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Writers on Writing

January 16, 2015 | lfeesey | Comments (0)


Writers are observant and introspective, and obviously bursting with things to tell the world about itself. They can also tell us about what writing is, what it is like to write, and how to do it well. Many illustrious writers have taken the time to share their expertise in books. They know how to put words together so that they affect the reader in just the right way. Below are a few of the more interesting examples of writers writing about writing.  

Steering the craft - le guinUrsula K. Le Guin wrote up Steering the craft: exercises and discussions on story writing for the lone navigator or the mutinous crew after a writing workshop she gave. She divides writing into its major components. The book gives lessons, examples from literary classics, and hands-on exercises to develop anyone's storytelling skills. It is a writing course in a book. Ideal to serve the do-it-yourselfers.


On writing - kingWriting is inextricably woven into the fabric of Stephen King’s life. To help others achieve the writerly life, he penned On writing: a memoir of the craft. Embedded in his autobiography is his drive for ever more efficient and impactful writing. He explains how through trial and error over decades of writing best sellers, he attained his mastery over narrative fiction.


These books are more concerned with crafting the art of writing than crafting the writer as artist-philosopher. The next group of writers on writing look at the way writing affects the writers’ personal development. Writing to them is more than the sum of style, plot and character, it is the writers’ progress toward enlightenment.

Zen in the art of writing - bradburyZen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Writing by Ray Bradbury is a collection of self-effacing essays that uses the Zen as a conceptual hook into how to remain balanced as writing takes over your mind and life. Writing is always challenging. Understanding and integrating its lessons brings the writer closer to wholeness. Amid his tips, tricks and lists, he invokes universal love as the motivator and the product of the writer.


Bird by bird - LamotteAnne Lamotte firmly believes in writing for its own sake. In Bird by bird: some instructions on writing and life, her candid anecdotes demonstrate her ability to portray the raw truth. She feels that perfectionism strangles the writing process, whereas attentiveness opens it up. Whether traumatic or triumphant, life is messy. Making sense from it is possible by writing with the deepest honesty. 


The writing life - dillardThe Writing Life by Annie Dillard is a slim volume that presents writing as a tool. Like a stone carver’s chisel that uncovers forms hidden in the stone, the act of writing discovers the sublime in a formless whorl of words and ideas. The writing guides the writer towards completion. She provides plenty of examples of how she transformed her imagination into literary passages.


On moral fiction - gardner
According to John Gardner “relentless moral analysis” is what sets apart the best in modern fiction. On Moral Fiction is his polemic on “what fiction should be”. It is a lesson on how to understand and write about your characters’ difficulties and consequent choices. Although it is argued with inconsistencies and contradictions, Gardner ably maintains that the purpose of the novel is to explore a profound, universal level of human truth. Gardner also wrote two less contentious books on writing, The Art of Fiction and On Becoming a Novelist.


If you like to write or just want to try it, come to the Writers' Group at York Woods branch every Thursday 7-8 PM. We offer support, advice and writing exercises, as well as a few books and articles on writing from some of today's most interesting writers. 



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