The Modern Library Writer's Workshop

Stephen Koch

“Make [your] characters want something right away—even if it’s only a glass of water. Characters paralyzed by the meaninglessness of modern life still have to drink water from time to time.” —Kurt Vonnegut

“‘The cat sat on the mat’ is not the beginning of a story, but ‘the cat sat on the dog’s mat’ is.” —John Le Carré

Nothing is more inspiring for a beginning writer than listening to masters of the craft talk about the writing life. But if you can’t get Vladimir Nabokov, Virginia Woolf, and Gabriel García Márquez together at the Algonquin, The Modern Library Writer’s Workshop gives you the next best thing. Stephen Koch, former chair of Columbia University’s graduate creative writing program, presents a unique guide to the craft of fiction. Along with his own lucid observations and commonsense techniques, he weaves together wisdom, advice, and inspiring commentary from some of our greatest writers. Taking you from the moment of inspiration (keep a notebook with you at all times), to writing a first draft (do it quickly! you can always revise later), to figuring out a plot (plot always serves the story, not vice versa), Koch is a benevolent mentor, glad to dispense sound advice when you need it most. The Modern Library Writer’s Workshop belongs on every writer’s shelf, to be picked up and pored over for those moments when the muse needs a little help finding her way.

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