About Writing: Seven Essays, Four Letters, and Five Interviews / Edition 1

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Award-winning novelist Samuel R. Delany has written a book for creative writers to place alongside E. M. Forster’s Aspects of the Novel and Lajos Egri’s Art of Dramatic Writing. Taking up specifics (When do flashbacks work, and when should you avoid them? How do you make characters both vivid and sympathetic?) and generalities (How are novels structured? How do writers establish serious literary reputations today?), Delany also examines the condition of the contemporary creative writer and how it differs from that of the writer in the years of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and the high Modernists. Like a private writing tutorial, About Writing treats each topic with clarity and insight. Here is an indispensable companion for serious writers everywhere.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“... should go on the short list of required reading for every would-be writer.”—New York Times Book Review (on “Of Doubts and Dreams” in About Writing)

“Enlightening and useful. I would place this book with Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg and Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury.”—Gavin Grant, co-editor, The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror

"Delany has certainly spent more time thinking about the process of generating narratives—and subsequently getting the fruits of his lucubrations down on paper—than any other writer in the genre. ...Delany's latest volume in this vein (About Writing) might be his best yet... Truly, as the jacket copy boasts, this book is the next best thing to taking one of Delany's courses... (R)eaders will find many answers here to the mysteries of getting words down on a page."—Paul DiFilippo, Asimov's Science Fiction

“If you are, like me, a writer—or if you are, also like me involved in the teaching of writing—you regularly find yourself reading books about writing because you are intent upon finding the perfect writer’s instructional resource. Well, About Writing may, in fact, be that resource.
Seven Essays focus on the different aspects of what Delany calls “the mechanics of fiction”; correspondence and interviews contain “advice on the art of fiction as well as [Delany’s] views on the state of contemporary fiction…The result is a revelation on the art of fiction: how it is created, how the writer’s image influences the perception of art, and how that art fits into today’s world.” Finally, About Writing contains 13 appendixes’ each is an exquisite “mini-workshop,” with topics such as “Grammar and Parts of Speech,” “Dramatic Structure,” “Point of View,” and more.
To some readers, Delany the novelist is linked to science fiction (he has won Hugo and Nebula awards), and to other readers, he is recognized as an innovative artist whose work has earned him the William Whitehead Memorial Award for a lifetime’s contribution to gay and lesbian literature. However, as many students from Temple University and hundreds of writers’ workshops already know. Delany is an inspiration and meticulous teacher who has taught creative writing for over 35 years. Now, because of this highly recommended collection, all writers—and teachers of writing—can enjoy and learn from Delany’s indispensable guidance.” —Multicultural Review

Library Journal
This is not another how-to book for marketing fiction. Instead, in a complicated pattern set within the format of seven lengthy essays, four random letters to unidentified colleagues, and five interviews, award-winning sf novelist Delany (English & creative writing, Temple Univ.) offers readers a description of the art of writing fiction, a demonstration of how fiction fits into today's world, and a discussion of the writer's reputation. Delany offers insights from his more than 30 years of writing and teaching experience, and hence his book may prove useful for writing teachers. However, it is too poorly organized to serve as a practical guide for aspiring writers and provides no index to help the reader hone in on a topic. Also, while many of Delany's theories-especially his examples of the differences between good writing and talented writing-are intriguing enough to allow this book a place in academic libraries, even the most dedicated scholars may find plodding through the verbose narratives a painfully slow experience. Public libraries, save your shelf space.-Nedra Crowe-Evers, Sonoma Cty. Lib., Santa Rosa, CA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780819567161
  • Publisher: Wesleyan University Press
  • Publication date: 1/4/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 1,002,650
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

SAMUEL R. DELANY has taught writers workshops for over 35 years, and has won the William Whitehead Memorial Award for a lifetime’s contribution to gay and lesbian literature. He has also been recognized with both Hugo and Nebula awards, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Darkroom Black Students Collective at Harvard University. Delany is Professor of English and creative writing at Temple University, and lives in New York City.

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Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments
An Introduction: Emblems of Talent
Seven Essays - Teaching / Writing
Thickening the Plot
On Pure Story Telling
Of Doubts and Dreams
After Almost No Time at All the String on Which He had Been Pulling and Pulling Came Apart into Two Separate
Pieces So Quickly He Hardly Realized It Had Snapped, or: Reflections on
“The Beach Fire”
Some Notes for the Intermediate and Advanced Creative Writing Student
Four Letters - Letter to P-
Letter to Q-
Letter to R-
Letter to S-
Five Interviews - A Para•doxa Interview: Experimental Writing/Texts & Questions
An American Literary History Interview: The Situation of American Writing Today
A Poetry Project Newsletter Interview: A Silent Interview
A Black Clock Interview
A Para•doxa Interview: Inside and Outside the Canon
APPENDIX: Nits, Nips, Tucks, and Tips - Name, Date, Place
Read Widely
Grammar and Parts of Speech
Punctuating Dialogue
A Final Note on Dialogue
Dramatic Structure
Excitement, Drama, Suspense, Surprise, Violence
Point of View
First Person
Trust Your Image
Write What You Know

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