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The Way of the Writer

Reflections on the Art and Craft of Storytelling

This book can be downloaded and read in Apple Books on your Mac or iOS device.


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.

From Publishers Weekly

Sep 26, 2016 – National Book Award winner Johnson (Taming the Ox) here collects enlightening but somewhat snobby essays about his process and his ideas about literature and writing. Johnson starts off by proclaiming, "One must begin with a genuine love of art." Though he says "rigid formulas and rules" aren't helpful, this doesn't stop him from making more than a few uncharitable comments about the value of genre fiction. Additionally, his description of his desired reader "intelligent, learned, and sophisticated" might alienate readers who suspect he isn't referring to them. Johnson's writing style here is unvarnished. As he explains, he views essays primarily as ways of answering questions, and his interest in reaching those answers animates his nonfiction more than the prose does. Johnson's process, from morning exercises to writing for several hours a day, is fascinating to read about up to a point, but is detailed ad nauseam. Perhaps the most deeply felt passages are those dealing with Johnson's mentor, novelist John Gardner (Grendel), whose lessons and friendship Johnson clearly cherished. Johnson's absolute statements will turn off some readers, and there are a handful of essays that feel like afterthoughts. Still, there are valuable insights to be gleaned about writing and reading and the work that goes into both.
The Way of the Writer
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  • $11.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Language Arts & Disciplines
  • Published: Dec 06, 2016
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • Print Length: 256 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: This book can only be viewed on an iOS device with Apple Books on iOS 12 or later, iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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