“Make [your] characters want something right away—even if it’s only a glass of water. Characters paralyzed by the meaninglessness of modern life still have to drink water from time to time.” —Kurt Vonnegut
“‘The cat sat on the mat’ is not the beginning of a story, but ‘the cat sat on the dog’s mat’ is.” —John Le Carré
Nothing is more inspiring for a beginning writer than listening to masters of the craft talk about the writing life. But if you can’t get Vladimir Nabokov, Virginia Woolf, and Gabriel García Márquez together at the Algonquin, The Modern Library Writer’s Workshop gives you the next best thing. Stephen Koch, former chair of Columbia University’s graduate creative writing program, presents a unique guide to the craft of fiction. Along with his own lucid observations and commonsense techniques, he weaves together wisdom, advice, and inspiring commentary from some of our greatest writers. Taking you from the moment of inspiration (keep a notebook with you at all times), to writing a first draft (do it quickly! you can always revise later), to figuring out a plot (plot always serves the story, not vice versa), Koch is a benevolent mentor, glad to dispense sound advice when you need it most. The Modern Library Writer’s Workshop belongs on every writer’s shelf, to be picked up and pored over for those moments when the muse needs a little help finding her way.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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|Title of eBook: The Modern Library Writer's Workshop|
|Release Date: 05-14-2009|
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|Publisher: Random House Publishing Group|
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The Modern Library Writer's Workshop
The only way to begin is to begin, and begin right now. If you like, begin the minute you finish reading this paragraph. For sure, begin before you finish reading this book. I have no doubt the day is coming when you will be wiser or better informed or more highly skilled than you are now, but you will never be more ready to begin writing than you are right this minute. The time has come. You already know, more or less, what a good story looks like. You’ve already got in mind some human situation that matters to you. You need nothing more. Begin with whatever gives you the impetus to begin: an image, a fantasy, a situation, a memory, a motion, a situation, a set of people—anything at all that arouses your imagination. The job is only to get some or all of this into words able to reach and touch an unknown, unseen somebody “out there” known as the Reader. You must plunge into it. And you must do it now.
It would be nice, I suppose, to begin at the perfect point in the story, in the perfect way, using the perfect voice to present exactly the desired scene. Unfortunately, you have no choice but to be wholly clueless about all of this. The rightness of things is generally revealed in retrospect, and you’re unlikely to know in advance what is right and wrong in a story that has not yet been written. So instead of waiting until everything is perfect, begin anyhow, anywhere, and any way. The result probably will not be exactly right. It may not be even close. So what? You’re going to persist until you get it right.
While I’m sure you can think of good reasons to procrastinate, I very much doubt there’s mu