On most Fridays, Evan Peterson rounds up five stories from across the Web that scribes of all stripes should check out.
The people who dispense writing advice assume that their audience plans to continue writing. But this week a war of blog posts on literary sites commenced debating whether writing is worth pursuing. Author Phillip Roth doesn't think so.
Also, a classic non-fiction book is questioned for accuracy, a writing blog debuts, writers should take improve, and more.
Is Writing Torture?
There seems to be a debate about whether writing is, in fact, torture. It started in an Upper West Side deli when a young author waited on Phillip Roth's table
, and got some surprising advice from him: “Quit while you're ahead.” "Eat, Pray, Love" author Elizabeth Gilbert offered a rebuttal
. But Avi Steinberg, who covered the debate in The New Yorker
, may have captured the argument best: Writing is torture, but some people enjoy torture. “We write because we are constantly discontented with almost everything, and need to use words to rearrange it, all of it, and set the record straight.”
Writers should do improv:
That's according to novelist Tim Federle, who was interviewed by Advice to Writers
this week. Federle, a former Broadway dancer, said: "You will learn so much more from the art of saying ‘Yes’—that is, just GOING with an initial impulse—than you will in a teetering stack of ‘How-to’ writing guides.”
Writers on writing:
Medium is a blogging site started by a couple of the Twitter founders that is “optimized for quality” and where “craftsmanship is rewarded over knee-jerk reactions.” One section is called “Writers on Writing,” where regular, thoughtful people—not famous authors or journalists—post about the craft of writing. There are several posts worth reading, but my favorite so far is this one about whether tweeting is writing
Just write it up:
Screenwriter Alan Sharp died this week. He wrote “Night Moves” and “Rob Roy” among several other movies. I haven't seen any of them, but I will be checking out his work after reading his advice on writing that The New York Times
published in his obituary: “If there’s a story you like, just write it up and see how it feels ... It’s not illegal until you do something with it.”
“In Cold Blood” questioned:
Some fans of one of the greatest non-fiction books were gutted this week at news that Truman Capote’s masterpiece may not be all that non-fiction. New evidence uncovered by The Wall Street Journal
suggests the book contained inaccurate information about the investigative agency that helped him write the book. It's a surprising revelation, but does it change your opinion of the book?
Evan Peterson is a writer based in Chicago, and the editor of OpenMarkets magazine at CME Group. He's on Twitter at @evanmpeterson.