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How to Write: Advice and Reflections Paperback – October 16, 1996


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (October 16, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0688149480
  • ISBN-13: 978-0688149482
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 5.2 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #632,636 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"If you want to write," says Richard Rhodes in the beginning of How to Write, "you can." That is not to say it will be easy. Rhodes is the author of short and long works of fiction and "verity" (he dislikes the word nonfiction, because it defines such a broad range of writing by what it is not), including The Making of the Atomic Bomb, which won a Pulitzer Prize. "Even now," he discloses, "all these books and articles later, writing often feels to me like groping in darkness along a wall."

While Rhodes has much solid advice about the grit one must bring to the writing life--"the best remedy for fear of writing ... is ... ass to chair"--it is his analogies about writing that are most refreshing. "Writing is a craft," he says. "I mean craft strictly: like carpentry or pottery, writing is handmade. Like other crafts as well, writing can sometimes be organized to the special depth and resonance people call art." Elsewhere, Rhodes compares structuring a work of writing to generalship. "A general," he writes, "needs to know what troops and weapons he commands and how they're deployed, but he also needs to develop a strategy for fighting battles and winning the war. The battles probably won't go as he plans, of course. If his strategy is sufficiently flexible, he'll be able to adapt it to circumstances and still come out victorious." And finally, he says, "writing is always like scuba diving, a descent as deep as you can or dare to go, given your capacity and your level of skill."

From Publishers Weekly

Rhodes (The Making of the Atomic Bomb) has enjoyed a long career as a magazine writer and as an author, mainly of verity?his preferred term for nonfiction?but also of some (less heralded) novels. This book has the virtues and defects of a long chat at Rhodes's table: the author offers worthy encouragement for fighting psychological barriers, and useful advice on tools and research. His discussion of voice and structure, though aimed at both writers of fiction and writers of verity, is a bit sketchy for fictioneers. Similarly, while his guidance on writing magazine articles is interesting, his take on the business of writing?after the usual caveats regarding its difficulty?relies a bit much on his happy war stories. Most useful, and unusual in books of this genre, is the author's textured account of the editing process, including his own blow-by-reworked-blow example of an essay-in-the-making. This isn't quite a comprehensive guide but an encouraging companion, especially for those familiar with Rhodes's work.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

I'm grateful that the author shared his experience with us.
Robert Beattie
The author is very experienced, and gives great insight into the thought process that has helped him do such an amazing job over the years.
Donovan Ritttenbach
Pulitzer Prize winning author Richard Rhodes has accomplished a rare feat with his book on the art and science of writing.
Walter V. Cicha

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 4, 2000
Format: Paperback
I found this book to be an excellent insider's account of what it takes to make it as a writer today. Rhodes shares many of his successes and failures along the way, and is very honest about the reasons for all of them. He also shares his life with the reader in a way that helps you understand how complex the writer's motivations, interests and, ultimately, his humanity can be.
Rhodes also offers a great deal of practical advice and insight into both the writing craft itself and the challenges a writer regularly faces - whether they be personal, financial, or otherwise. His easygoing, subtle style pulls you effortlessly along and you eventually understand why he has the authority to write such a book in the first place.
You will learn a great deal from Rhodes if your interest is personal, professional, or both.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Walter V. Cicha on April 13, 2000
Format: Paperback
Pulitzer Prize winning author Richard Rhodes has accomplished a rare feat with his book on the art and science of writing. Instead of unemotionally instructing the reader on "how to write," he has opened himself up and revealed the doubts, challenges, inspirations, and disappointments that drive people to express themselves in writing. Throughout the book, he uses his own experiences as examples, often with candor that borders on confession. The result is an amazingly effective revelation on the multi-faceted processes involved in effectively expressing one's thoughts and ideas in an organized written manner. For a professional scientist (chemist) that also loves to write beyond his field of expertise, this book has proved to be an invaluable gift. Richard Rhodes is a man of immense intellect, knowledge, and patience, three ingredients that have created a piece of art from what easily could have become a boring "how to" manual.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 26, 1996
Format: Paperback
This solid book will inspire you to pick up the pen and
take your muse out for a walk. A pleasant mix that serves
up a full course meal for the writer in you. Rhodes uses
his own growth, from a young struggling writer of Hallmark
Cards to a Pulitzer Prize winning author, to enlight and
encourage us. He covers writers block, agents, research,
editing and more. His style is accessible, the content
practical, with no attempt to be a comphrensive guide. Not
a series of writing exercises, ala Natalie Goldberg or Julia
Cameron, this book is more like a conversation with someone
who's been there, done that.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 23, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Look, when we read a book; how it dovetails with our immediate needs and interests, all very much affects how we rate it. With that caveat, I will say that those who describe Rhodes' as self-advertizing, by my lights, get it all wrong. In this wonderfully helpful book, which covers not only writing but the pain of publishing too, Rhodes uses his own vast experiences to help others, not to pat himself on the back. Anyone who reads it that way, I believe, is mistaken (or in the wrong mood). I found this book up there with Anne Lamott, Betsy Lerner and on the fact of publisher's mentality towards writers, utterly unique, right on target. He also gives a ton of useful tips from one who had ups and downs as a writer before winning the Pulizer prize. I prize this book. It crossed my life and came to inform my writing self at the right time, and is helpful as few other self-help books for writers are. Again, all reviews are subjective but those who think he's not delivering the goods, or not our to really help other writers have got it backwards. It takes courage and grit to go out on a limb, using oneself to let others see clearly. Do buy this if you are : a writer having any sort of problem. Richard Rhodes Knows.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 30, 1999
Format: Paperback
The Pulitzer prize winning author writes exceptionally, regardless of the topic. The first two or three chapters serve as purely inspirational, on the art of writing. The latter chapters aim at more technical ideas behind the work of writing.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 22, 1998
Format: Paperback
The book is full of insights and inspiration on the art of writing. For the beginner, Rhodes makes writing seem possible for all. His extensive work gives the reader a wide menu to pull out a few practical golden nuggets. For example, like the Knickerbocker Rule on how to become a writer -- "you apply ass to chair." This book is an enjoyable read as well as a solid tool.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By G. Merritt on May 18, 2005
Format: Paperback
I can understand the point of view for the more negative reviews citing arrogance and lack of usefulness with this text. At first reading, the text may seem haughty, incomprehensible, and boring to those looking for a step-by-step, paint-by-the-numbers method of writing the next Great American Novel. However, the most valuable and rewarding aspects of this book (for those who take the time to analyze its depths) are the first hand glimpses at writing's business side and the transparent look into the brain of an outstanding author. This isn't Stephen King writing about how he makes best-selling novels. It's a Pulizer prize-winning author carefully and succinctly laying out his methods, insights, achievements, failures, and overall philosophy for writing. Although some of the mechanics of writing are presented, it's the deeper components of the ART of writing, such as word choice and placement, connotative mental imagery, descriptive melding of facts, etc. that make this book truly fascinating to me. Although it comes across in sections as "look at how good I am," ask yourself if you could have re-written those passages to make them sound less arrogant and still get the complete message across. It would be like trying to describe how to climb Everest without ever accomplishing and acknowledging the feat.
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