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Why We Write: 20 Acclaimed Authors on How and Why They Do What They Do Paperback – January 29, 2013

4.6 out of 5 stars 41 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“If writing were illegal I’d be in prison. I can’t not write. It’s a compulsion.” —David Baldacci

“When I’m writing... I’m living in two different dimensions: this life I’m living now…and this completely other world I’m inhabiting that no one else knows about.” —Jennifer Egan

“Every story is a seed inside of me that starts to grow and grow, like a tumor, and I have to deal with it sooner or later.” —Isabel Allende

“In the beginning, it was that sense of losing time. Now…I have the sense that I can biff the world a bit. I can exert a force.” —Michael Lewis

About the Author

Meredith Maran, a passionate reader and writer of memoirs, is the author of thirteen nonfiction books and the acclaimed 2012 novel, A Theory Of Small Earthquakes. Meredith also writes book reviews, essays, and features for newspapers and magazines including People, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, The Chicago Tribune, Salon.com, and More. A member of the National Book Critics Circle, Meredith lives in a restored historic bungalow in Los Angeles, and on Twitter at @meredithmaran. Her next memoir, about starting over in Los Angeles, will be out from Blue Rider Press in 2017.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Plume (January 29, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452298156
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452298156
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #150,268 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
As a writer, I have many many many (did I mention many) moments of self doubt and angst about my writing. Reading this collection of interviews done by Meredith Maran is a salve. It reminds me that hey, you're not alone. Jodi Picoult goes through it, Susan Orlean goes through it, but the most important thing is you have to keep writing and keep your inner demons at the door. Wonderful reading and thank you to Net Galley for giving me an advance copy!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Whether you’re a wannabe writer taking the plunge, or a first time published writer, or an avid reader curious about the craft, you will love this book. I’m just about half way through it and must say that it is a fantastic read. In my opinion, this book could serve as a companion tome to Stephen King’s On Writing. Here are a few observations about the similarities these authors share:

Almost to a person, many of these writers feel they are in another world when the words flow and they feel they’re writing well.
Many made the comment that at times the characters in their stories often take on a life of their own, as if they were guiding the author’s pen.

As good as many of these scribes are, they still at times suffer from self-doubt, or lack of confidence, and of course practically all of them dread the inevitable bout with block.

Many of them swear to rituals that they feel help them get started; cleaning their studio, ridding the space of any shred of the last work, displaying artifacts that engages their creativity and summons the muse.

Overall, this is a wonderful book for anyone contemplating or already engaged in the writer’s craft. It’s been of tremendous help to me already (mining my first novel), and it was great to see some of the same faults I have shared by professionals. There is much to learn from and a great deal that will give comfort and support to aspiring authors in this book.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I was not sure reading about a bunch of authors discussing their writing would be entertaining or engaging. I was wrong. It was fascinating and I ate this up like candy. My only regret it that it ended, and I would have kept reading even if every author available today wrote about their craft. I especially enjoyed Jodi Picoult and David Baldacci. I loved how real they all were and how passionate they all are about writing. I am not a writer but an avid reader and I enjoyed this very much.
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Format: Paperback
I recieved an ARC from Netgalley.

To any author, whether you are published or not, the answer to why do you write is simple and these authors are not any different. We write because we have to.

This book takes that answer a step further. They just don't answer 'Because we have to!' They answer "Because I have to..."

It's what comes after the ellipsis that makes this book a must read for aspiring authors. We get an insight into some of the best literary minds. We look up to these authors, we want their success and we want to know their secrets.

The book is nicely broken down so each author gets his or her own chapter. There is a quote from one of thier works and brief background information including the authors vitals. The vitals include information on thier birth, family, schooling, honors and awards, and anything else that might be notable. I liked that it also included a question about a day job. This is followed by contact information and a list of published works.

Then we get the authors words on why they write. We learn interesting tidbits like Isabel Allende has a certain date when she starts writing a book. Jennifer Egan gives insights into winning the Pulitzer. James Frey talks about getting lost (this was personally one of my favorite sections to read). Ann Patchett tells us why she still writes in WordPerfect (I know!) and Jodi Picult talks about movie deals.
These are just a few quick examples of what these authors have to share. Each other also ends thier chapter with some wisdom for writers.

I think Terry McMillan sums it up best "I didn't choose to write. It was something that just happened to me." If you can relate, this book is worth picking up and reading.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Writing for most is a largely a labour of love. For a much, much smaller number it can be a lucrative profession. As editor Maran points out, "one million manuscripts are currently searching for a U.S. publisher. One percent of these will get the nod." Even then only thirty percent of published books turn a profit. Even with these daunting odds and a confusing publishing industry, more and more people are writing (which is great).

The format of this particular book is clean, clear and appealing. Maran interviewed twenty notable authors and gives them each a short chapter. There is a nice balance between a standard set of questions and unique ones that flowed from the conversations. One of the things that works in its favour is the succinct length. The result is a comfortingly familiar set of responses mingled in with a wider array of pleasingly original bon mots. What struck me the most was honesty of response. All of those interviewed are extremely blunt in their assessment of the trade. The long and short is, writing is a challenge both as a skill and as a business.

What motivates these literary luminaries ranges from "sheer egoism" to "historical impulse" to bringing "order to the chaos of life". Among those in the book are David Baldacci, Sebastian Junger, Michael Lewis, Jodi Picoult and Meg Wolitzer. Sue Grafton delights with her reason for choosing the profession, "I write because in 1962 I put in my application for a job working in the children's department at Sears, and they never called me back."

Most believe that to be a good writer, one must read. That is an oft-cited tip but Jennifer Egan takes it further by suggesting that writers should "Read at the level at which you want to write.
Read more ›
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