Off the Page: Writers Talk About Beginnings, Endings, and Everything In Between

Off the Page: Writers Talk About Beginnings, Endings, and Everything In Between


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Off the Page: Writers Talk About Beginnings, Endings, and Everything In Between by Carole Burns

A guide where today’s best writers reveal their secrets.
How do writers approach a new novel? Do they start with plot, character, or theme? A. S. Byatt starts with color. E. L. Doctorow begins with an image. In Off the Page, authors tell us how they work, giving insight into their writing process. Gathered from some of today’s best writers—Paul Auster, Martin Amis, Gish Jen, Dan Chaon, Alice McDermott, and many others interviewed on’s “Off the Page” series—host Carole Burns has woven their wisdom into chapters illuminating to any writer or reader. How does place influence authors? How do they make a sex scene work? How do they tell when the work is done? Walter Mosley defying genre; Shirley Hazzard on love; Michael Cunningham on compassion: these and more from Richard Ford, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Charles Baxter will deepen your appreciation for the art of writing and excite you to try new ways of writing yourself.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393330885
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 12/17/2007
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Carole Burns is the host of “Off the Page” on She has published in literary journals and is writing her first novel. She teaches at the University of Winchester and lives in England.

Table of Contents

Preface     9
Introduction   Marie Arana     15
In the Beginning Was...(A) The Word, (B) A Bunch of Words, (C) Not a Single Damned Word     25
Haven't I Seen You Somewhere Before? How Characters Come to Life     36
What's It All About? The Ideas Behind the Stories     49
Truth or Dare? Changing Facts to Make a Story More Real     61
Home Is Where the Art Is: How Writers Are Influenced by Place     75
All That Jazz: Playing with Language and Style to Suit the Story     87
The Long and Short of It: The Differences Between Writing Novels and Writing Short Stories     100
Lovers and Other Strangers: Sex and Love in Literature     110
If at First You Don't Succeed...Revise, Revise Again     123
Are We There Yet? Knowing When a Novel or Story Is Finished     134
The Writing Life: Springs of Hope, Winters of Despair     145
Musing About the Muse: How Writers Find Inspiration When It Doesn't Find Them     158
Who Reads This Stuff? How Writers Think About Audience-and Reviewers     167
Good Writers Borrow, Great Writers Steal: The Writers Whom Writers Love, and Why     178
I Knew Him When...When Writers Realized They Were Going to Be Writers     193
Words of Wisdom: What Writers Wish Someone Had Told Them     204
Authors' Biographies     215
Acknowledgments     233

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