Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Process: The Writing Lives of Great Authors” as Want to Read:
Process: The Writing Lives of Great Authors
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Process: The Writing Lives of Great Authors

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  721 ratings  ·  106 reviews
Ernest Hemingway, Zadie Smith, Joan Didion, Franz Kafka, David Foster Wallace, and more. In Process, acclaimed journalist Sarah Stodola examines the creative methods of literature’s most transformative figures. Each chapter contains a mini biography of one of the world’s most lauded authors, focused solely on his or her writing process. Unlike how-to books that preach writ ...more
Kindle Edition, 270 pages
Published January 20th 2015 by Amazon Digital Services
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Process, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Process

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.97  · 
Rating details
 ·  721 ratings  ·  106 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Process: The Writing Lives of Great Authors
I received an ARC of this title from the publisher via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Published by Amazon Publishing, January 20, 2015

What are we looking for when we look at the lives of great writers? I would assume many of us want the dirt; the broken relationships, alcohol problems, madness and eccentric behaviors we associate with artistic types. This is not a book about those things.

Process: The Writing Lives of Great Authors, is exactly what it says it is. These are not biogra
Noah Goats
Nov 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I write a bit of fiction myself and it’s always interesting to take a peek behind the curtain to see how successful writers operate. In Process, Sarah Stodola shares a series of profiles detailing, briefly, the writing lives of famous authors ranging from Edith Wharton to Junot Diaz. This book is interesting and inspiring, and even has a good idea or two that could be helpful to aspiring writers. It’s comforting to see how much the great novelists struggle to get words on the page.

Stephen King’
Taylor Church
Jan 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was just what I needed. As a writer it's great to hear how other writers have done it. Not so much about how they crafted sentences or came up with complex plot structures, but rather the quirky details; how some refused to work before noon, how others could only party in Paris, and write in the states, while one preferred typing in a room painted black. The overall message is that there isn't a precise recipe for greatness, but that you must create your own path and pave it however yo ...more
Leslie Lehr
May 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
TEN stars for this book! From Kafka to Kerouc, Didion to Diaz, this paints the big picture of how writers write. Each author, from the classic to the current are profiled in terms of their writing lives, techniques, dreams and a day in the life. Myths are dispelled, truths revealed, and enough affirmation and inspiration for all who endeavor to put worlds on the page. I mean, of course, words. Or did I? This belongs on your writers shelf between Anatomy of Story and Xray Writing.
Excellent on Au
Scarlett Pierson
Loved this book. It's perfect for someone that loves reading about authors and how they write. I thought the author sounded legit, informed, and was straightforward. I liked how she stayed on course and didn't get lost in the author's personal lives no matter how crazy they were. One thing she used the word "crystalline" entirely too much! ...more
Myk Pilgrim
It's good to know that the greats were all crazy too.
Everyone has their own mountain to scale and I am not special.
Loved the 'Day in the life of a writer' sections they gave me a lot of great ideas to test out.
Very interesting read.
Aug 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book had been recommended by a member of a local writers group I'd attended. It includes a concise, and comprehensive glimpse into the writing styles, and lifestyles, of 18 well-known authors, with a great summary paragraph at the end of each segment. I thought it was helpful, because it gave personal information on each, with some struggling to get anything written down, yet completing great works of literature. It shows how writing draws from the very depths of the author's heart and soul ...more
Mar 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely fascinating! I am an author and always suppose I am the only one who writes in pieces, going this way and that, abandoning books and taking them up again, changing the focus, rewriting one para forty times and cutting it out and rewriting it to one line and putting it elsewhere.....but this is just the path, and each book has its own path and own reason. So it confirms I have many great and talented colleagues, some very brilliant indeed, who have stumbled in their own way towards com ...more
Mar 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This should be required reading for avid readers so they can appreciate the process an author endures. Likewise, any one aspiring to write might benefit from this book.
William Brown
Feb 04, 2019 rated it liked it
Useful, but only so so

This book gives some interesting insights into how, when,.and where famous writers do their thing, as well as their background and inspirations. However, the sections tend to be slow and repetitive, and the authors are mostly in literary fiction. A dozen or so contemporary popular writers added to the mix would have been nice.
I received an eARC of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

"Process" is a book about writers and their routines (or lack thereof), collating information about a vast number of writings, from Ernest Hemingway and Virginia Woolf through to Junot Diaz and David Foster Wallace, amongst many others. The book itself is split into sections, aggregating authors with similar processes (speed of writing, avoidance or embracing of the Internet, for example) into each section.

Stoloda ha
Jul 12, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing
Process is a collection of prosaic essays describing the inspirations, works, and lives of eighteen well-known authors. Your romantic notions of writers in cozy sweaters effortlessly channeling otherworldly inspiration by fires in quiet woodsy cabins near lakes won't survive this book. In fact, after finishing this book I wondered how it is that "successful writer" doesn't regularly outdo "alaskan fisherman" on lists of the world's most hazardous occupations. Kafka, David Foster Wallace, Orwell, ...more
Chelsey Clark
Nov 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2016, audiobook
3.5-4 stars, leaning toward 4.

This book is exactly as it is described. If you are interested in the topic, you will find something interesting here. Every chapter, even if you haven't read anything by the author featured, is interesting, engaging, and informative. However, I did find that I liked the chapters better that were about authors whose works I was at least a little bit familiar with. One or two authors I was 100% new to, and those chapters I was less into because it felt like I had a
Dylan Perry
Jun 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: best-of-2017

Process was as a pleasure to read, from start to end. I'm a sucker for anything about the lives of authors, as well as their creative process, so this was right up my alley. Almost every chapter was interesting in its own right, save for a couple whose work/process didn't really grab me (sorry, Richard Price and Edith Wharton) and the Toni Morrison chapter in particular made me go pick up my current read, Home, and add a great many other books to my ever-growing wishlist. If you're interest
Feb 14, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: on-books-writing
Fun book that discusses the writing process of about 14 writers: Kafka, Foster Wallace, Nabokov, Woolf, Orwell, Zadie Smith, Wharton, etc. I've seen a few from this genre in the past few years, but this is the one to read. It's more in-depth with new and different information. That is, not just the typical or already well-known stories...the author digs a bit deeper. Fun read if you are a writer. ...more
I would've enjoyed more diversity in the selection of authors, and perhaps a different arrangement in chapters. There was a stretch in the middle of chapter after chapter of solely male authors and found myself wanting it broken up with more female authors. Otherwise, this was a wonderful glimpse into the writing lives of well-known authors. There were only a few authors I didn't recognize at all and now I feel some obligation to read works by the authors touched on whom I've yet to read. ...more
May 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Top three things I learned from this book:

1. I am woefully under-read in the classics. (Though I'm not really sure I care to remedy that; I've never liked classics much.)

2. George Orwell's real name: Eric Blair. I find this a bit disappointing for some reason.

3. Jack Kerouac was "meticulously organized" and "not a free spirit"; he also never learned to drive, despite having written the iconic travel novel On the Road. I find this all hilarious.
This book was a very enjoyable collection of insights into the lives, writing lives and writing habits of well known authors. It was a pretty diverse group - Kafka, Hemingway, Zadie Smith, Virginia Woolf - with some attempt at grouping them according to broad writing habits which didn't quite work for me. I was fascinated by the individual entries, although some were more interesting than others but overall it didn't quite draw me in as much as I had expected. ...more
Apr 26, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
This book is not bad, but if you're interested in reading this kind of thing about great writers, I recommend checking out the Paris Review's Interviews, which are available online for free: (Not everyone in the book is on there, but there are tons more.) ...more
Jan 16, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Parts of the book were interesting, some weren't. It was a completely disconnected compilation of descriptions of authors. ...more
Dec 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Like candy.
Jul 04, 2020 rated it liked it
I'm always game to read about creative processes. This collection was interesting, though not my favorite of the genre; I'm wondering if it's because I'm used to in-depth interviews with contemporary authors, which makes this sort of collection feel more removed. I must say it's also disheartening how many of these authors seem determined to prove it's impossible to balance quality literary productivity and a healthy personal life: quite a lot of mistreated partners, squandered genius, mental he ...more
Andrea Liu
*Received a free copy of this book through Goodreads First Reads giveaway.

You might think writers who are able to complete a novel have an easier time writing, but actually, they are simply the most persistent.

I found this book to be completely fascinating.

I believe many of us have at least one good story in our imaginations and it’s just a matter of extraction. But how? Each writer has to find out their process, whether it has to do with time of day, arrangement of one or more writing areas,
Aug 17, 2020 rated it liked it
Lovely that she chose 10 contemporary authors; horrible that she chose mostly men, 12 of them (7 of them dead), women total 6 (only one dead). Where is Joyce Carol Oates? much more prolific than many of the chosen, and with a very high standard. Hilary Mantel? Jane Smiley?
Only fiction writers/novelists - so no Isabel Wilkerson? Helen MacDonald?

As to format, a rather lengthy exploration of the inspirations, education and publications of each author, followed by a shorter summary of the work habit
Ondrej David
Feb 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
At a leasurely pace of two authors per day I’ve read voraciously how the great literary names struggle and fight with what many feel comes naturally. It’s an easy to read well put together book where each chapter focuses just enough on its point of weaving together the intricacies of a personal creative process, never extending beyond by adding unnecessary fluff.

Whether you need an encouragement, a push that you can write and perhaps be written about too, “Process: The Writing Lives of Great Au
As an author myself, I found this book really inspiring, full of insightful details about the writing lives of literary greats like Toni Morrison, Margaret Atwood, Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Rushdie. You realise that there isn't just one way to write and that not all authors have a writing discipline they adhere to. Many work erratically and procrastinate. Others spend years on novels and Diaz, for example, put aside novels and short stories that didn't work years after he he tried to make them w ...more
Oct 18, 2020 rated it it was ok
More like 2.5 but it wasn't quite what I expected. I think I expected more details somehow. It was well researched, well-written, and well-paced. The author clearly loves the topic and I share her fascination with how these talented people manage to make magic with words. I can't really find fault with it but it did not grab me and, at times, felt very repetitive. Then again, the topic is how writers write and that is something that just lends itself to be repetitive at times.

Still, there's only
Oct 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the lives and routines of writers, many of whom I admire. Each chapter gave me a sense of inspiration, creative invigoration and a bit of validation when it comes to my own “writing process.” It’s nice to see how writers from various ages, time periods and walks of life find their own ways to get words on the page and it’s made me want to write more.

I recommend this for anyone who feels drawn to the role of writer, whether on a daily/full-time or more sporadic
Angela Maria Hart
How are you Post-NaNoWrimo? In honor of the writing challenge that just wrapped, I wanted to talk about writing!
Authors *all* write differently. It is important to understand that writing is a personal process and not everyone will write in the same manner. I recommend this book to all writers and anyone who is a literature lover - having read the classics. There is advice about writing and biographical information about the authors.

My BookTube Review:
Laura Shannon
Dec 30, 2018 rated it liked it
Interesting overview of the writing habits of famous authors

I enjoy reading about the lives of people who have accomplished great things. The authors included in this review are an interesting cross section of famous writers. The book centered on how they organized their lives around their writing with some information about their writing processes. Unfortunately, the variety of approaches taken to literary creation by even this small sample of authors proved that there is no foolproof method fo
« previous 1 3 4 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Art of Writing: Four Principles for Great Writing that Everyone Needs to Know
  • The Writer's Process: Getting Your Brain in Gear
  • On Writing
  • Consider This: Moments in My Writing Life After Which Everything Was Different
  • The Secrets of My Life
  • Pity the Reader: On Writing With Style
  • Van Gogh: A Power Seething
  • 1,000 Creative Writing Prompts, Volume 2: More Ideas for Blogs, Scripts, Stories and More (Story Prompts for Journaling, Blogging and Beating Writer's Block Book 5)
  • The Old Girls' Network: A funny, feel-good read for summer 2020
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #98
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #99
  • Wild Mind: Living the Writer's Life
  • Faerie Knitting: 14 Tales of Love and Magic
  • The Private Lives of the Impressionists
  • Tomboyland: Essays
  • Never Remember: Searching for Stalin's Gulags in Putin's Russia
  • Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within
See similar books…

News & Interviews

  Listen up, because our colleagues here at Goodreads have some excellent audiobook recommendations for you! Of course, the books they've...
8 likes · 4 comments
“The way Smith sees it, this kind of approach denotes a certain category of writer: the Micro Manager. Authors fall into one of two primary camps, she explained in her 2009 book of essays, Changing My Mind.691 Macro Planners work out the structure of their novels and then write within that structure. Micro Managers, on the other hand, don’t rely on an overarching configuration (don’t even conceive of one), but rather home in on each sentence, one by one, and each sentence, as they come to it, becomes the only thing that exists. If there is a spectrum starting with Macro Planners on one end and Micro Managers on the other, Smith would be somewhere to the right of the page. Smith’s writing is entirely incremental and cumulative. The grand plan is that there is no grand plan; working things out ahead of time ruins everything, “feels disastrous.”She prefers the writing of a novel as a process of discovery. “The thinking goes on on the page,” not beforehand.” 0 likes
“The rough draft is always a ghastly mess bearing little relation to the finished result, but all the same it is the main part of job,” 0 likes
More quotes…