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Becoming a Writer: The Classic Bestseller

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Becoming a Writer: The Classic Bestseller

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Recommended by Man Booker winner Hilary Mantel in 2010 as Rule no.2 after getting an accountant, “Read Becoming a Writer, by Dorothea Brande. Then do what it says, including the tasks you think are impossible. You will particularly hate the advice to write first thing in the morning, but if you can manage it, it might well be the best thing you ever do for yourself. This book is about becoming a writer from the inside out. Many later advice manuals derive from it. You don’t really need any others, though if you want to boost your confidence, “how to” books seldom do any harm. You can kick-start a whole book with some little writing exercise.” This guide to becoming a writer was originally published in 1934. It focuses not just on plotting techniques or prose style, but on the process of developing the habits and discipline of a writer, with beating writer’s block, reading to improve one’s writing and other psychological techniques. Refreshingly slim, beautifully written and deliciously elegant, Dorothea Brande’s BECOMING A WRITER remains evergreen decades after it was first written. Brande believed passionately that although people have varying amounts of talent, anyone can write. It’s just a question of finding the “writer’s magic” – a degree of which is in us all. She also insists that writing can be both taught and learned. So she is enraged by the pessimistic authors of so many writing books who rejoice in trying to put off the aspiring writer by constantly stressing how difficult it all is. With close reference to the great writers of her day – Wolfe, Forster, Wharton and so on – Brande gives practical but inspirational advice about finding the right time of day to write and being very self disciplined about it – “You have decided to write at four o’clock, and at four o’clock you must write.” She’s strong on confidence building and there’s a lot about cheating your unconscious which will constantly try to stop you writing by coming up with excuses. Then there are exercises to help you get into the right frame of mind and to build up writing stamina.

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