About Writing: Seven Essays, Four Letters, & Five Interviews

About Writing: Seven Essays, Four Letters, & Five Interviews

Samuel R. Delany

Language: English

Pages: 432

ISBN: 0819567167

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

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.











the genre label it carries. I have gotten great pleasure from “short stories” that were nothing but sequences of numbers, random words, or abstract pictures, not to mention comic books—a medium I love. I’ve gotten pleasure from J. G. Ballard’s “condensed novels,” which are collections of impressionistic fragments running only seven or eight pages each (see The Atrocity Exhibition, ). I have gotten pleasure from poems where the words were chosen by any number of games or operationalized

Para•doxa Interview” and concerns the literary canon and literary canon formation. Specifically it tackles the ticklish question of how writers’ reputations develop. By the way, it’s the piece I refer “R—” to in the third letter here. As such, you may want to read it before that letter. I put it toward the end so it would be easy to find. Finally an appendix, “Nits, Nips, Tucks, and Tips,” cov- * Since , the journal has dropped the internal symbol, to become simply Paradoxa: Studies in World

of what happens next. Let me try to indicate some of the details of this process. I decide, with very little mental concretizing, that I want to write about a vague George who comes into a vague room and finds a vague Janice . . . Picture George outside the door. Look at his face; no, look closer. He seems worried . . . ? Concerned . . . ? No. Look even closer and write down just what you see: The lines across his forehead deepened. Which immediately starts him moving. What does he do? . . . He

it, and who hides, therefore, from that terror before the world’s complexity by deciding to write entirely for him- or herself. (Writing for oneself is the retreat of those with the ability to write but not much else.) When I say, “Talent is social,” I mean that, while good writing manifests itself as similarity to other good writing, talent per se can only manifest itself as difference. In that sense, it is closely allied with information: the talented writer tends to get more information into

idiosyncratic combinations of traits. Words were put together in interesting ways in her sentences. But it was also clear that her stories were pretty much an attempt to write the same sort as most of the other students in the class, which tended to be modeled on those of the first young man—in her case with the sexes more or less reversed. When I asked her what she wanted to do with her writing, she said she’d like to go on and “be a writer” and “publish books,” but she offered it with all the

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