My advice

by kipress

I’m going to fulfill Russell Smith’s predictions in this column by posting the column:

The market for fiction shrinks every year, the attention paid to novels by the media diminishes monthly, booksellers demand ever-lower prices, everybody in the industry says it’s the worst it’s ever been. And yet more academic or private creative-writing programs are created every year, and the demand for advice on becoming a novelist remains furiously high. Indeed, the selling of advice on writing has become a self-supporting industry: I know young writers who are doing masters of fine arts in creative writing so that they can in turn become creative-writing teachers in similar programs. Any magazine article like this one generates Internet responses as lengthy as any novella. The discussion of creative writing seems more popular than creative writing itself.

He’s probably right that there is more money in the dream of being a writer than there is in actually writing. Are would-be writers more willing to spend money on trying to “break in” than they are willing to spend money on actually reading books?

As a creative writing instructor, I am guilty of perpetuating this discussion. But I’d be the first person to tell you that the best way to become a better writer–other than just by writing–is to read. This point was driven home in class today during Sarah’s enthusiastic presentation on Francine Prose’s book Reading Like a Writer.

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