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Writers on Writing: Collected Essays from The New York Times
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Writers on Writing: Collected Essays from The New York Times

3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  316 ratings  ·  38 reviews
Now in paperback, today's most celebrated writers explore literature and the literary life in an inspirational collection of original essays.

By turns poignant, hilarious, and practical, Writers on Writing brings together more than forty of contemporary literature's finest voices.

Pieces range from reflections on the daily craft of writing to the intersection of art's and l...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published May 1st 2002 by Times Books (first published 2001)
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Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald MaassOn Writing by Stephen KingBird by Bird by Anne LamottReady, Set, Novel! by Lindsey GrantNo Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty
Makes me want to sit down and write!
17th out of 37 books — 15 voters
On Writing by Stephen KingThe Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr.Bird by Bird by Anne LamottWriting Down the Bones by Natalie GoldbergEats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss
Best Books on Writing
397th out of 431 books — 797 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 890)
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Shane
I felt in good hands reading the lives of these famous writers. I did not feel so alone anymore. It was good to know that these literary personalities also adopt idiosyncratic postures, dress in creative ways, pick unusual settings, collect dozens of notebooks with the most eccentric designs, meditate, and even go running in order to write. Other things I learned were:
1) The neeed to read in order to write
2)The impact of cinema on writing - cinema has claimed a lot of writing's former glory and...more
Mmars
Been picking this up off and on for the last couple weeks. Have randomly read about half the entries. Enjoyed most of what I've read so far. 'On writing' is sometimes misleading, in that the topic receives oblique treatment if you are looking for advice on how to write.

Rather, these are personal essays about being writers. They respond to readers reactions, Mary Gordon writers ingeniously about her pens and her notebooks, several write in sort a stream of consciousness in which characters parta...more
Jesse
This is a great idea made manifest, but as is almost always the case with collections of essays by all different writers, it's a mixed bag. It took a half-dozen essays before I was hooked by Nicholas Delbanco's about emulating other writers, and another half-dozen before Mary Gordon's delicious piece about her collection of notebooks and their various functions. Then I hit this blue streak in the last third of the collection with Walter Mosley, Joyce Carol Oates (who's essay about running and ho...more
Utkarsh
Great Book.
Here are a few quotes I underlined:

So much of life falls between the seams of the sayable. It’s ironic that poets use words to convey what lies beyond words, that poetry becomes most powerful where simple language fails, allowing one to bridge the conscious and unconscious, and even festoon that bridge with sensations and subterranean desires. — Diane Ackerman

But the creative artist can change the world. A true writer opens people’s ears and eyes, not merely playing to the public, but...more
Paloma Etienne
All right, I hesitated whether to give this book two or three stars. At the end, I'm giving it three, but two would perhaps be a more objective rating. I mean by this that my by then detached head was having a hard time with some of the essays (as other people have pointed out), but eventually (as already said by some reviewers), half way through it got better and wiser, despite the occasional flimsy piece. Some articles on the first half definitely saved the day.

Don't take me wrong; I did expe...more
Mike
The writers in this book encompass a time period of sixty years. Yet, their writing advice (and examples) are more timeless than most professions. This is worth it for anyone, regardless if they write or not.
missy ward-lambert
A collection of personal essays written by established writers about the art and practice of writing. It's unevenly appealing, as collections tend to be; some of the essays are pretentious and elitist, some plagued with the casual sexism of the successful male writer. Rick Bass's essay on hunting is truly atrocious, in my opinion (and I like much of his writing so I'm sad to say that). But most of the contributions are lovely and surprising, and some were exactly what I needed these days. My fav...more
Ann

Writers [on Writing] contains essays from forty-six contemporary authors reflecting on what impels a writer to write. Some of the essays are hilarious—how could Carl Hiaasen be anything but funny?
Some are deeply serious, as is Elie Wiesel’s piece titled, “A Sacred Magic Can Elevate the Secular Storyteller,” in which he tells of his struggles in trying to put the Holocaust into words. He says, “I felt incapable and perhaps unworthy of fulfilling my task as survivor and messenger. I had things...more
TBV
I gave this book three stars instead of two because of a handful of articles. Overall, the book was not what I expected. The articles were personal treatises about writing projects, or experiences about writing that particular authors had, but precious little about the task of writing.

The notable chapters were written by E. L. Doctorow, Richard Ford, Barbara Kingsolver (though I think she over-reacts a little about writing sex scenes), Walter Mosley, Susan Sontag, and Hilma Wolitzer. There's no...more
Elisabeth Kauffman
This is an excellent collection of essays on the craft of writing. Worth the time for anyone who is working out what it means to be a writer.
Todd Hoke
Oct 06, 2008 Todd Hoke rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone interested in writing/art and the process of creation
Of interest if you are interested in writing. That's obvious, ain't it? A lot of the essays in this collection explore how each writer filters their experience of life onto the page. Some write about the oddities of their practice (Kent Haruf ["Plainsong"--one of my favorite sort of recent reads] types with a knit cap pulled over his head to better focus his concentration).

Blahblahblah...the title of the thing should clue you into whether or not you give a flip about the subject matter. If it st...more
Cameron Wiggins
I love reading books like this, although I realize that they are not for everyone – they sure pique my interest. This book of author’s collected essays range from Saul Bellow to John Updike to Alice Walker to Alice Hoffman to Kurt Vonnegut, JR. to Carl Hiaasen to Susan Sontag to Barbara Kingsolver. In other words, there is an extremely wide variance of successful writers with essays here. Everything from yard sales to writing and re-writing to writers block is covered by these authors and it is...more
Karen Douglass
I read lots of books like this and always find them useful and insightful. This one stays on my shelf.
Christine
I enjoyed this one slowly - it's a book of essays on writing (obviously, but sometimes I skip the titles and go directly to the reviews when I'm reading my goodreads email, so there you go). Some are better than others, but in almost each one, there was a spark of something that stayed with me. I think I'll keep this one in its position of glory (in the bathroom) rather than putting it back on the shelf, because this is one of those books where I hit the end and immediately wanted to start it ov...more
Jessi
This book is a series of essays about writing. It wasn't as writing oriented as I thought it would be. I expected essays about process and difficulty, and there were lots of stories about being an author more than the actually writing aspect. Some read quickly and some I skipped over. It's a helpful book but definitely one to read in little bits, not in one sitting.
Rachel Brune
I enjoyed almost all of the essays in this collection. Some of my favorites: Elie Wiesel, Susan Sontag, Carl Hiaasen, Kurt Vonnegut Jr. Vonnegut's was, I think, my favorite. Still, each of these essays offers a unique perspective on the craft of writing, and I appreciated the look "behind the scenes" into the author's craft.
Steph
I really enjoyed this essay collection. I had only heard of a few of the authors featured in it, but was happily introduced to others whose work I'd like to read one day. Great advice for would-be writers, or more appropriately in my case, 'wanna-be' writers. Thank you Michael for a great Christmas gift!
Colleen S.
Jul 17, 2012 Colleen S. rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: writers
A collection of previously published essays on writing from famous writers. A fascinating collection since the pieces come from very different directions, but the quality is highly uneven. Still, a handy collection for any writer to keep on his/her shelf when they need a shove from a veteran.
Michele Tracy
Fascinating and helpful, this collection provided new insights to the various ways that writers go about getting their work done. I really liked that there were such a spectrum of writers (literary, genre, well-established, newer, etc) represented. One of my best finds of the year!
Phredric
A very variable collection of short essays, maybe musing is a better word, from a range of authors. The pieces are mostly short - a few pages - and I read one or two before going to sleep. If I hadn't read The Paris Review Interviews I would have liked this a lot more than I did.
Kateri Ewing
I've enjoyed reading these essays so much. There are apparently eight volumes of these essays? Have to find more. Not all of them are winners, but overall this is a fabulous collection of prose on literature, the act of writing, and life. Just loved it. Great bathtub reading :)
Katie
It's hard to pick stars for this book, because I loved some of the essays and hated others. But, overall, it's a pretty interesting collection of writers and their thoughts on writing. A fun read for writers, editors, or other people who like words.
Shanna Mallon
Didn't read this one cover to cover but picked and chose the stories I wanted to focus on. Inspiring talks about the writing process and some really helpful quotes I'll be thinking on for a while. Good read for writers needing some inspiration.
Dan Keating
A truly outstanding collection of advisory essays from writers who know what the heck they're talking about. This is not a "How-To" writing manual, but more a set of tips and observations from established, excellent writers. Definitely worth a read.
Steve
For anybody who loves to write and/or to read, these essays by noted writers about their craft are gems. By the way, many of the essays are also available to read for free at The New York Times website.
Bret
I've been reading a few "writer" books lately as I prepare to start doing some writing myself this year. Lots of fun, short essays in this collection. Quite a few from authors I like and admire, too.
Dragana
Not fair! I picked this up to just read two or three essays to make me a better writer, but I had to read ALL of them. How am I supposed to write when they put out such excellent reading material?
Cassandra
Not every essay was fantastic, but on the whole they were interesting and varied, and they made me wish to be writing instead of reading, which is exactly what I was looking for.
Bonnie
Aug 17, 2011 Bonnie added it
So interesting (and kind of a relief) to realize the process is different for everyone. There really is no holy grail. So just keep at it. And drink lots of coffee.
ML
Idea!
I am so just (and simply) limiting myself to just adding books I read!
That is until I figure (and find!) "how-tos" :-)

...
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The New York Times is a daily newspaper published in New York City and distributed internationally. Founded in 1851, the newspaper has won 112 Pulitzer Prizes, more than any other news organization. Its website receives 30 million unique visitors per month.
More about The New York Times...
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