How to Write Like Tolstoy: A Journey into the Minds of Our Greatest Writers
A Spectator Best Book of the Year `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.' -- Hilary Mantel `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".' * Sunday Times * `Welcome, wise and witty...Aspiring writers will glean excellent advice here.' * Literary Review * `I very much enjoyed Richard Cohen's How to Write Like Tolstoy' -- Julie Burchill * Spectator, Books of the Year * `An anecdotal, breezy and comprehensive approach...an entertainingly slick read.' * Herald * `The highest compliment one can pay How to Write Like Tolstoy is that it provokes an overwhelming urge to read and write.' * Wall Street Journal * `A book for the general reader as much as the aspiring novelist.' * Tablet * `Interesting, charming, and engaging...Cohen reveals the possibilities that lie in wait when authors practice selection and intention, sparking the literary imagination.' * Library Journal, starred review * `An inspiring book! It makes one glad to be a writer.' -- Fay Weldon `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.' * Publishers Weekly * `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.' * Booklist * `Cohen's myriads of examples are lush and instructive... he is a generous tour guide through his literary world' * Kirkus Reviews *
Richard Cohen is the author of Chasing the Sun and By the Sword, the former publishing director of Hutchinson and Hodder & Stoughton, and the founder of Richard Cohen Books. Born in Birmingham, he lived and worked in London, and represented Britain in fencing in four Olympics. He lives in New York.