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Advice to Writers: A Compendium of Quotes, Anecdotes, and Writerly Wisdom from a Dazzling Array of Literary Lights Paperback – May 9, 2000
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"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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"Best advice I've ever received: Finish." --Peter Mayle
"Cut out all those exclamation marks. An exclamation mark is like laughing at your own joke." --F. Scott Fitzgerald
"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
Top customer reviews
Winokur's book is satisfying and addictive. By offering actual quotes from working writers, he manages to show the amazing breadth and depth of the torturous creative experience. Writing is more of a chronic condition than a profession: think of Advice to Writers as a self-help mental health book for the ink-stained wretches of the world.
And isn't it wonderful to know that our most frustrating issues were experienced by and dealt with by our most astonishing and enduring literary heroes.
Thanks to Mr. Winokur for providing us with the looking glass as we hopefully learn through the inciteful pain and suffering of the "literary lights" we so hope to emulate.