‘Provides amazing insight into the working methods, techniques, tricks and flaws of some of the greatest writers in literary history…An engrossing read for bibliophiles and lovers of literature as much as aspiring writers.’
How to Write Like Tolstoy
A Journey into the Minds of Our Greatest WritersRichard Cohen
A Spectator Best Book of the Year
‘This book is a wry, critical friend to both writer and reader. It is filled with cogent examples and provoking statements. You will agree or quarrel with each page, and be a sharper writer and reader by the end.’ Hilary Mantel
‘There are three rules for writing a novel,’ Somerset Maugham once said. ‘Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.’
So how to bring characters to life, find a voice, kill your darlings, avoid plagiarism (or choose not to), or run that most challenging of literary gauntlets—writing a good sex scene?
Veteran editor and author Richard Cohen takes us on a fascinating excursion into the lives and minds of our greatest writers—from Balzac and Eliot to Woolf and Nabokov, through to Zadie Smith and Stephen King, with a few mischievous detours to Tolstoy along the way. In a glittering tour d’horizon, he lays bare their tricks, motivations, techniques, obsessions and flaws.
‘This book is a wry, critical friend to both writer and reader. It is filled with cogent examples and provoking statements. You will agree or quarrel with each page, and be a sharper writer and reader by the end.’
‘A glorious patchwork of quotation and anecdote. It is a true commonplace book, the homage of a passionate reader to the writers who have provided his “main pastime”.’
‘Welcome, wise and witty…Aspiring writers will glean excellent advice here.’
‘I very much enjoyed Richard Cohen’s How to Write Like Tolstoy’
‘An anecdotal, breezy and comprehensive approach…an entertainingly slick read.'
‘The highest compliment one can pay How to Write Like Tolstoy is that it provokes an overwhelming urge to read and write.’
‘A book for the general reader as much as the aspiring novelist.’
‘Interesting, charming, and engaging…Cohen reveals the possibilities that lie in wait when authors practice selection and intention, sparking the literary imagination.’
‘An inspiring book! It makes one glad to be a writer.’
‘Elegant... Cohen [tells] amusing, often discursive stories about great literature and authors, mixed with the writers’ own observations, which he hopes will further inspire readers and would-be writers. The advice is pleasant, and sometimes wise.’
‘Insightful… [Cohen] escorts his readers to Iris Murdoch for sage counsel on launching a novel, to Salman Rushdie for shrewd guidance on developing an unreliable narrator, to Rudyard Kipling for a cagey hint on creating memorable minor characters, and to Leo Tolstoy for a master’s help in transforming personal experience into fictional art. Even readers with no intentions of writing a novel will relish the opportunity to join their favourite authors at the workbench.’