Sunday, March 8, 2009


Writing ain't easy. Even after satisfying the demands of a cruel and playful Muse (writing every day, rewriting, wrestling with plot, structure, voice, and reading...yes, reading) it's still a bitch. Join a writing group, attend a workshop, get an MFA, and you still struggle. It's the nature of the beagle. Oh, you can write pages of breezy crap but when you really attempt to challenge yourself and create something new you find the task tantamount to squeezing blood from a block of aged Tillamook cheddar.

That's why a phalanx of writing gurus have sprung up like the skeleton warriors in Jason and the Argonauts. They bark orders, or whisper sweet nothings in your ear. They set up literary boot camp and run you through the drills. They have books and programs and software to make things easy. Well, easier. Critics say they reduce literature to mere craft and ratchet down inspiration to formula. What's the dang deal?

Probably the most famous is Robert McKee. He's a cranky drill instructor who wrote the bible of craft, "Story." Here is an interview with Robert McKee:

Here's McKee in action:

Writing gurus aside, you can't do better than going back and rereading John Gardner's "On Becoming a Novelist," or "The Art of Fiction." Read that, and Burroway's "Imaginative Writing," or James Wood's "How Fiction Works," or John Defresne's "The Lie that Told the Truth," or maybe Francine Prose's "Reading Like a Writer." Read voraciously, and write every day, and will still be hard.

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