“Make [your] characters want something right away—even if it’s only a glass of water. Characters paralyzed by the meaninglessness of modern life still have to drink water from time to time.” —Kurt Vonnegut
“‘The cat sat on the mat’ is not the beginning of a story, but ‘the cat sat on the dog’s mat’ is.” —John Le Carré
Nothing is more inspiring for a beginning writer than listening to masters of the craft talk about the writing life. But if you can’t get Vladimir Nabokov, Virginia Woolf, and Gabriel García Márquez together at the Algonquin, The Modern Library Writer’s Workshop gives you the next best thing. Stephen Koch, former chair of Columbia University’s graduate creative writing program, presents a unique guide to the craft of fiction. Along with his own lucid observations and commonsense techniques, he weaves together wisdom, advice, and inspiring commentary from some of our greatest writers. Taking you from the moment of inspiration (keep a notebook with you at all times), to writing a first draft (do it quickly! you can always revise later), to figuring out a plot (plot always serves the story, not vice versa), Koch is a benevolent mentor, glad to dispense sound advice when you need it most. The Modern Library Writer’s Workshop belongs on every writer’s shelf, to be picked up and pored over for those moments when the muse needs a little help finding her way.
Koch, former chair of Columbia's graduate writing program, takes the beginning fiction writer through the entire writing process, from conceptualizing a story to making characters come alive. Seeing writing as a vocation, he persuasively argues that it is hard work and craft (and not always talent) that enables writers to succeed. This book is filled with practical advice and insights gained not only from the author's experience as a writer and teacher but, more importantly, from the myriad famous writers whom he quotes and whose work he analyzes for character, point of view, and style. Thus, the "workshop" here is conducted not only by Koch but also by all of those he invokes, from Aristotle to John Gardner and Ray Bradbury. There is also a wonderful chapter on memoir or autobiographical writing and the relationship between fiction and fact. This very readable book will appeal not only to serious fiction writers but also to all students of literature. Recommended.-Herbert E. Shapiro, SUNY/Empire State Coll., Rochester, NY Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.