Advice to Writers: A Compendium of Quotes, Anecdotes, and Writerly Wisdom from a Dazzling Array of Literary Lights

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9780679443872: Advice to Writers: A Compendium of Quotes, Anecdotes, and Writerly Wisdom from a Dazzling Array of Literary Lights

Here from more than four hundred of the world's most celebrated writers and booksmiths--from Euripides and Eudora Welty to Cynthia Ozick and P. J. O'Rourke--is a treasury of useful advice on the world and work of writing. Compiled by the author of The Rich Are Different and the best-selling Portable Curmudgeon, Advice to Writers includes priceless counsel on subjects ranging from writer's block and writing dialogue to dealing with agents and editors and appearing on television; from work habits and procrastination rituals to drinking on the job; from success, money, and fame to the lack of one or all of them.

Flaubert, Twain, and Kipling impart their venerable wisdom. Red Smith tells us that "writing is easy. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein." Annie Dillard, David Guterson, and Maureen Dowd offer practical suggestions. David Remnick describes the ideal editor. A genre's-eye view comes from science-fiction master Harlan Ellison and sportswriter Frank Deford. Provocative insights come from David Mamet, Russell Banks, and Joyce Carol Oates.

Clever and sagacious, pragmatic and heartening, this is an essential volume for both the aspiring writer and the devoted reader.

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Review:

"The only way to write is well and how you do it is your own damn business." --A.J. Liebling

There are at least as many theories about writing as there are writers to expound them. In Advice to Writers Jon Winokur has collected some of the best bons mots ever penned on the literary life. In chapters covering such diverse topics as agents, publishers, critics, and process, Winokur lets writers speak for themselves--and often the advice is contradictory: "The professional guts a book through--in full knowledge that what he is doing is not very good. Not to work is to exhibit a failure of nerve," John Gregory Dunne opines. "It would be wisest not to worry too much about the sterile periods. They ventilate the subject and instill into it the reality of daily life," André Gide ripostes. There is advice on grammar and style, on dialogue, plot, and character, and also on topics such as occupational hazards and drink (surely a subset of those hazards). "Write first, drink later," Patrick McGrath suggests. "To write you must be warm, fed, loved and sober." (Poet and essayist Philip Larkin, on the other hand, advises, "Get stewed: Books are a load of crap.")

Novices looking for practical information on the nuts and bolts of the business may not find it here. On the other hand, advice from the likes of David Remnick, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Toni Morrison, Maxwell Perkins, Isaac Asimov, Samuel Johnson, Calvin Trillin, P.D. James, and many, many other professional scribes can serve to inspire. At the very least, this potpourri of words to the wise will keep the incipient writer amused between drafts. --Alix Wilber

From the Back Cover:

On Agents:
"Choose your agent as carefully as you would choose your accountant or lawyer. Or dentist."
--Russell Banks

On Characters:
"Make your characters want something right away--even if it's only a glass of water. Characters paralyzed by the meaninglessness of modern life still have to drink water from time to time."
--Kurt Vonnegut

On Critics:
"Never demean yourself by talking back to a critic. . . . Write those letters to the editor in your head, but don't put them on paper."
--Truman Capote

On Dialogue:
"Remember that each character must sound different from the others. And they should not all sound like you."
--Anne Lamott

On Drink:
"Boozing does not necessarily have to go hand in hand with being a writer, as seems to be the concept in America. I therefore solemnly declare to all young men trying to become writers that they do not actually have to become drunkards first."
--James Jones

On Punctuation:
"Cut out all those exclamation marks. An exclamation mark is like laughing at your own joke."
--F. Scott Fitzgerald

On Work Habits:
"Best advice on writing I've ever received: Finish."
--Peter Mayle

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