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A rare work of nonfiction from Edith Wharton, The Writing of Fiction contains brilliant advice on writing from the first woman ever to win a Pulitzer Prize -- for her first novel The Age of Innocence. In The Writing of Fiction, Wharton provides general comments on the roots of modern fiction, the various approaches to writing a piece of fiction, and the development of for A rare work of nonfiction from Edith Wharton, The Writing of Fiction contains brilliant advice on writing from the first woman ever to win a Pulitzer Prize -- for her first novel The Age of Innocence. In The Writing of Fiction, Wharton provides general comments on the roots of modern fiction, the various approaches to writing a piece of fiction, and the development of form and style. She also devotes entire chapters to the telling of a short story, the construction of a novel, and the importance of character and situation in the novel. Not only a valuable treatise on the art of writing, The Writing of Fiction also allows readers to experience the inimitable but seldom heard voice of one of America's most important and beloved writers, and includes a final chapter on the pros and cons of Marcel Proust.


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A rare work of nonfiction from Edith Wharton, The Writing of Fiction contains brilliant advice on writing from the first woman ever to win a Pulitzer Prize -- for her first novel The Age of Innocence. In The Writing of Fiction, Wharton provides general comments on the roots of modern fiction, the various approaches to writing a piece of fiction, and the development of for A rare work of nonfiction from Edith Wharton, The Writing of Fiction contains brilliant advice on writing from the first woman ever to win a Pulitzer Prize -- for her first novel The Age of Innocence. In The Writing of Fiction, Wharton provides general comments on the roots of modern fiction, the various approaches to writing a piece of fiction, and the development of form and style. She also devotes entire chapters to the telling of a short story, the construction of a novel, and the importance of character and situation in the novel. Not only a valuable treatise on the art of writing, The Writing of Fiction also allows readers to experience the inimitable but seldom heard voice of one of America's most important and beloved writers, and includes a final chapter on the pros and cons of Marcel Proust.

30 review for The Writing of Fiction

  1. 4 out of 5

    Khush

    This book is a great meditation on writing as the title suggests. One reason I love reading books is because of the language. In terms of content, there is nothing unusual about the book. In fact, most students of literature are most probably already familiar with theories regarding writing fiction. What is special about this book is how she writes– and this makes the book special. The book is not very long and divided into five chapters. The last chapter is on Marcel Proust. Very often Wharton r This book is a great meditation on writing as the title suggests. One reason I love reading books is because of the language. In terms of content, there is nothing unusual about the book. In fact, most students of literature are most probably already familiar with theories regarding writing fiction. What is special about this book is how she writes– and this makes the book special. The book is not very long and divided into five chapters. The last chapter is on Marcel Proust. Very often Wharton refers to a range of works of art and characters assuming the reader's familiarity with the works. This might make the reading a bit annoying because one does not know how to process the information. The only comforting thing is that the language remains consistently brilliant. Wharton might interest those who want to write (or are already writing and struggling with it). Here is the writer who is reflecting her own experience of reading and writing. Therefore, her work is both delightful and informative. Literary critics could be of many kinds and so are their theories about writing fiction. However, when it comes to good writers reflecting on their craft, they invariably sound far more convincing than those who only do 'criticism.' It is one of those books one can reread.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Katrina

    If you skip the first chapter, or can push through its stilted, intentionally incomprehensible language, several of the essays in this collection hold glimmers of helpful advice on the subjects of story composition and character development. Much of it is outdated, since Edith Wharton was, of course, writing about the modern novel as it was defined during her lifetime. As she moves from essay to essay, her favorite authors become clear; she scatters in a handful of names as examples in every sce If you skip the first chapter, or can push through its stilted, intentionally incomprehensible language, several of the essays in this collection hold glimmers of helpful advice on the subjects of story composition and character development. Much of it is outdated, since Edith Wharton was, of course, writing about the modern novel as it was defined during her lifetime. As she moves from essay to essay, her favorite authors become clear; she scatters in a handful of names as examples in every scenario, and one would think no other authors had existed or excelled in their art form. There are definite limitations to her explorations of this subject matter, and areas where I strongly disagreed with her value judgements, which she inevitably laid down as objective fact, rather than her personal preferences. The essay on Marcel Proust was another low point, although effective in one way: I have a greatly reduced interest in reading his work, based on Wharton's descriptions. It's an awkwardly composed review of his material, in some ways; she's either too big a fan of his work, or too constrained by the overarching critical view of it, to cut to the core or to exercise the sly, biting wit of which she's more than capable. The vast majority is unequivocable praise, which she later shifts to a half-hearted, brief attempt to pinpoint his weak areas, only to excuse them. Oddly, and disconcertingly, the following statement appears in the praise-heavy section: "the central theme of the book [is] the hopeless incurable passion of a sensitive man for a stupid uncomprehending woman." In other ways, though, the art of fiction hasn't changed all that much since Wharton put pen to paper. Many of the elements remain crucial for a writer to consider during the development of a work, regardless of the era in which this writing takes place. For instance, Wharton repeatedly warns against the arrogance of assuming your work can be "original" - and the limitations that will, in actuality, be created by that attempt to stand apart from the crowd. All authors stand on the shoulders of giants who have come before, and the best results will come from exploring this rich history, understanding the context into which your creations will slot, and then finding a way to be true to your own vision. Studied ignorance does not, by default, make an author stand apart. Wharton also offers solid advice on building stories around characters, rather than setting a plot and shoe-horning the characters into dialogue and actions driven by the needs of the narrative, counter to their natural responses. "The quality the greatest novelists have always had in common," she states, "is that of making their people live." There's no formula one can follow to make this happen. Much of it relies on applying one's skills in the area to which they are best suited - not overwriting or overextending one's capabilities - and ensuring sufficient time, patience, and attention is given to the development of the work. This collection is not Wharton's best material, but it provides sufficient food for thought, as well as an interesting window into a specific era in time.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jukka

    The Writing of Fiction (1925) - Edith Wharton Very illuminating both on the art and craft of writing, and on the particular choices made by Wharton in her own writing and career. For the most part this looks at issues involved with writing from a fairly high level. Also here are some details of her source waters, the writers and works that she held in highest esteem, and her ideas about those works. This book should appeal to writers of fiction, as well as inquisitive readers of fiction (some great The Writing of Fiction (1925) - Edith Wharton Very illuminating both on the art and craft of writing, and on the particular choices made by Wharton in her own writing and career. For the most part this looks at issues involved with writing from a fairly high level. Also here are some details of her source waters, the writers and works that she held in highest esteem, and her ideas about those works. This book should appeal to writers of fiction, as well as inquisitive readers of fiction (some great suggestions on some great books to read), and most particularly inquisitive readers of Wharton. One other small thing of interest to me is a small bit of explanation for Wharton's fascination with short eerie stories, and ghost stories, and her view to their origins. This book was written in the middle of Wharton's career, she had received the Pulitzer Prize (the first ever given to a woman) a few years earlier for Age of Innocence and was feeling more free to explore. She didn't need to prove herself as a writer, and she never had any need to write for the money. So i think she made a conscious decision to experiment and try things new. So this book is written in the time of transition between her earlier works and her later, and is quite informative of her ideas involved with this change. Most readers today know Wharton for her earlier works -- i include a quote (from the end of chapter 7 in part 3) that shows Wharton's prescience about her own future; how critics and others would react to the many books she was yet to write, and the understanding and wisdom (and a Yankee stubbornness) that allows her to sustain her own vision. Note: When she uses the word 'manner' she means "the particular shade of style [in a work of fiction] most fitted to convey its full meaning". Most novelists who have a certain number of volumes to their credit, and have sought, as the subject required, to vary their manner, have been taken to task alike by readers and reviewers, and either accused of attempting to pass off earlier works on a confiding public, or pitied for a too-evident decline in power. Any change disturbs the intellectual indolence of the average reader; and nothing, for instance, has done more to deprive Stevenson of his proper rank among English novelists than his deplorable habit of not conceiving a boy’s tale in the same spirit as a romantic novel or a burlesque detective story, of not even confining himself to fiction, but attempting travels, criticism and verse, and doing them all so well that there must obviously be something wrong about it. The very critics who extol the versatility of the artists of the Renaissance rebuke the same quality in their own contemporaries; and their eagerness to stake out each novelist’s territory, and to confine him to it for life, recalls the story of the verger in an English cathedral, who, finding a stranger kneeling in the sacred edifice between services, tapped him on the shoulder with the indulgent admonition: “Sorry, sir, but we can’t have any praying here at this hour.” This habit of the reader of wanting each author to give only what he has given before exercises the same subtly suggestive influence as all other popular demands. It is one of the most insidious temptations to the young artist to go on doing what he already knows how to do, and knows he will be praised for doing. But the mere fact that so many people want him to write in a certain way ought to fill him with distrust of that way. It would be a good thing for letters if the perilous appeal of popularity were oftener met in the spirit of the New England shop-keeper who, finding a certain penknife in great demand, did not stock that kind the following year because, as he said, too many people came bothering him about it. Later: Weaving in a thread; the last chapter in this book is about Proust, and his way of showing the passage of time. Was listening to an interview with our most recent Pulitzer winner, Jennifer Egan, about her most recent book A Visit from the Goon Squad. Her model for that book is Proust and his way of showing the passage of time.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Tim Weed

    Having been on a Wharton kick recently, I’ve become an enthusiastic advocate for her novels. She was somewhat eclipsed at the end of her career by Hemingway and Joyce and Woolf and other revolutionary “modernist” writers, and as a result for a long time I believe she has been thought of as stuffy and old fashioned. But now that several literary movements have come and gone, the modern reader has the vantage point to appreciate how very skilled she was as a novelist. The fact that she’s experienc Having been on a Wharton kick recently, I’ve become an enthusiastic advocate for her novels. She was somewhat eclipsed at the end of her career by Hemingway and Joyce and Woolf and other revolutionary “modernist” writers, and as a result for a long time I believe she has been thought of as stuffy and old fashioned. But now that several literary movements have come and gone, the modern reader has the vantage point to appreciate how very skilled she was as a novelist. The fact that she’s experiencing something of a revival in interest is testament to her enduring legacy as one of the all-time great American novelists. This book on the craft of fiction writing was written it the early 1920s, but so much of the wisdom it contains is still vital in both senses of the word. For example, consider how readily applicable to the literature of today is Wharton’s opinion that much of the so-called innovative writing of her time only reflected its writers’ lack of familiarity with what had already been done in the past: “True originality consists not in new manner but in a new vision.” Rather than go on and on, I’ll just give you a few quotes from the book, and you can judge for yourself whether it would be worthwhile to read. On whether a creative idea is better suited for a short story or a novel: “If the incident dealt with be one which a single retrospective flash sufficiently lights up, it is qualified for use as a short story; but if the subject be so complex, and its successive phases so interesting, as to justify elaboration, the lapse of time must necessarily be suggested, and the novel-form becomes appropriate.” On theme or controlling idea in fiction: “. . . in one form or another there must be some rational response to the reader’s unconscious but insistent inner question: ‘What am I being told this story for? What judgment on life does it contain for me?’” On minor characters: “Neither novelist nor playwright should ever venture on creating a character without first following it to the end of the tale and being sure the latter will be poorer for its absence. Characters whose tasks have not been provided for them in advance are likely to present as embarrassing problems as other types of the unemployed.” And, finally, on the one aspect of literature that makes a great novelist: “Out of all the flux of judgments and theories which have darkened counsel in respect of novel-writing, one stable fact seems always to emerge; the quality the greatest novelists have always had in common is that of making their people live.” If you're a fiction writer or an Edith Wharton fan, you may be interested in this craft-based analysis of The House of Mirth: http://weedlit.blogspot.com/2015/02/a...

  5. 4 out of 5

    Margot

    The Writing of Fiction is a series of essays about the author's craft. She begins with a general discussion on the writing of fiction and then moves to several essays on short stories, more essays on constructing a novel, a good discussion on character and situation and concludes with a section on Marcel Proust. I'm not going to cover all of the points in these essays. Rather I'd like to share some of the highlights I found interesting, plus share some quotes from the book so you will have a litt The Writing of Fiction is a series of essays about the author's craft. She begins with a general discussion on the writing of fiction and then moves to several essays on short stories, more essays on constructing a novel, a good discussion on character and situation and concludes with a section on Marcel Proust. I'm not going to cover all of the points in these essays. Rather I'd like to share some of the highlights I found interesting, plus share some quotes from the book so you will have a little taste for her writing. I found her discussion of the difference between the short story and novels to be most interesting. According to Ms. Wharton, a novel, because of its length, allows for the development of characters and can better show the passing of time. The writer of the short story should emphasize what she calls, the situation or predicament. "The chief technical difference between the short story and the novel may therefore be summed up by saying that situation is the main concern of the short story, character of the novel; and it follows that the effect produced by the short story depends almost entirely on its form, or presentation." Short stories must be vivid and grab the reader from the very beginning. Good novels do the same but they have the luxury of length to develop the various aspects of the story to a great depth. ". . . the typical novel usually deals with the gradual unfolding of a succession of events divided by intervals of time, and in which many people, in addition to the principal characters, play more or less subordinate parts. No need now to take in sail and clear the decks; the novelist must carry as much canvas and as many passengers as his subject requires and his seamanship permits." I could keep going in my comments and quotes of this slim little volume. It served my original objective of learning how this particular writer viewed her craft. It took me quite a few pages before I got into the rhythm and style of her writing. It was worth hanging in there until I understood her writing. One thing Ms. Wharton did was to filled me with a desire to read more short stories.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Will

    It's funny to see other reviewers call this "outdated," because aside from anachronisms it could've been written today. Wharton's taste, unlike her contemporary Henry James, holds up after almost a hundred years. She praises Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Austen, George Eliot, Flaubert, Zola, Stevenson, Richardson, Hawthorne, Thackeray, Goethe, Prévost, Kleist, Stendhal, Benjamin Constant, Balzac, Meredith, Hardy, James, and Proust. None of those should be obscure to any well read person. With that said, It's funny to see other reviewers call this "outdated," because aside from anachronisms it could've been written today. Wharton's taste, unlike her contemporary Henry James, holds up after almost a hundred years. She praises Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Austen, George Eliot, Flaubert, Zola, Stevenson, Richardson, Hawthorne, Thackeray, Goethe, Prévost, Kleist, Stendhal, Benjamin Constant, Balzac, Meredith, Hardy, James, and Proust. None of those should be obscure to any well read person. With that said, her criticism of James' emphasis on "the situation" is pretty on-the-nose. She rightfully points out just how few great novels, unlike short stories, are predominantly remembered for their situation (The Scarlett Letter, Tess, Elective Affinities, The Kreutzer Sonata), as opposed to their characters or language. I'm hard pressed at the moment to think of any more of these great situation-novels published before this book of Wharton's beyond Billy Budd.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Carlos Piélago Rojo

    La mayor aportación de este ensayo sobre el arte de la ficción es que dedica una serie de capítulos a la escritura de relato, y eso le honra a Edith Wharton, y son capítulos encima que tienen un valor inestimable y los recomiendo a todos los que quieran escribir ficción corta. Los demás temas que trata, como la novela, Proust, o el vicio de leer están muy bien, aunque no esté de acuerdo con todo lo que dice, pero la verdad que rezuma sabiduría por los cuatro costados. Una buena lectura sobre el La mayor aportación de este ensayo sobre el arte de la ficción es que dedica una serie de capítulos a la escritura de relato, y eso le honra a Edith Wharton, y son capítulos encima que tienen un valor inestimable y los recomiendo a todos los que quieran escribir ficción corta. Los demás temas que trata, como la novela, Proust, o el vicio de leer están muy bien, aunque no esté de acuerdo con todo lo que dice, pero la verdad que rezuma sabiduría por los cuatro costados. Una buena lectura sobre el arte de la escritura.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Inna

    I've only read Wharton, Edith. "The Vice of Reading." It's brilliant. I've only read Wharton, Edith. "The Vice of Reading." It's brilliant.

  9. 5 out of 5

    J L Kruse

    "...the seemingly simplest sauces are those that have been most cunningly combined and then most completely blent, the simplest-looking dresses those that require most study to design." - Edith Wharton, "The Writing of Fiction" Attention, men, yes you, you singular, literary man multiplied multiple times over, sitting there in your literary world, attempting to tell literary women how to write like "real" artists, how to define for women what "serious" (read: tragic, boring and angry) stories w "...the seemingly simplest sauces are those that have been most cunningly combined and then most completely blent, the simplest-looking dresses those that require most study to design." - Edith Wharton, "The Writing of Fiction" Attention, men, yes you, you singular, literary man multiplied multiple times over, sitting there in your literary world, attempting to tell literary women how to write like "real" artists, how to define for women what "serious" (read: tragic, boring and angry) stories women writers should write if they are to be taken seriously, guess what? You're doing it wrong. You've been doing it so wrong for so long that you don't even recognize what it is that you're doing, you haven't taken an historical step back to look at the hundreds of years of your male ancestors committing this crime of letters against women of letters, of creating the conditions where women wrote (and continue to write) their romances under male pen names, of telling important women writers the impropriety of writing on subjects like sex, like slavery, like anything having to do with that third rail of when and how potential procreation happens unless it happens in literature on your terms, and, when it doesn't, of denigrating same as "chick lit", or "romance", or any other number of eye-rolling euphemisms to say what you really mean: this book isn't for me, and I'm a guy, therefore it isn't "serious", and therefore, it isn't "art". Did you know, for instance, that there's a Pulitzer Prize winning novelist who would take issue with your denigration of "romance" as "not serious" by pointing out to you that most novels are grouped under three types, manners, character (or psychology) and adventure, and that these types include the subdivisions of, "the farcical novel of manners, the romance and the philosophical romance"? That yes, what this means is that, by definition, most of the serious novels of classical literature are ones that tread in those fearful waters of romance, that ones that you, yourself, are so seemingly fearful of women using as the basis for their own, serious writing? That is exactly who Edith Wharton was, and what Edith Wharton does, in her book, "The Writing of Fiction", published in 1924, published consecutively and still available at your local bookstore, published with a life longer in years than the one most of you have lived. Wharton writes other myth-busting truths about writing and writers in this book, and to list all of them would be a Herculean task far too taxing for the time and attention of riveting blog writing. To that end, I'll elucidate some of her most important points, the ones that will open your eyes and hopefully your ears, and encourage you to go and source the book yourself (ISBN: 978-0-6848-4531-9). It is an important book, and your soul is, indeed, impoverished if you haven't read it. 1. Racial difference makes the writer see life at its most universal. This is Wharton's exact quote, and I'll add that she's using an early 20th century social construct of "race" to mean non-English, continental novelists, but I think the wider point is clear: "The artist of other races has always been not only permitted but enjoined to see life whole; and it is this, far more than any superiority of genius, that lifts Balzac, Stendhal and Tolstoy so high above even Thackeray when the universal values are to be appreciated." What she means here is that Thackeray, and many English novelists of his time, were "cramped by the hazard of a social convention", one which contained a "sudden fear of touching on any of the real issues of the human comedy and tragedy", and that the works of the great, non-English novelists were that much more transcendent and universal because they weren't constrained by these literary rules. Note to contemporary publishers: perhaps, instead of viewing African American literature, and Latino literature, and Asian American literature, and "chick lit" as separate, small genres that speak to separate, small groups, perhaps you might consider that these are the works that contain the seeds of that money-laden "mainstream" that is constantly being pursued. Perhaps these works are, actually, far more "mainstream", far more universal, than the ones currently given that moniker. Just a thought. 2. Galloping plot points just makes bad art. In the age of the largest praise of a book being that you "just couldn't put it down", creating the impression that a book must be read at a frenetic pace, must then be written as frenetically as that reader drummed up into a frenzy will read it, Wharton's praise of the art of the novel conveying the effect of the gradual passage of time is a comforting reminder of how good, long form writing actually happens: "To its making go patience, meditation, concentration, all the quiet habits of mind now so little practised, so seldom inculcated; and to these must be added the final, imponderable, genius, without which the rest is useless, and which, conversely, would be unusable without the rest." 3. Each subject has its own length. Yes, this is a radical. Wharton might as well be burning her literary bra whilst writing it. Too often in the world of "what people want to read" and "what will sell" and "what books will start a conversation", subject is seen as paramount to a novel. The business reason for this is clear: novels have their own oompf, their own kinetic energy of book tours and book shows, of spin-offs, and serials, and movie deals, and this multi-layered licensing and distribution treasure trove just isn't as rich for the short story, because the commercial world has put more emphasis on marketing long-form books than short stories. Therefore, the temptation for writers and publishers is to think first of the topic that will look good on the sell sheet, that will buzz well over radio airwaves, and then sit down and try to think of the art around that, develop the characters around that, and around that presto, boom, shazzam, out pops a novel. Wharton douses cold water on all of this, proclaiming that, "The novelist should not concern himself beforehand with the abstract question of length, should not decide in advance whether he is going to write a long or a short novel", that a successful writer has, "an unerring sense for the amount of sail his subjects could carry", that the writer, "should always be able to say of a novel: "It might have been longer," never: "It need not have been so long." Good novel writing starts with well-developed characters, has as its own energy the need to entertain (both one's self and others). As Wharton notes, "...its modern tellers have introduced few innovations in what was already a perfect formula, created in the dawn of time by the world-old appeal: "Tell us another story." That wish, expressed so young and expressed throughout one's life, of wanting another story, is universal, and the best stories, the best and most "serious" writing, is the writing that answers that request, simply and honestly, keeping the reader so entertained that he forgets he is reading a book classified as "chick lit", or "romance", or "gay and lesbian", or "African American", or any other demographic category a book marketer labels it, he forgets all of the radio shows, and book shows, and book blurbs about the "important conversation" the book has started; to the reader, in the act of reading, it is a story, the merits of which are judged by his allegiance to it, to her remembrance of its scenes and its moments, the ones that stay with him, and help her realize, again, what it is to be human.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sandra Danby

    Edith Wharton was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. She won for The Age of Innocence in 1920; it was her twelfth novel. First published in 1925, her advice is still current today and will interest readers as well as writers of fiction. Part literary analysis, part writing recommendations, this is not an indexed guide on how to write but more Wharton’s thoughts on writing fiction. At the beginning she reviews the development of ‘modern fiction’ that she says began when the act Edith Wharton was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. She won for The Age of Innocence in 1920; it was her twelfth novel. First published in 1925, her advice is still current today and will interest readers as well as writers of fiction. Part literary analysis, part writing recommendations, this is not an indexed guide on how to write but more Wharton’s thoughts on writing fiction. At the beginning she reviews the development of ‘modern fiction’ that she says began when the action of the novel was ‘transferred from the street to the soul’; moving through the trend for providing a ‘slice of life’ via the French realists to the early twentieth century ‘stream of consciousness’. The early chapter is a little dry but the meat of this book is in three chapters: ‘Telling a Short Story’, ‘Constructing a Novel’, and ‘Character and Situation in the Novel’. Wharton’s main points have lasted the test of time. Dialogue should be used sparingly. Originality is about vision, not about technique. Minor characters should all serve a purpose, or be cut. All novelists will to a degree write the autobiographical, Wharton says, but to be a truly creative novelist one must see the story as a whole and not as revolving solely around one central character [ie the novelist himself]. There is sound advice about the length of a novel, which she says needs to be determined by the subject. “The novelist should not concern himself beforehand with the abstract question of length, he should not decide in advance whether he is going to write a long or a short novel; but in the act of composition he must never cease to bear in mind that one should always be able to say of a novel: ‘It might have been longer,’ never: ‘It need not have been so long.’ This is a slim book that made me consider my own writing. It also left me determined to finally tackle the classics I have never read, including War and Peace and Père Goriot. Read more of my book reviews at http://www.sandradanby.com/book-revie...

  11. 4 out of 5

    Marta Dominguez

    Compré este librito en una feria del libro por curiosidad. Son pocos los creadores, escritores en caso, que han formulado sus ideas sobre su arte. Y conservo muy buen recuerdo de la escritura de Edith Wharton en la novela La edad de la inocencia (leo en la cubierta de esta edición que con ella ganó el Pulitzer en 1921). He descubierto que la autora publicó estos dos ensayos breves con unas ideas muy depuradas de cómo hacer un buen relato o cuento. Consideraba dignos de epítomes de buen relato lo Compré este librito en una feria del libro por curiosidad. Son pocos los creadores, escritores en caso, que han formulado sus ideas sobre su arte. Y conservo muy buen recuerdo de la escritura de Edith Wharton en la novela La edad de la inocencia (leo en la cubierta de esta edición que con ella ganó el Pulitzer en 1921). He descubierto que la autora publicó estos dos ensayos breves con unas ideas muy depuradas de cómo hacer un buen relato o cuento. Consideraba dignos de epítomes de buen relato los trabajos de escritores franceses e ingleses como Henri James, Maupassant y Scott. Pone el acento en el efecto logrado por James y Scott en dos relatos de misterio , "Otra vuelta de tuerca" y "Wandering Willy". Habla de la parte técnica -qué hace un buen relato, reglas para un buen tema y la forma- y reflexiona sobre dónde se fracasa. Se dirige especialmente al principiante. En esta parte Wharton hace la aportación creo más interesante. Nos cuenta cómo ve la obsesión por la originalidad. Recordemos que tiene 63 aňos y una larga experiencia publicando, además de como lectora y parece que también como revisora de textos. Su lección sobre la originalidad podría resumirse en: -Para ser original hay que leer a los demás. A los clásicos y a los contemporáneos. "Aprender a escucharlos" y luego ver la vida "a través de tus propios ojos" manteniendo la individualidad -Temas hay pero la capacidad de expresión (la capacidad del lápiz del autor) es la que no sienpre está a la altura. Con ironía, dice: "De veinte temas que tientan la imaginación (temas que uno trataría de forma maravillosa si fuese Mérimee o Maupassant, o Conrad o Kipling!)... solo hay uno que le "siente como un guante" a la persona limitada que uno resulta ser". Una interesante lección de humildad para cualquier creador.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Bab

    Quite interesting and scholarly, providing some historical insight and some nice practical tips too, but ultimately disappointing, for several reasons. To begin with, according to Mrs. Wharton the whole history of all proper literature comes from and is restricted to British, French, perhaps Russian, and then a few American writers. She mentions Goethe here and there, in passing, and that's all. No actual credit whatsoever to any other writers from any other nationalities –the Anglo-Saxon and the Quite interesting and scholarly, providing some historical insight and some nice practical tips too, but ultimately disappointing, for several reasons. To begin with, according to Mrs. Wharton the whole history of all proper literature comes from and is restricted to British, French, perhaps Russian, and then a few American writers. She mentions Goethe here and there, in passing, and that's all. No actual credit whatsoever to any other writers from any other nationalities –the Anglo-Saxon and the French, with some help from some Russians, apparently did everything. Also, she argues the novel is the supreme form of literature, and disregards the short story and the novella as lesser forms, less capable of complexity and insight, stuff for losers that lack the skills to write long novels. Makes you wonder what her opinions on poetry might have been... And then she goes on to pontificate on the innate genius of some writers as the whole explanation for their, well, genius (she uses the word genius far too much), and about "natural born readers" vs. "mechanical readers", the latter never to be able to reach or become the former (?) and instead the ultimate culprits of the decadence and destruction of modern literature... and, well, she just keeps going, just being similarly arbitrary and categorical about everything. So – quite a few good points, half-ruined by quite a few notions that are completely bollocks. Writings that I assume were already debatable back then, and that haven't aged well at all. In the end, a great exercise in perception, perspective, and judgement – for every sentence can be insightful, brilliant, and substantially true, or instead a beautiful pile of stool in disguise. For the attentive, discerning reader (mind your step).

  13. 4 out of 5

    Natacha Pavlov

    "The answer is that he will never do his best till he ceases altogether to think of his readers (and his editor and his publisher) and beings to write, not for himself, but for that other self with whom the creative artist is always in mysterious correspondence, and who, happily, has an objective existence somewhere, and will some day receive the message sent to him, though the sender may never know it."  Turns out the oh-so prolific Edith Wharton also wrote a quick guide on the art of the short "The answer is that he will never do his best till he ceases altogether to think of his readers (and his editor and his publisher) and beings to write, not for himself, but for that other self with whom the creative artist is always in mysterious correspondence, and who, happily, has an objective existence somewhere, and will some day receive the message sent to him, though the sender may never know it."  Turns out the oh-so prolific Edith Wharton also wrote a quick guide on the art of the short story and the novel. It definitely feels like a forgotten gem: as usual, her writing style alone is worth it, and her perceptive insights are a treat. I love that it begins with her praise of Madame de Lafayette's 17th century, 'La Princesse de Clèves,' often deemed the first 'modern' psychological novel. She constantly cites titles and authors to illustrate her points, with recurring praise for Balzac, Flaubert, Henry James, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, and Austen.  My least favorite was the closing chapter in praise of Proust's writing, if mainly for the fact that reading one of his 'In Search of Lost Time' volumes years ago did nothing for me—in fact, I can hardly remember any of it (including actually writing a review for it LOL!). That's obviously not to say that he wasn't gifted, but that I'll generally pass on his work.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Cecily Winter

    Almost 100 years after this book was published, it is inevitable that Ms. Wharton's focus is elitist and unconsciously patriarchal, her subject being less the actual writing of fiction so much as celebrating fictional "works of art" (of which I recognize many and have probably read less than half). I did enjoy this book, but it may a wearisome read for those who are not or were not English scholars even if they are writers. Ms. Wharton is emphatic about what must be done and what must be left by Almost 100 years after this book was published, it is inevitable that Ms. Wharton's focus is elitist and unconsciously patriarchal, her subject being less the actual writing of fiction so much as celebrating fictional "works of art" (of which I recognize many and have probably read less than half). I did enjoy this book, but it may a wearisome read for those who are not or were not English scholars even if they are writers. Ms. Wharton is emphatic about what must be done and what must be left by the wayside in getting down to write, but her writing is clear and perceptive. Her apt quotation of Kipling's "What should they know of England who only England know?" neatly sums up the writer's directive to know his/her subject from all angles. Ms. Wharton traces the later phases of the modern novel's development by means of exemplars, but I found a good deal of the material useful, a reminder, rather than direct enlightenment, about the writing of good fiction. It is a refresher course in knowledge and focus, on the structure of a piece, the centrality of character, and the necessity of addressing a reader's need to have a reason to be reading a particular work.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Bobbie Darbyshire

    Anyone looking for practical guidance on how to write fiction should skip this classic text (1924). It’s not that Wharton says anything wrong. Indeed she says much that is true, very elegantly. Yet I couldn’t help thinking ‘pots and kettles, love, pots and kettles’, coming, somewhat exhausted, upon this on page 76: “When I read X’s book on the bee... I was first dazzled, then oppressed, by the number and the choice of his adjectives and analogies. Every touch was effective, every comparison stri Anyone looking for practical guidance on how to write fiction should skip this classic text (1924). It’s not that Wharton says anything wrong. Indeed she says much that is true, very elegantly. Yet I couldn’t help thinking ‘pots and kettles, love, pots and kettles’, coming, somewhat exhausted, upon this on page 76: “When I read X’s book on the bee... I was first dazzled, then oppressed, by the number and the choice of his adjectives and analogies. Every touch was effective, every comparison striking; but when I had assimilated them all, and remade out of them the ideal BEE, that animal had become a winged elephant. The lesson was salutary for a novelist.”

  16. 5 out of 5

    Helena

    Aunque la contraportada lo define como "un notable manual de escritura creativa" que "desgrana técnicas y recursos para crear un estilo y una estructura narrativa", nada podría estar más lejos de la realidad. El libro parece corto, pero se repite hasta el hartazgo en análisis de los mismos autores asumiendo que todos conocen sus obras y sin dar ejemplos prácticos. No hay ni una sola técnica ni recurso; si se quitan todas las profundas reflexiones ensayísticas sobre el genio del autor, no queda na Aunque la contraportada lo define como "un notable manual de escritura creativa" que "desgrana técnicas y recursos para crear un estilo y una estructura narrativa", nada podría estar más lejos de la realidad. El libro parece corto, pero se repite hasta el hartazgo en análisis de los mismos autores asumiendo que todos conocen sus obras y sin dar ejemplos prácticos. No hay ni una sola técnica ni recurso; si se quitan todas las profundas reflexiones ensayísticas sobre el genio del autor, no queda nada útil. En definitiva, si lo que buscas es un manual de escritura de ficción, no pierdas el tiempo con este libro.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Isabella Panzica

    I think this book had some good insights into the way books are written. Another thing that I liked about this book is that there was no fluff in this book and it got to the point using examples from famous books. Though I did not like that this book has some spoilers in it for other books. For example, I am not very happy about finding out one of the characters I like in War and Peace dies, since I wanted to enjoy that book without any spoilers.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Shakarean

    i enjoyed it more than i thought i was going to, although it's very much of a different century. i enjoyed it more than i thought i was going to, although it's very much of a different century.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Katrina

    I expected to love this, but ended up speeding through it. Too verbose and full of itself. So surprised as I usually love her work.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Dona McCormack

    Instagram Review: http://www.instagram.com/p/CFDamC1gZAa/ After I read Summer, I fell in love with Edith Wharton as a writer and a representative of her era. So many of the male literary giants of her era -- Hemingway, Fitzgerald -- wrote in such gaunt styles. The popularity of this "clarity" persists in contemporary literature. But Wharton, who won the Pulitzer for The Age of Innocence, wrote in a lush style, perhaps what some today might consider verbose. But I love the unspooling sentences, th Instagram Review: http://www.instagram.com/p/CFDamC1gZAa/ After I read Summer, I fell in love with Edith Wharton as a writer and a representative of her era. So many of the male literary giants of her era -- Hemingway, Fitzgerald -- wrote in such gaunt styles. The popularity of this "clarity" persists in contemporary literature. But Wharton, who won the Pulitzer for The Age of Innocence, wrote in a lush style, perhaps what some today might consider verbose. But I love the unspooling sentences, the fearless use of descriptors. And so I thought I would love her book on writing, The Writing of Fiction. However, I found that Wharton spent more time bloviating about the conventions of writing (many of which are now out of date anyway) than discussing the elements of writing. When she does get down to the meat of the matter, the material is interesting and useful -- mostly. There are five section in this book, and of those, only "II: Telling a Short Story" and "IV: Character and Situation in the Novel" are of particular use to contemporary writers. If a writer is diligent and curious enough and wants good material for an unusual form of novel, they might choose to wade through "III: Constructing a Novel." All said, this text didn't hold up well for its age while other books on writing from the same era did. I loved Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, and I don't even have a warm relationship with Hemingway. I also appreciate Brenda Ueland's If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit, published in 1938. Neither of these texts replaces Wharton's, though; so be careful choosing to omit it from your studies. Be safe out there my fellow creatives! Everyone remember your masks and watch your hands. Stay bookish, stay resilient!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Godfrey

    "General rules in art are useful chiefly as a lamp in a mine, or a hand-rail down a black stairway; they are necessary for the sake of the guidance they give, but it is a mistake, once they are formulated, to be too much in awe of them." (p. 33) "It is clear that exactly the same thing never happens to any two people, and that each witness of a given incident will report it differently." (p. 35) "Other homely analogies confirm the lesson: the seemingly simplest sauces are those that have been most "General rules in art are useful chiefly as a lamp in a mine, or a hand-rail down a black stairway; they are necessary for the sake of the guidance they give, but it is a mistake, once they are formulated, to be too much in awe of them." (p. 33) "It is clear that exactly the same thing never happens to any two people, and that each witness of a given incident will report it differently." (p. 35) "Other homely analogies confirm the lesson: the seemingly simplest sauces are those that have been most cunningly combined and them most completely blent, the simplest-looking dresses those that require most study to design. The precious instinct of selection is distilled by that long patience, which, if it be not genius, must be one of genius's chief reliances in communicating itself." (p. 41) "If, when once drawn to a subject, he would let it grow slowly in his mind instead of hunting about for arbitrary combinations of circumstance, his tale would have the warm scent and flavor of a fruit ripened in the sun instead of the insipidity of one forced in a hot-house." (p. 43) "Whatever a man has it in him to do really well he usually keeps on doing with an indestructible persistency." (p. 48)

  22. 5 out of 5

    J.Aleksandr Wootton

    Verbose, stilted, comprised mostly of sentences twice their needful length, and assuming on the part of the reader a ready familiarity with the works of Balzac, Tolstoy, Eliot, Thackeray, and Austen, reading On the Writing of Fiction felt like wading through sandy shallows. Every step might stir up a cloudy bracken of unnecessary words, forcing one to stop until they settled and the shape of things became clear before moving on, hoping for glimpses of darting minnows or tadpoles. I've blogged the Verbose, stilted, comprised mostly of sentences twice their needful length, and assuming on the part of the reader a ready familiarity with the works of Balzac, Tolstoy, Eliot, Thackeray, and Austen, reading On the Writing of Fiction felt like wading through sandy shallows. Every step might stir up a cloudy bracken of unnecessary words, forcing one to stop until they settled and the shape of things became clear before moving on, hoping for glimpses of darting minnows or tadpoles. I've blogged the only truly excerptable bit here. More worthwhile ideas are scattered throughout the book, but be prepared to sweat for them. If Wharton's style were not so overwrought I would advise reading this book in a single sitting, and would expect you to find it very helpful indeed. As it is - if you can, more power to you. If you cannot (and I could not), perhaps reading a paper summarizing her arguments would be more fruitful.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Don (The Book Guy)

    A short book about how to write by one of the masters, Edith Wharton. She has chapters that focus on the short story, writing novels, discussing novels that focus on character versus situation , and one on the writer, Marcel Proust. A bibliography of the novels and authors she mentions would have been nice. If you read it, I would keep a notebook at hand to jot down the titles she mentions as exemplary examples of what she thinks is the best of English and continental authors. I mentioned to one A short book about how to write by one of the masters, Edith Wharton. She has chapters that focus on the short story, writing novels, discussing novels that focus on character versus situation , and one on the writer, Marcel Proust. A bibliography of the novels and authors she mentions would have been nice. If you read it, I would keep a notebook at hand to jot down the titles she mentions as exemplary examples of what she thinks is the best of English and continental authors. I mentioned to one of the English teachers at my school that I was reading this and he commented that he considers it one of the best books on writing that he had read. If you are interested in being a writer I highly recommend it.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Marcus Speh

    Like the writing books of other great novelists and writers — John Gardner, E M Forster, Margaret Atwood... — this book captures the imagination and not just the mind of any writer. Also don't miss Roxane Gay's review in HTMLgiant. Like the writing books of other great novelists and writers — John Gardner, E M Forster, Margaret Atwood... — this book captures the imagination and not just the mind of any writer. Also don't miss Roxane Gay's review in HTMLgiant.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Cody

    This was really homey. I mean, it just read as though you were having a conversation with Edith Wharton. I borrowed this book from my library, but I'd really want to own it, just so I can return to it again and again. It is, I think, the most welcoming introduction to the craft of writing I have ever read. This was really homey. I mean, it just read as though you were having a conversation with Edith Wharton. I borrowed this book from my library, but I'd really want to own it, just so I can return to it again and again. It is, I think, the most welcoming introduction to the craft of writing I have ever read.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jeanne

    Never has a book hit my desire to write than Edith's. My daughter and I took a book tour of Massachusetts and visiting her home where she wrote was a delight peeking at behind-the-scenes of a woman's life. On almost every page I have thoughts scribbled but I know every time I come back to visit her words I will grow another 2 inches. Never has a book hit my desire to write than Edith's. My daughter and I took a book tour of Massachusetts and visiting her home where she wrote was a delight peeking at behind-the-scenes of a woman's life. On almost every page I have thoughts scribbled but I know every time I come back to visit her words I will grow another 2 inches.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    Not that many books on writing out there by writers of Wharton's stature--she's one of the all-time greats, in my opinion. And the basic message that I took from this book was that what separates good writing from great writing isn't a matter of style or technique--it's the quality of thought that goes into it. Not that many books on writing out there by writers of Wharton's stature--she's one of the all-time greats, in my opinion. And the basic message that I took from this book was that what separates good writing from great writing isn't a matter of style or technique--it's the quality of thought that goes into it.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Serrano Nouaille

    ¡Si es que ya lo dice el propio editor! «Unos principios no suficientes» para comprender la creación de la obra literaria. No, no son suficientes. Apenas se adivina la capacidad crítica de Wharton. No hay nada que me moleste más que un libreto construido a través de conferencias transcritas o retazos de artículos sueltos. Demasiado corto, demasiado insuficiente.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    This is the book for all writers of fiction.

  30. 5 out of 5

    g

    http://htmlgiant.com/craft-notes/clas... http://htmlgiant.com/craft-notes/clas...

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