fluent harmonizing at the keyboard? Surely not. We say these are "gifts." Well, so is writing, even if the writing is of a bread-and-butter note.

Jacques Barzun 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Writing Novels, For Most, Is a Vocation Rather Than a Profession

There's a difference between a vocation and a profession. A vocation is a calling--something you are called to. A profession is something that you practice. In the United States, I think about 10 percent of the novel writers actually make a living our of their novel writing. The others have the vocation, but they can only partly have the profession, because they have to spend the rest of their time making money in order to keep themselves in their habit. They are word junkies. They've got to pay for their fix. I chose university teaching because there was a long summer vacation, and also because you culd fake it.

Margaret Atwood 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Overdone Novelistic Settings

Descriptions of the setting are easily overdone, often clumsy. Through a misplaced sense of obligation to describe a setting exhaustively, many young writers get into what I call the setting fallacy--that is, they start the story with a whole paragraph describing the sky, weather, or a city street as the protagonist walks into a bar.

David Madden