Aspiring writers often ask established authors, "How did you do it?" The truth is that there is no single path to literary success. We sent a nonscientific survey to writers participating in the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books: Did they keep a diary as a child? Did they ever have a book rejected? Did they earn a living from writing? We tabulated more than 200 responses to make the board game below. Roll a die and see where the writing life takes you.
posted by shivohum
on Apr 11, 2014 -
Peter Matthiessen’s Homegoing.
"He is the only writer ever to win the National Book Award for nonfiction and fiction, but it’s not just the writing: Born into the East Coast establishment, Matthiessen
ran from it, and in the running became a novelist, a C.I.A. agent, a founder of The Paris Review, author of more than 30 books, a naturalist, an activist and a master in one of the most respected lineages in Zen. As early as 1978, he was already being referred to, in a review in The New York Times, as a 'throwback,' because he has always seemed to be of a different, earlier era, with universal, spiritual and essentially timeless concerns." Peter Matthiessen, Lyrical Writer and Naturalist, Is Dead at 86
posted by homunculus
on Apr 5, 2014 -
How Reader's Digest Became a Chinese Stooge
Larkin was delighted when Reader's Digest said it would take her work for one of its anthologies of condensed novels. Thirst would reach a global audience and – who knows? – take off. Reader's Digest promised "to ensure that neither the purpose nor the opinion of the author is distorted or misrepresented", and all seemed well. [more inside]
posted by modernnomad
on Mar 30, 2014 -
When was the last time you got something in the mail other than the water bill or a pizza menu? Why does mail always have to be bad news? Groups online are reviving the dying tradition of penpals
and sending the most wonderful, creative letters and notes across the globe, making the moment the mail drops onto the doormat exciting instead of dread-inducing again. Bonus link - the League of Extraordinary Penpals
, who "think that writing a letter snuggled under a blanket with a cup of tea and a cat by your side is a better way to spend your Friday night than hanging out at the bar."
posted by winterhill
on Mar 17, 2014 -
"Certainly, there appears to be a large correlation between artists and depression. But I would argue that artistic expression is not a symptom of depression so much as a response to it. I see writing as an act of resistance against an occupying enemy who means to kill me. It’s why I’m writing this now." YA author Libba Bray on living with depression.
posted by changeling
on Mar 6, 2014 -
Shamus Young examines the idea of "story collapse" (the moment where a story reaches a critical point of ridiculousness and causes you to question every other aspect of it) by deconstructing the Thieves Guild quest-line in Skyrim: Part 1
, Part 2
, Part 3
, Part 4
and Part 5
. Entertaining reading for writers, designers and gamers alike.
posted by codacorolla
on Mar 4, 2014 -
The drama issues from the assailability of vital, tenacious men with their share of peculiarities who are neither mired in weakness nor made of stone and who, almost inevitably, are bowed by blurred moral vision, real and imaginary culpability, conflicting allegiances, urgent desires, uncontrollable longings, unworkable love, the culprit passion, the erotic trance, rage, self-division, betrayal, drastic loss, vestiges of innocence, fits of bitterness, lunatic entanglements, consequential misjudgment, understanding overwhelmed, protracted pain, false accusation, unremitting strife, illness, exhaustion, estrangement, derangement, aging, dying and, repeatedly, inescapable harm, the rude touch of the terrible surprise — unshrinking men stunned by the life one is defenseless against, including especially history: the unforeseen that is constantly recurring as the current moment. Philip Roth on his life as a writer
posted by shivohum
on Mar 4, 2014 -
How Iowa Flattened Literature
The Iowa Writers’ Workshop emerged in the 1930s and powerfully influenced the creative-writing programs that followed. More than half of the second-wave programs, about 50 of which appeared by 1970, were founded by Iowa graduates. Third- and fourth- and fifth-wave programs, also Iowa scions, have kept coming ever since. So the conventional wisdom that Iowa kicked off the boom in M.F.A. programs is true enough.
Over the past 40 years, creative writing’s small-is-beautiful approach has served it well, as measured by the discipline’s explosive growth while most of its humanities counterparts shrink and cower. The reasons for this could fill many essays. For one thing, creative writing has successfully embedded itself in the university by imitating other disciplines without treading on their ground. A pyramid resembles a pedagogy—it’s fungible, and easy to draw on the board. Introductory math and physics professors like to draw diagrams too, a welcome analogy for a discipline wishing both to establish itself as teachable and to lengthen its reach into the undergraduate curriculum, where a claim of pure writerly exceptionalism won’t cut it.
posted by deathpanels
on Feb 10, 2014 -
Jorge Luis Borges called the stories of Craig Strete “shattered chains of brilliance.” Salvador Dali said, “like a new dream, his writings seizes the mind.” First published in1974 and then again in 1977,
[The Bleeding Man] has its foreward written by none other than the great Virginia Hamilton who dubs him “the first American Indian to become a successful Science Fiction writer” and says that “the writing is smooth and unassuming, and yet the fabric of it is always richly textured.”
The Bleeding Man and many other out-of-print titles by Strete are available in eBook format[s (PDF, PRC, ePUB)] for free. [more inside]
posted by filthy light thief
on Jan 15, 2014 -
2013 had a lot of great longform writing. Longreads
lead the way with their best of
Lots of sites provided year end lists: The American Prospect
, The Atlantic
, Business Week Buzz
, The Daily Beast
, Dazed Digital
, Esquire UK
, Impose Magazine
, i09, Lifehacker
, Mother Jones
, National Geographic
, National Journal
, The New Yorker
, On Earth
, The Electric Typewriter
, The Verge
, The Voice Media Group
, and The Washington Post. [more inside]
posted by reenum
on Dec 30, 2013 -
Hey! It looks like you're trying to write an original character for your fiction/fanfic/RPG, why not run it through The Universal Mary Sue Litmus Test
and make sure you're not actually writing a self-insert wish-fulfillment fantasy.
posted by The Whelk
on Dec 22, 2013 -
Stuck on that novel or just looking for some writing inspiration? Swing by the WritingPrompts subreddit
for a wealth of clever prompts, each with a different set of constraints. Be sure to browse the stories submitted in the comments. [more inside]
posted by spiderskull
on Dec 21, 2013 -
The 2013 Black List has been released. For those unfamiliar, the “Black List” is a list of the most liked unproduced screenplays circulating around Hollywood, as voted on by over 250 film executives, and past Black List scripts include The Social Network, Saving Mr. Banks, The King’s Speech, and Slumdog Millionaire.
posted by Artw
on Dec 16, 2013 -
"He logged onto the central network using his personal computer, and waited while the system verified his identity. With a few keystrokes he entered an electronic ticketing system, and entered the codes for his point of departure and his destination. In moments the computer displayed a list of possible flights, and he picked the earliest one. Dollars were automatically deducted from his personal account to pay for the transaction." -- If all stories were written like science fiction stories
, by Mark Rosenfelder.
posted by MartinWisse
on Nov 29, 2013 -
"You are standing in a hallway at nine in the morning, facing a dining room/kitchen to the south. To the west are stairs up. To the north is an office." -- The Writing Life
as interactive fiction, as lived through by Patricia C. Wrede.
posted by MartinWisse
on Nov 26, 2013 -