9780688140953 / 0688140955

How to Write: Advice and Reflections


Publisher:William Morrow & Co



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About the book:

"If you want to write," says Richard Rhodes in the beginning of How to Write, "you can." That is not to say it will be easy. Rhodes is the author of short and long works of fiction and "verity" (he dislikes the word nonfiction, because it defines such a broad range of writing by what it is not), including The Making of the Atomic Bomb, which won a Pulitzer Prize. "Even now," he discloses, "all these books and articles later, writing often feels to me like groping in darkness along a wall."

While Rhodes has much solid advice about the grit one must bring to the writing life--"the best remedy for fear of writing ... is ... ass to chair"--it is his analogies about writing that are most refreshing. "Writing is a craft," he says. "I mean craft strictly: like carpentry or pottery, writing is handmade. Like other crafts as well, writing can sometimes be organized to the special depth and resonance people call art." Elsewhere, Rhodes compares structuring a work of writing to generalship. "A general," he writes, "needs to know what troops and weapons he commands and how they're deployed, but he also needs to develop a strategy for fighting battles and winning the war. The battles probably won't go as he plans, of course. If his strategy is sufficiently flexible, he'll be able to adapt it to circumstances and still come out victorious." And finally, he says, "writing is always like scuba diving, a descent as deep as you can or dare to go, given your capacity and your level of skill."

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