Saturday, May 28, 2016

Books on Writing: The Writing Life

The book I like is The Writing Life. It is not the standard “how to write” book but a compilation of 10 years of columns written in the Washington Post’s Book World. The book was edited by Marie Arana, who was the editor-in-chief for the Post.

I know this seems like a weird choice but the book is about writers; how they think and how they work, what advice they have for new writers. The chapters include titles like Looking for the Spark by Joanna Trollope, Guided by Voices: The Work of a Ghostwriter by David Chanoff and President in Search of a Publisher by Jimmy Carter.

Each chapter changes direction. Most start with an introduction of the writer writing the chapter. James Michener discusses how he didn’t write his first book until he was 40 and then wrote 48 books over the next 46 years. Muriel Spark discusses those letters that start (and end) with “The Editor thanks you for your kind contribution but regrets he is unable to publish it.” Carl Sagan writes “when you’re in love, you want to tell the world.” He, of course, was talking about his love of science and how to write about science and technology in an accessible way.

This is an easy read. Each topic last a few pages, about the length of a Washington Post column, but well written. Writers discuss topics every writer thinks about because they are topics they have thought about. It is something you can read on the treadmill or riding a commuter train and read the complete chapter, giving yourself something to think about it the rest of the day. (Don’t worry, there are 55 chapters, so it will take some time to get through.)

If you like to ponder about what makes a good writer and how to become a successful writer….. this is a good book.

4 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

This is one I wasn't aware of. Thanks for the heads up.

Jewel Amethyst said...

I think I'll try that one. It certainly sounds like an interesting read that explores the experiences of a varied collection of authors.

Liane Spicer said...

Haven't heard of this one before either. Sounds like the kind of writing book I enjoy.

Linda Thorne said...

I hadn't heard of this book either. I just looked it up online. Erica Jong, Mary Higgins Clark, Patricia Cromwell are there too. A wide variety of writers and their stories.