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On Writing

4.06  ·  Rating Details ·  387 Ratings  ·  36 Reviews
Eudora Welty was one of the twentieth century's greatest literary figures. For as long as students have been studying her fiction as literature, writers have been looking to her to answer the profound questions of what makes a story good, a novel successful, a writer an artist. On Writing presents the answers in seven concise chapters discussing the subjects most important ...more
Hardcover, Modern Library Edition, 106 pages
Published September 24th 2002 by Modern Library
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,246)
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Apr 01, 2016 Kathleen rated it it was amazing
Writing fiction is mysterious. Some talented people are able to create it intuitively, but some of us benefit greatly from the words of others who have figured out a piece of the mystery and are willing to share. This is not light reading, but it is a goldmine for anyone trying to crack the mysteries of the fiction-writing craft.

“The plot goes forward at the pace of its own necessity, its own heartbeat. Its way ahead, its line of meaning, is kept clear and unsnarled, stretched tight as a tuned
Feb 06, 2015 Austin rated it really liked it
This little tome is filled with wisdom. It gave me a greater appreciation for the art of fiction writing, which--like all art--is a lie that helps us understand the truth. Writers like Welty have a keen sense of place, time, plot, and human character. Their caricatures and settings describe the paradoxes and complications of our existence from their perspectives, which are often blessed with a strong sense of humor, irony, and other softening senses to a reality that seems harsh or unjust to les ...more
Liz Shine

The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker: A lecture on poetry cloaked in the story of how doubt effects creativity and creative block effects relationships. There are times where as a reader you may want to take Paul Chowder by the shoulders and give a good hard wake-up-shake, and yet if you've done any writing at all, you know that's not the way it works. These are the kind of holes we have to dig ourselves out of. This is the story of a poet's struggle to write the introduction to an anthology
Dec 27, 2012 Blake rated it it was amazing
On first being drawn into an expansive world of a new author I generally have for a portal that author's best known, best loved and/or first book. In some cases, and owing to particular circumstances, I might start off on a minor work, willfully transport myself for lack of adequate device, and one-by-one build up my traveling by dimensions; however, by rule of habit a book of literary criticism by an author of fiction is a late point of encampment on a typical excursion. As much as I own to suc ...more
Tim Wendel
Aug 31, 2008 Tim Wendel rated it really liked it
A thin book but packed with great information. I picked this up after too many years as prep for teaching at Johns Hopkins again this fall.
One of my favorite Welty stories is "No Place for You, My Love." Alan Cheuse pointed me toward it when I was a grad student, but I never really understood how it worked.
But in "On Writing," Welty details how this story failed at first. Then her vision for it changed during a trip to the back country south of New Orleans. How the countryside got into her mind
May 13, 2011 Caitlin rated it really liked it
Considered one of the greatest short story writers of the 20th century, Eudora Welty offers a magnificent guide that reveals just as much about the author as it does the craft of writing.
Aug 05, 2013 Kate rated it liked it
I wanted to like this book much more than I actually did. Moreover, I want to like Eudora Welty's stories and writing in general more than I actually do. Therefore, I may have overdone it when I decided to read both her "On Writing" and a collection of her short stories at the same time.

I suppose my main problem with this book is that Welty is a highly, highly intuitive writer, and is not so much worried about the more nitty-gritty parts of writing. This means that I didn't come away from this
Sep 20, 2015 Shenoas rated it really liked it
Scholarly essays on various aspects of the writing craft. Ms. Welty discusses how Time, Place among other factors influence a story. In the chapter on "Is Phoenix Jackson's Grandson Really Dead?" she sheds light on how she got the idea for the story when she saw an old woman walking alone on a wintry day.
May 31, 2016 Sue rated it it was ok
Sorry - I did try. When I have to read almost every sentence three times and it still doesn't make sense, it's the fault of either the writer or me. Since Ms. Welty is a revered writer, it must be me. The two stars are for my inability to comprehend the first 30-some pages. Stephen King was clearer for me.
Oct 25, 2008 Paul rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing
Really a wonderful in depth, practical collection of essays about writing including: plot, place, time, word choice... She uses examples from her own life, other classic writers, as well as her own works to discuss her points.

Her chapter entitled: "Must the Novelist Crusade?" is very timely as more and more authors consider writing as a way of promoting an ideology.

Here's a quote:
Since we must and do write each our own way, we may during actual writing get more lasting instruction not from anoth
Jan 21, 2016 Itisme added it
I found myself really having to concentrate. I am out of practice of reading at the density level of this text. I am not sure I agree with everything she says within these pages but I am not of mind to argue why.
Rachel Terry
May 10, 2010 Rachel Terry rated it liked it
Shelves: writing
As much as I love Eudora Welty, I found this book dull. I had trouble following her deep thoughts sometimes. She was a better storyteller than literary critic. But I absolutely agree with this statement from the introduction: "That October evening, while she read 'A Wide Net' to all those people, my mind wandered just for an instant: I had the thought that this is what true civilization really is; not the cities or the monuments or the statecraft or even the politics: but this. This slip of a la ...more
Aug 24, 2008 Ellen rated it liked it
I didn't find this book extremely helpful as far as tips on writing go. A couple of the essays talk about the place of criticism and morality in fiction, blah, blah. When Welty does talk about the "how to," she spends most of her timg talking about how fiction comes from the personal world and vision of the writer and is therefore difficult to teach. But her language in describing that, and the mystery involved in the act of writing, is delightful to read in itself. And she occasionally has some ...more
A really beautiful little book. Some weighty literary criticism stuff here, and more on fiction writing than on other types. I still really enjoyed it. Welty was pretty brilliant.
Ivano Porpora
Tre stelle di incoraggiamento. Non ci ho capito niente, e quel poco che ci ho capito non è che mi abbia convinto poi tanto.
Mar 18, 2016 Gary rated it really liked it
Her thoughts are deep, complex, provocative, and hers.
A wonderful book of free, independent, and meaningful explication.
Sep 21, 2016 Sarah rated it liked it
Great book - would have been even more helpful if I wrote fiction instead of non-fiction
Jun 20, 2016 HATIELI BLL rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jen H.
Jun 04, 2012 Jen H. rated it really liked it
Not sure that it was my favorite book on writing but it may go down in my personal history as being the book that made me think more about the things other books on writing haven't even touched on, things like "time" in a novel and on how not answering certain questions is actually an answer. Ms. Welty caused me to think on the difference between journalism and the writing of a novel, and she showed me the importance of place. All in all, a good book and well worth the reading.

Based on Welty's
Mar 23, 2015 Victoria marked it as to-read
via bookriot
Nicole Hardina
Jan 11, 2011 Nicole Hardina rated it it was ok
Shelves: craft-books
It took me forever to read this tiny book. I did glean some useful tidbits about how writing happens: "[It is] the break of the living world upon what is already stirring inside the mind, and the answering impulse that in a moment of high consciousness fuses impact and image and fires them off together." Luckily, she gets more specific. But overall, I found these essays about writing both undeniably good and extremely tedious.
Aug 23, 2014 Anne rated it liked it
Some of those chapters aren't very concise. The lucidity of her thoughts is spotty. Some dull paragraphs, then suddenly light breaks through, with a sentence like: "Great fiction, we very much fear, abounds in what makes for confusion; it generates it, being on a scale which copies life, which it confronts." (Welty 78).
Mar 26, 2012 Maggie rated it it was amazing
it doesn't get any better than ms. welty's writings and her writing on writing is in keeping with her most excellent expression of thoughts. if you are a reader, read this book; you will, then, be a smarter reader. if you are a writer (even a fledgling one) ... and i hope you are; our stories are worth writing about despite fran lebowitz's witty comment to the contrary ... you most certainly want to read this book.
Oct 03, 2007 John rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: all writers
Welty is a national treasure. What a unique, humane, and witty voice...And no matter how successful she became, she always had a humble demeanor. It seems like everyone who met her loved her.

This book gives great insights into writing and the creative process.
Jess Driscoll
May 02, 2008 Jess Driscoll rated it really liked it
"(Here I think it perhaps should be remembered that characters in a short story have not the size and importance and capacity for development they have in a novel, but are subservient altogether to the story as a whole.)" (Welty 35)
Mar 13, 2013 Christopher rated it really liked it
One of the better craft books I've read. It'd be five stars if she did not spend so much time sounding heady and esoteric, leaving concrete help behind. A touch more clarity and this would have been a five-star craft book.
Katriena Knights
Sep 26, 2011 Katriena Knights rated it really liked it
Money quotes:

"Each story, it seems to me, thrives in the course of being written only as long as it seems to have a life of its own."

"To write honestly and with all our powers is the least we can do, and the most."
Jul 27, 2013 Jamie rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing
"We can never stop trying to make feelings felt."

"For we have to remember what the novel is. Made by the imagination for the imagination, it is an illusion come full circle..."
Sep 18, 2011 Michael rated it really liked it
An elegant few chapters from an elegant writer, mostly about the novel--and therefore about life, meaning, and art. Recommended.
Mar 04, 2012 Sandra rated it really liked it
This is the first on-writing type of book I ever read. Don't let the original publishing date fool you; good advice never fades.
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Eudora Alice Welty was an award-winning American author who wrote short stories and novels about the American South. Her book The Optimist's Daughter won the Pulitzer Prize in 1973 and she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, among numerous awards. She was the first living author to have her works published by the Library of America.

Welty was born in Jackson, Mississippi, and lived a sig
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“All serious daring starts from within.” 1343 likes
“Indeed, learning to write may be part of learning to read. For all I know, writing comes out of a superior devotion to reading.” 381 likes
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