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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

3.91  ·  Rating Details  ·  401 Ratings  ·  46 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 li
Paperback, 288 pages
Published May 1st 2002 by Times Books (first published 2001)
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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
246th out of 542 books — 1,037 voters
Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald MaassOn Writing by Stephen KingBandersnatch by Diana Pavlac GlyerBird by Bird by Anne LamottZen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury
Makes me want to sit down and write!
24th out of 44 books — 26 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,172)
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Feb 25, 2009 Shane rated it really liked it
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
May 10, 2013 Utkarsh rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 28, 2012 Mmars rated it really liked it
Shelves: on-writing
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
Jan 03, 2011 Jesse rated it liked it
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
May 06, 2013 Mike rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing
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 jean
Apr 30, 2014 missy jean rated it really liked it
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
Jul 24, 2015 Ruby rated it it was ok
Shelves: dull, boring, nonfiction
This book seemed like it was going to be a really interesting collection of writings by different authors ABOUT WRITING. Most of the. Just ended up being semi-reflective narratives about short periods in their lives or completely random little essays about their own interests. I wanted to read ABOUT WRITING. Not the writer's life, not the writer's hobbies, and not random writers' back stories. The problem was that a lot of the time, the different authors weren't even talking about the same subje ...more
Nov 04, 2010 Ann rated it it was amazing

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
Paloma Etienne
Aug 17, 2013 Paloma Etienne rated it liked it
Shelves: creativity
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
Sep 07, 2010 TBV rated it liked it
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
Apr 02, 2015 Tammy rated it did not like it
A fairly bland mix of essays with a few gems. It's not really about writing but about being a writer. Could have been more selectively curated.
Elisabeth Kauffman
Feb 10, 2014 Elisabeth Kauffman rated it it was amazing
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 really liked it
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
Cameron Wiggins
Nov 27, 2013 Cameron Wiggins rated it really liked it
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
Robert Devine
Oct 30, 2014 Robert Devine rated it really liked it
Very good collection of essays.
Karen Douglass
Jan 28, 2014 Karen Douglass rated it liked it
I read lots of books like this and always find them useful and insightful. This one stays on my shelf.
Apr 27, 2009 Christine rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing
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
Rogers Hartmann
Jul 09, 2015 Rogers Hartmann rated it it was amazing
Such an excellent collection for writers by writers. Loved it.
Aug 01, 2013 Jessi rated it it was ok
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.
Tom Britz
Sep 06, 2015 Tom Britz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Writers On Writing are a series of books that contain articles by writers that deal with their own writing process. Like working in a gold mine, the nuggets are there, but you need to do a lot of sifting and digging.
Rachel Brune
Oct 29, 2013 Rachel Brune rated it really liked it
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.
Feb 05, 2010 Steph rated it really liked it
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 liked it
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
Dec 15, 2011 Michele Tracy rated it it was amazing
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!
Jun 29, 2011 Phredric rated it liked it
Shelves: books-on-writing
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
Mar 09, 2012 Kateri Ewing rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012
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 :)
Mar 05, 2009 Katie rated it liked it
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.
Dan Keating
Mar 03, 2011 Dan Keating rated it really liked it
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.
Jan 27, 2009 Steve rated it really liked it
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.
Jan 01, 2013 Bret rated it it was amazing
Shelves: finished, writing
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.
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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.
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