The Way of the Writer

The Way of the Writer

Reflections on the Art and Craft of Storytelling

Paperback - 2016 | First Scribner edition.
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From Charles Johnson--a National Book Award winner, Professor Emeritus at University of Washington, and one of America's preeminent scholars on literature and race--comes an instructive, inspiring guide to the craft and art of writing.

An award-winning novelist, philosopher, essayist, screenwriter, professor, and cartoonist, Charles Johnson has devoted his life to creative pursuit. His 1990 National Book Award-winning novel Middle Passage is a modern classic, revered as much for its daring plot as its philosophical underpinnings. For thirty-three years, Johnson taught and mentored students in the art and craft of creative writing. The Way of the Writer is his record of those years, and the coda to a kaleidoscopic, boundary-shattering career.

Organized into six accessible, easy-to-navigate sections, The Way of the Writer is both a literary reflection on the creative impulse and a utilitarian guide to the writing process. Johnson shares his lessons and exercises from the classroom, starting with word choice, sentence structure, and narrative voice, and delving into the mechanics of scene, dialogue, plot and storytelling before exploring the larger questions at stake for the serious writer. What separates literature from industrial fiction? What lies at the heart of the creative impulse? How does one navigate the literary world? And how are philosophy and fiction concomitant?

Luminous, inspiring, and imminently accessible, The Way of the Writer is a revelatory glimpse into the mind of the writer and an essential guide for anyone with a story to tell.
Publisher: New York : Scribner, 2016.
Edition: First Scribner edition.
ISBN: 9781501147210
Branch Call Number: 808.3
Characteristics: xix, 233 pages ; 23 cm


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Nov 08, 2017

I enjoyed reading Dr. Johnson's essays on the art and craft of writing. His writing is very personable as I could imagine him talking to me about subjects dear to his heart. The many references he makes to novels as examples of what he means when he describes something about the writing process were astounding. I enjoyed reading the essays in which he describes the writing exercises he gives to his creative writing students and the purpose of such assignments. He talks about many aspects of creating a story from plot, voice, dialogue, sentence construction, "round" characters, and writing about some something familiar to the writer. In my next novel that I read I will look for the three things a good story should have. Of course, the many references to John Gardener's book, "The Art of Writing", would make the serious writer who wants to delve deeper into the craft of writing to seek out this book. Johnson's short essays are a start at looking how a story is constructed. For me, this book was an enjoyable read.

Apr 30, 2017

Mr. Johnson writes screenplays, novels, short stories, essays and cartoons. Unfortunately, he mentions this fact [and lists these genres and more] in nearly every one of the chapters in this book. The book is clearly the sweeping together of the essays, lectures and lesson plans he's accumulated for the last forty years. It could have benefited from an editorial glance by someone who would have noted that "Charlie's Place" [his PBS cartooning series], his PhD in philosophy and his MacArthur grant are all referenced repeatedly and each mention is presented and explained as though the fact or award or achievement had not already been mentioned. Some good suggestions for further reading, though, and a loving appreciation of his mentor John Gardner.

Mar 06, 2017

It's literally his REFLECTIONS of writing. There are no lessons. There are some tidbits of advice shoved deep under layers of "I taught so and so and now they are successful" or "When I wrote this novel that became a best seller", or "In my classes my students learn so much because of..." etc. The entire book is written like an essay, with brief pauses on reflection before more "Evidence" that "this type of writing" is "the Best™". I found it really dense and hard to concentrate on.

Feb 07, 2017

I wanted to like this book more. I guess it's because I was looking for a more in depth approach. Instead, each chapter is around five pages on whatever subject he's discussing -- from plotting to how to write a book review. He also tends to name drop... Along the lines of I've taught this person and that person and that person -- even long lists of names of publications or authors. In some of the chapters, the lists take up about a quarter of a page.


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