9780688159061 / 0688159060

The Writer's Rules: The Power Of Positive Prose--how To Create It And Get It Published


Publisher:William Morrow



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About the book:

Despite her meteoric rise from office secretary to longtime editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine, Helen Gurley Brown is an odd fit as an author of a book about writing. The Writer's Rules is full of dot-dot-dots and blah, blah, blahs, exclamation points and emphatic italics. "How early can you be in love with written words?" Brown asks in the book's introduction. "Early, of course, but for me it wasn't what other people wrote that intrigued me but what I wrote myself ... baby ego!" Brown's effusive writing seems best suited to the sex-and-the-single-girl prose of Cosmopolitan or to personal correspondence (which makes sense: the author has been an avid letter writer, she says, since the age of 6). The 50 simple rules around which the book is organized are part Cosmo guidelines and part Strunk and White. They range from reminders to "write the way you talk" and "stick to one tense" to an appeal not to be "relentlessly depressing."

The best chapter in this book, and the one clearly closest to the author's heart, is the one on letter writing. Here, Brown divulges her secrets to writing thank-you notes, effective complaint letters (be reasonable and slip in a touch of flattery), job-application letters, fan mail, condolence letters, and even love letters. Brown herself writes dozens of letters a week. The late composer Burton Lane, we are told, "smiled all day" after receiving a note from her. And while Woody Allen sent along a bottle of 1990 Château Lafitte-Rothschild with his note of thanks for a dinner party she threw for him and Soon-Yi, Elizabeth Taylor didn't write "boo" when Brown sent her an antique brooch. --Jane Steinberg

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