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The Art of Nonfiction: A Guide for Writers and Readers

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A remarkable series of lectures on the art of creating effective nonfiction by one of the 20th century's most profound writers and thinkers--now available for the first time in print.Culled from sixteen informal lectures Ayn Rand delivered to a select audience in the late 1960s, this remarkable work offers indispensable guidance to the aspiring writer of nonfiction while p A remarkable series of lectures on the art of creating effective nonfiction by one of the 20th century's most profound writers and thinkers--now available for the first time in print.Culled from sixteen informal lectures Ayn Rand delivered to a select audience in the late 1960s, this remarkable work offers indispensable guidance to the aspiring writer of nonfiction while providing readers with a fascinating discourse on art and creation. Based on the concept that the ability to create quality nonfiction is a skill that can be learned like any other, The Art of Nonfiction takes readers through the writing process, step-by-step, providing insightful observations and invaluable techniques along the way. In these edited transcripts, Rand discusses the psychological aspects of writing, and the different roles played by the conscious and unconscious minds. From choosing a subject to polishing a draft to mastering an individual writing style--for authors of theoretical works or those leaning toward journalistic reporting--this crucial resource introduces the words and ideas of one of our most enduring authors to a new generation.


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A remarkable series of lectures on the art of creating effective nonfiction by one of the 20th century's most profound writers and thinkers--now available for the first time in print.Culled from sixteen informal lectures Ayn Rand delivered to a select audience in the late 1960s, this remarkable work offers indispensable guidance to the aspiring writer of nonfiction while p A remarkable series of lectures on the art of creating effective nonfiction by one of the 20th century's most profound writers and thinkers--now available for the first time in print.Culled from sixteen informal lectures Ayn Rand delivered to a select audience in the late 1960s, this remarkable work offers indispensable guidance to the aspiring writer of nonfiction while providing readers with a fascinating discourse on art and creation. Based on the concept that the ability to create quality nonfiction is a skill that can be learned like any other, The Art of Nonfiction takes readers through the writing process, step-by-step, providing insightful observations and invaluable techniques along the way. In these edited transcripts, Rand discusses the psychological aspects of writing, and the different roles played by the conscious and unconscious minds. From choosing a subject to polishing a draft to mastering an individual writing style--for authors of theoretical works or those leaning toward journalistic reporting--this crucial resource introduces the words and ideas of one of our most enduring authors to a new generation.

30 review for The Art of Nonfiction: A Guide for Writers and Readers

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    The first part was interesting, but it was also repetitive due to the editing. As a series of lectures a couple of weeks apart, the redundancy was probably helpful. Unfortunately, the editor was a true believer & didn't want me to miss a single gem of her wisdom. (I wonder if her adherents ever see the irony in their deification of her? Probably not. LOL!) Many of her thoughts were obvious, since we seem to look for the same things in nonfiction. I owe a lot of that to her. I've always admir The first part was interesting, but it was also repetitive due to the editing. As a series of lectures a couple of weeks apart, the redundancy was probably helpful. Unfortunately, the editor was a true believer & didn't want me to miss a single gem of her wisdom. (I wonder if her adherents ever see the irony in their deification of her? Probably not. LOL!) Many of her thoughts were obvious, since we seem to look for the same things in nonfiction. I owe a lot of that to her. I've always admired her writing, aside from her penchant for using $5 words where a nickle one would do. She's precise, if pedantic & breaks one of her own cardinal rules; keeping the subject simple & to the point. Of course, that's tough to do when she took on all nonfiction writing. It's a broad subject running from short essays to books. Various scopes require different approaches. I wouldn't recommend this to nonfiction readers. At best, it's just going to make the failings of any essay or book that much more glaring. I don't think it will help with understanding of nonfiction any better, although she does make some good points about syllogism & other forms of faulty logic (or sleight of hand) that are used by so many snake oil salesmen. Still, if you didn't spot them before or are a believer in their particular medicine, I doubt this would change your mind. I didn't find anything new, she just codified them a bit better. Nonfiction writers of all sorts would get a lot out of this, I believe. Rand was certainly a remarkable speaker & writer. Her logic is profound & intricate, even if it does reach too far beyond the human condition. Still, that's a good thing in nonfiction writing. I was on the fence whether to give this 3 or 4 stars. Since she's so precise, I'm knocking it back to 3 due to it not really being for readers.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ilyn Ross

    Ayn said that what one needs for nonfiction writing is what is needed for life in general: an orderly method of thinking. Writing, she said, is literally only the skill of putting down on paper a clear thought, in clear terms. She discussed subject and theme, creating an outline, writing the draft, floating abstractions, editing, style, book reviews and introductions, writing a book, selecting a title, and acquiring ideas for writing. She contrasted an active psycho-epistemology (i.e. method of th Ayn said that what one needs for nonfiction writing is what is needed for life in general: an orderly method of thinking. Writing, she said, is literally only the skill of putting down on paper a clear thought, in clear terms. She discussed subject and theme, creating an outline, writing the draft, floating abstractions, editing, style, book reviews and introductions, writing a book, selecting a title, and acquiring ideas for writing. She contrasted an active psycho-epistemology (i.e. method of thinking) with a conforming one. She discussed the only way to learn, the only way to be independent. She stressed independent thinking and principles.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Anna Vincent

    Great book! I recommend it for writers and those learning to write. Another great one is The Art of Fiction, by the same author. This book complements Writing and Thinking, by Steadman and Foerster and The Elements of Style, by Strunk and White, as it teaches a rational approach to writing and style. Many of Rand’s statements on style echo those of these other authors; her assertion is that a writer should be clear and precise, and that style should never be forced, but instead will come naturall Great book! I recommend it for writers and those learning to write. Another great one is The Art of Fiction, by the same author. This book complements Writing and Thinking, by Steadman and Foerster and The Elements of Style, by Strunk and White, as it teaches a rational approach to writing and style. Many of Rand’s statements on style echo those of these other authors; her assertion is that a writer should be clear and precise, and that style should never be forced, but instead will come naturally as a manner of expressing one’s self. Also, like these other authors, Rand emphasizes the importance of thinking clearly in order to produce clear writing, an in making an outline. Organization. Clarity. (view spoiler)[ What sets Rand apart from these other authors, though, is her understanding of philosophy. She teaches similar concepts, but also explains their underlying premise. With style, for instance, she writes: “Style is the result of subconscious integration” (p. 105). On page 107 she explains: “You cannot develop a style consciously. But you can give your subconscious the standing order that you like stylistic color and want it to occur when possible… Style comes from lightening-like integrations which your subconscious can make when it is free to do so. That is why you must write your first draft as spontaneously as possible.” She encourages writers to make a mental note of preferred style while reading, then says it will come to you naturally when needed. It isn’t magical, nor is she saying that you’ll get what you need whenever you need it; she’s merely explaining the process of style. The process of writing nonfiction, according to Rand, is to first think out and understand the what you will be writing, then write an outline, then write a rough draft, without stopping to edit, referencing the outline periodically, then try to forget what you wrote for at least a day, then go back and edit, now with the objectivity of an editor. (The subconscious mind writes the rough draft, while the conscious mind writes the outline and edits.) Then wait a day or two, edit again, repeat until satisfied. She gives helpful advice for what to do and what not to do along the way, but the above is her basic take on the process of writing nonfiction. I found it very helpful. Important advice she offers, for example, is: “Do not try to do your thinking and your writing at the same time” (p. 62). I do this often and it’s a nightmare because you have to stop repeatedly to consider what you’re writing, only to get halfway through and find that you’re headed to a new conclusion, thus having to re-work your opening. (hide spoiler)] I read this book seen years ago, four years ago, and again more recently. It was interesting to see which passages I underlined as important. The book was an easier read the last two times around, as I’d since internalized some of the concepts.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kendall

    From a series of informal lectures Rand gave in 1969. Someone recorded the lectures- Robert Mayhew organized them into this book. Rand was one self-confident person! She comes across as cocky at times- and intellectual snob. Good advice about the writing process in this book though.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Boni Aditya

    This book is levels better than the other books about writing like Bird to Bird, it is precise and does not hesitate to state rules, without any clout of random feelings or expressions. It clearly states what she thinks is right and what she thinks is wrong and why, with a proper reasoning attached to it. I just loved the way the whole thing was handled. The author clearly states that writing needs to happen consciously, she also describes how it can be inculcated, at least the non-fiction, how This book is levels better than the other books about writing like Bird to Bird, it is precise and does not hesitate to state rules, without any clout of random feelings or expressions. It clearly states what she thinks is right and what she thinks is wrong and why, with a proper reasoning attached to it. I just loved the way the whole thing was handled. The author clearly states that writing needs to happen consciously, she also describes how it can be inculcated, at least the non-fiction, how you can understand the process and then become a writer and the importance of becoming a writer in this fashion i.e. with deliberate and explicit knowledge of the intermediate steps that are involved in the process as opposed to letting intuition take charge and going with the flow. Thats where the writer impressed me and moreover this book has not been written by Ayn Rand, it was actually extracted from her lectures by another woman, had it been written directly by Any Rand, we would have had a better understanding about her process, because she would have been able to put them in better words and in better sequences as opposed to a third party. This book is in the level of Stephen King's book - Writing: On Memoirs of a Craft; This book is a must read for anyone trying to compose articles, it has clear rules about style, clarity, precision, brevity, color, reporting, showing, telling, vocabulary, grammar and every aspect that is involved in composing an article along with editing, reviewing, theory, outlining, revising, ordering, punctuations, drafts, final versions, publishing and many others discussed at length. i just loved the way each one of them have been addressed. I just felt at one with the author. After reading a series of books which do not deserve a single star rating, I read this book and I has been able to revive my faith in good books. This has also helped me with my research about deciphering writers and writing. As I go through the explicit process of creating a writer out of myself, this book is one more milestone. But, during the process of rationality often Any Rand's objectivism seeps in but since the book has been taken out of her lectures it is bound to happen. She also explains that a writer must have a philosophy, without proper philosophy and rationality and writer cannot write good non-fiction. Thus she justifies her philosophy that continously seeps into the book. I found no problem with her objectivism, because I kind of like Ayn Rand's philosophy and her book Atlas Shrugged had a deep impact on my way of life. I like people who hate being politically correct and those who hate being apologetic. She stood with her truth and with rationality and thus this book is closer to reality than other such books and very concrete rules and calls for action, i.e. telling you what to do and what not to do.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Nathan

    There's a wide belief or assumption that one can't apply "pure reason" to art, creativity, morality, the mind... But then here comes Ayn Rand, just laying it all out to whoever might be listening. Contrast "The Art of Nonfiction" with Steven Pressfield's famous "The War of Art"--an engaging and encouraging book on writing, discipline, and motivation--but when Pressfield talks about inspiration he must resort to "angels" and the mystical muse. It's read it with a straight face and considered a va There's a wide belief or assumption that one can't apply "pure reason" to art, creativity, morality, the mind... But then here comes Ayn Rand, just laying it all out to whoever might be listening. Contrast "The Art of Nonfiction" with Steven Pressfield's famous "The War of Art"--an engaging and encouraging book on writing, discipline, and motivation--but when Pressfield talks about inspiration he must resort to "angels" and the mystical muse. It's read it with a straight face and considered a valiant attempt to explain the unexplainable, as we don't know any better. Thankfully someone knows better. Ayn Rand understood the absolute value and utility of reason to illuminate reality, and as a result she was able to see what others could not.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Zy Marquiez

    Collated from prior presentations that Ayn Rand undertook, The Art Of Nonfiction is a straight forward foray into Rand’s considerations, techniques and process of writing nonfiction. Written in a cogent and methodical fashion, some of the main points Rand addresses are (1) subject and theme, (2) creating an outline, (3) writing the draft, (4) editing, (5) style, which is addressed at length, and even (6) writing books as well. The prior list is not exhaustive, but merely a sampling of the range o Collated from prior presentations that Ayn Rand undertook, The Art Of Nonfiction is a straight forward foray into Rand’s considerations, techniques and process of writing nonfiction. Written in a cogent and methodical fashion, some of the main points Rand addresses are (1) subject and theme, (2) creating an outline, (3) writing the draft, (4) editing, (5) style, which is addressed at length, and even (6) writing books as well. The prior list is not exhaustive, but merely a sampling of the range of ideas Rand undertook. While some of the rules Rand expounds upon could be seen as mechanical if acted upon rigidly, they need not be. Writing is as much an art as it is a science; using the rules she suggests as guidelines will certainly help one’s writing in a sound manner, as long as one doesn’t fuse themselves to a mechanistic process. Be that as it may, two of the main points which Rand stressed considerably were that of clarity, and the importance of an outline. These are two parts of writing which all writers struggle with sooner or later, but they are also components that will net some of the greatest benefits if one executes them properly. On the point of clarity, Rand elucidates: “If you cannot write something down clearly and objectively, then you do not really know it. Any vagueness or indecision on any fundamental aspect of your article will be disastrous. That which you cannot name you know only approximately.”[2] Translation: Know what you know, know what you don’t know, and be crystal clear and precise about it. Along the same avenue, on the point of outlines, Rand states: “The Outline’s level of detail depends on how clear the subject is in your mind, and how complex the article is. I suggest the following test. If in making an outline you feel vaguely that some point is difficult to formulate though you “kind of” know what you mean, then you need more detail. On the other hand, if you begin to feel bored – if all you need are a few lines on some point but you are writing a volume – then you are being too detailed. As in all mental activity, you are the only judge.”[2] For a book whose information wasn’t meant to be part of a book at the outset, it flows seamlessly. Given that The Art Of Nonfiction was collated from a set of oral lectures, the editing done by Robert Mayhew is extremely precise, and Rand’s thoughts are easy to follow. For good measure, the book even includes selected outlines used by Ayn Rand in some of her articles. This helps the reader view an outline through Rand’s eyes. Though this section isn’t lengthy, the precision in execution is flawless and aids in the reader setting their crosshairs on what a correctly created outline format will look like. In light of the breadth and scope of information provided in such a small package, The Art Of Nonfiction would be a mainstay in any nonfiction writer’s arsenal. Incisive individuals who wish to apprise themselves of sound writing tips that will be guideposts for their writing endeavors would be wise learn the tenets in these books, for they are as important as they are timeless. ___________________________________________________________ Footnotes: [1] Ayn Rand, The Art of Nonfiction, p. 17. [2] Ibid., pp. 44-45.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    It took me a long time to get through this book mostly because, and I didn't know this before, Ayn Rand is kind of a dick. In one breath, she advises writers to not use pejorative language and to be polite with their words if they are writing a review of a work with which they disagree. In the next breath, she accuses liberal writers of using confusing language in order to hide their evil beliefs that support dictatorship. She belittles individuals who use marijuana. She gives examples of other w It took me a long time to get through this book mostly because, and I didn't know this before, Ayn Rand is kind of a dick. In one breath, she advises writers to not use pejorative language and to be polite with their words if they are writing a review of a work with which they disagree. In the next breath, she accuses liberal writers of using confusing language in order to hide their evil beliefs that support dictatorship. She belittles individuals who use marijuana. She gives examples of other writers' work and then says why it isn't good writing, in very impolite ways. This book was put together after Rand's death from notes from workshops and classes she organized. Based on the examples used, and the way the book is structured, it does not appear that Rand wanted to help anyone. It appears she wanted to further inflate her own ego. It was difficult for me to get past her self-indulgence to find helpful tidbits that are found in practically every other writing guide I've ever read. Lastly, she wrote that you shouldn't attempt to write on a subject that you do not know about, but she clearly did not understand poetry since she wrote "Poems without rhymes are neither prose nor poetry. They are nothing." No, Ayn Rand. Just, no.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Necessary. This book was one of the most powerful writing and reading craft books I have read thus far. Helpful. Insightful. A must read. And then, read it again. It is worth the time and money.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Yoak

    A lot of very solid advice, but particularly targeted to article-writing and other very specific forms that might limit the value to a general audience. That said, I learned quite a bit.

  11. 5 out of 5

    David Rauschenbach

    Favorite Quotes: Contrary to all schools of art and esthetics, writing is something one can learn. There is no mystery about it. In literature, as in all the fine arts, complex premises must be set early in a person's mind, so that a beginning adult may not have enough time to set them and thus cannot learn to write. Even these premises can be learned, theoretically, but the person would have to acquire them on his own. So I am inclined to say that fiction writing — and the fine arts in general — Favorite Quotes: Contrary to all schools of art and esthetics, writing is something one can learn. There is no mystery about it. In literature, as in all the fine arts, complex premises must be set early in a person's mind, so that a beginning adult may not have enough time to set them and thus cannot learn to write. Even these premises can be learned, theoretically, but the person would have to acquire them on his own. So I am inclined to say that fiction writing — and the fine arts in general — cannot be taught. Much of the technical skill involved can be, but not the essence. However, any person who can speak English grammatically can learn to write nonfiction. Nonfiction writing is not difficult, though it is a technical skill. Its only difficulty pertains to a person's method of thinking or psycho-epistemology. What you need for nonfiction writing is what you need for life in general: an orderly method of thinking. If you have problems in this regard, they will slow you down (in both realms). But writing is literally only the skill of putting down on paper a clear thought, in clear terms. Everything else, such as drama and "jazziness", is merely the trimmings. I once said that the three most important elements of fiction are plot, plot, and plot. The equivalent in nonfiction is: clarity, clarity, and clarity. — Chapter 01: Prelimenary Remarks, page 2 — Tags: interesting How good you become depends on your premises and interests, and on how much time you devote to writing. But the skill can be learned. It is not mysterious and does not have to be torture. Remember this point, particularly when you feel you will never write again or know what writing is. That sense of helplessness is inherent in struggling with a new thought. But any particular writing problem you might have is solvable (though, as in any introspection, it is not always easy to identify your problem). Writing is no more difficult a skill than any other, such as engineering. Like every human activity, it requires practice and knowledge. But there is nothing mystical to it. — Chapter 01: Prelimenary Remarks, page 3 — Tags: interesting ... In the presence of a given event, work of art, person, etc., too many Objectivists ask themselves, "What do I have to feel?" instead of "What do I feel?" And if they need to judge a situation which I have not discussed before, their approach is, "What should I think?" instead of, "What do I think?" This is the childhood remnant of anyone who to some extent was influenced either by the religion of the culture or, later in college, by Platonism. Both give the impression that the good, the important, the philosophical are like church on Sunday: you use them on special occasions, but they have nothing to do with daily life. If any part of this attitude remains in you, it is important to eliminate it. — Chapter 04: Applying Philosophy Without Preaching It, pages 29-30 — Tags: enlightening, interesting There can be no compromise between a property owner and a burglar; offering the burglar a single teaspoon of one's silverware would not be a compromise, but a total surrender—the recognition of his right to one's property. What value or concession did the burglar offer in return? And once the principle of unilateral concessions is accepted as the base of a relationship by both parties, it is only a matter of time before the burglar would seize the rest. As an example of this process, observe the present [1962] foreign policy of the United States. There can be no compromise between freedom and government controls; to accept "just a few controls" is to surrender the principle of inalienable individual rights and to substitute for it the principle of government's unlimited, arbitrary power, thus delivering oneself into gradual enslavement. As an example of this process, observe the present domestic policy of the United States. There can be no compromise on basic principles or on fundamental issues. What would you regard as the "compromise" between life and death? Or between truth and falsehood? Or between reason and irrationality? — Chapter 05: Creating an Outline, pages 50-51 — Tags: interesting If you write something at all complex, you will experience the squirms [sudden-onset mental paralysis] of one form or another. The main reason for it is a subconscious contradiction. — Chapter 06: Writing the Draft: The Primacy of the Subconscious, page 64 — Tags: interesting Solving the squirms [sudden-onset mental paralysis during writing] is perhaps the most painful part of writing. You must stop writing when they occur, but continue to work on the problem. To the best of my knowledge of psycho-epistemology, there is no other way out. The worst thing to do is to think that since it is a subconscious problem, you can take a rest, read a book, go to the movies—and let your subconscious resolve the problem. It will not. If you take a break of that kind, you prolong your agony. And the longer you postpone the problem, the less chance you have of solving it. The problem can be solved, but it must be done consciously. You must sit at your desk and think about it, even when you feel you do not know what to think. For an exercise in free will and will power, this is the hardest thing you can demand of yourself, but it is the only solution. — Chapter 06: Writing the Draft: The Primacy of the Subconscious, page 66 — Tags: interesting, useful The greatest danger in regard to control over your writing is to memorize your first draft. That sets it in your mind as the final expression of what you want to say. As a result, you lose the capacity to evaluate or edit it, which requires that you be able to take a fresh look at your material. That is why the earliest you should edit your work is the next morning; editing requires a switch to a conscious process, which is a different mental set. — Chapter 06: Writing the Draft: The Primacy of the Subconscious, page 75 — Tags: interesting, useful If I get up in the morning and know, for example, that I have a four o'clock appointment, I cannot write that day. It is as if my mind closes down and will not work. If I do try to work, I dawdle, look at the clock, and get dressed for the appointment earlier than necessary, realizing that trying to write is useless. — Chapter 06: Writing the Draft: The Primacy of the Subconscious, page 82 — Tags: interesting, useful Too many people today think: “I'm a creative genius, I'm above grammar.” But nobody who thinks or writes can be above grammar. It is like saying, “I'm a creative genius, I'm above concepts.”—which is the attitude of modern artists. If you are “above” grammar, you are “above” concepts; and if you are “above” concepts, then you are “above” thought. The fact is that then you are not above, but below, thought. Therefore, make a religion of grammar. — Chapter 07: Editing, page 101 — Tags: enlightening, interesting, useful I once heard of a politician who committed political suicide when he put up the following campaign billboard: “My opponent has had eight years at the public trough. Now give me a chance.” — Chapter 07: Editing, page 103 — Tags: funny Americans are trained (through the look-say approach to reading and the allied, Dewey-based ideas of education) to be emotional approximators. The nonobjective, ungrammatical way in which people express themselves today is truly frightening. What has been systematically undercut is their capacity for objective communication. Americans tend to express themselves guided by feelings, not by thoughts. According to modern theory, there are no such things as thoughts; and even if there were, they could not guide us. — Chapter 07: Editing, page 99 — Tags: interesting In regards to [writing] a book, however, the danger is the tendency to expand your presentation into an encyclopedia. I said [in chapter 2] that you must delimit your subject when you write an article, despite the temptation to digress. That danger is much greater in a book. Since a book permits more detailed statements of a subject than does an article, a beginner might get the idea that he has the space to say anything — which quickly becomes everything. This kind of expansion is particularly problematic when your theme is broad; the broader your theme, the greater the temptation to include increasingly more subdivisions. The fact that a book does permit a certain latitude — the fact that it is like a complex orchestration with a central theme, the development of which permits a great many sub-themes — can make your book spread into total shapelessness. — Chapter 10: Writing a Book, page 159 — Tags: interesting, useful Someone once said that a writer's most important tool is scissors, by which he meant that a writer should never be afraid to cut his own work when necessary. I have never sympathized with this attitude, because I hold this premise as such an absolute that I do not think one should boast about it. Courage is not required if your purpose is to write a good article or book, and some beautiful passage does not fit into the total context. In such a case, there is no choice involved: of course, you make the cut. Acquire that kind of ruthlessness. Make your central value the total job, not any particular passage. — Chapter 10: Writing a Book, page 162 — Tags: interesting The purpose of teaching is not only to communicate knowledge, but also to instill a rational psycho-epistemology in one's students. If you analyze what a good teacher is doing, and why his students get so much out of his class, you will find that he is communicating the material in a certain order, which, by implication, trains his class to absorb knowledge rationally. — Chapter 10: Writing a Book, page 166 — Tags: interesting The most brilliant inspiration for a title of mine is Frank's suggestion of Atlas Shrugged, which is almost a mystery to me. I do not know how he made the integration, but it is brilliant, because it names in two words the essence of the book. When I ask him how he came up with the title, he could not explain it. It was purely inspirational; titles usually occur that way. — Chapter 11: Selecting a Title, p. 169 — Tags: interesting

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jake

    Regardless of whether you believe Ayn Rand to be the greatest of devils or foremost among geniuses, it's hard to deny that the woman knew how to write. Personally, I believe she was a better essayist than novelist, but I would still say this volume's companion, The Art of Fiction: A Guide for Writers and Readers, is still essential to fully understanding what's on offer here. By itself, this little book would go a long way for college students both in the humanities and sciences. If Rand herself Regardless of whether you believe Ayn Rand to be the greatest of devils or foremost among geniuses, it's hard to deny that the woman knew how to write. Personally, I believe she was a better essayist than novelist, but I would still say this volume's companion, The Art of Fiction: A Guide for Writers and Readers, is still essential to fully understanding what's on offer here. By itself, this little book would go a long way for college students both in the humanities and sciences. If Rand herself weren't so controversial in the intellectual scene, I could very well see this book being required reading for students at the university level. I say this because I can't tell you how much writing I've read from engineers, mathematicians, and others in the sciences who couldn't cohesively put their thoughts to paper to save their life. For those in the humanities, Rand serves up several reminders that your writing should be a reflection of yourself first and foremost, and is the only way to achieve your own original style. Don't emulate Stephen King, George R.R. Martin, or whoever or whatever else is en vogue, says Rand. Put your thoughts to paper, regardless of quality, and go back and touch it up/flesh it out later. Those are just a few of the many principles Rand presents here, and they're hard to argue. Again, regardless of what you think of Rand, you will find in this book valuable insights into one of the most difficult tasks you can set your mind to.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Bruce

    Some time ago I heard the tapes of the class Ayn Rand taught on which this book is based. It was a fascinating experience, and put to rest the notion that Ayn Rand's literary tastes were narrow. Though she endorsed only a handful of writers in her book on esthetics, The Romantic Manifesto, she read widely and richly enjoyed a wide variety of fiction; a few that come to mind are Ben Hecht, Isak Dinesen, Noel Coward. The advice to writers is illuminating for both writers and readers, and her accoun Some time ago I heard the tapes of the class Ayn Rand taught on which this book is based. It was a fascinating experience, and put to rest the notion that Ayn Rand's literary tastes were narrow. Though she endorsed only a handful of writers in her book on esthetics, The Romantic Manifesto, she read widely and richly enjoyed a wide variety of fiction; a few that come to mind are Ben Hecht, Isak Dinesen, Noel Coward. The advice to writers is illuminating for both writers and readers, and her account of ways in which writers procrastinate is hilarious--not an adjective one associates with Ayn Rand!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Tal Lee

    I already didn’t care to read this given Rand’s love affair with laissez-faire capitalism but figured that given it was a book on writing nonfiction, it would be a non-issue. Unfortunately, the book had a whole other set of problems - mostly due to editing - as the book is a reconstruction of Rand’s lectures on the subject. The first half was interesting but then it started to become repetitive; again poor editing.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    good advice to help you enliven your writing

  16. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    I knew the slim 182 page book would be weighty and I was right. The photo on the front cover shows Rand, with her arms folded, in front of a city landscape, and squinting into the sun in a stare-down. A fair reflection of her approach to writing, the photo shows a determined, focused and laser intelligence. At the end I felt proud of having made it through a sober and intense reading lesson of gathering ideas, deciding on a plan, outlining, writing and rewriting. If you are ready in your writing I knew the slim 182 page book would be weighty and I was right. The photo on the front cover shows Rand, with her arms folded, in front of a city landscape, and squinting into the sun in a stare-down. A fair reflection of her approach to writing, the photo shows a determined, focused and laser intelligence. At the end I felt proud of having made it through a sober and intense reading lesson of gathering ideas, deciding on a plan, outlining, writing and rewriting. If you are ready in your writing to seriously confront the flaws of your thinking, or defend them against a paragon of argument and reason, this book is a match. Compare your strength to this advice. “Sometimes an author becomes too abstract because he has not quite decided what details he will use to illustrate something, and so he begins to assert the arbitrary.” It is a rare author who would recognize a personal fall into asserting the arbitrary. It sometimes felt weighted down by the use of ideas that required words like absolute, relativism, contextual, epistemology and her personal philosophy of objectivism. I’m a generation more accustomed to the friendly, breezy, sisterly advice of Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird and Janet Evanovich’s easily absorbed, open-formatted How I Write. Yet, maybe because she is older, Rand came across as the older, crabbier sister who only later turns out to be a best friend. Because of her prickly exterior, it was a surprise to review the notes I kept while reading Rand’s book, to discover she has her cuddly moments. On the first page is, “If you have difficulty with writing, do not conclude that there is something wrong with you.” Or “Trust your subconscious by writing as if everything that comes out of it is right.” And more cuddly is, “But while you are writing, you must be God’s perfect creature (if there were a God).” I think that’s downright sweet for an Ayn Rand quote. She gives strong advice to writers that involves deep thinking, liberal editing, showing versus telling, and grammar. Clarity and the necessity of every scene are among her mantras, which is surprising considering the length of her books. She seems almost easy to have lunch with (and I wish I could) during her description of finally settling on the titles for The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. Rand is not a fuzzy-wuzzy person and her politics sometimes got in the way (like so many of us she just never got over that childhood of hers), but I learned from her. I admire the way she thinks on an individual, personal level, though we don’t always come to the same political conclusion. Now that I’ve read more of of her I doubt she’d mind as long as I could state why I thought a certain way and could grammatically defend it.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Natalie

    I found this little gem for only USD2.95, so it is certainly well worth my money and time. Not many books deal with the "philosophy" behind non-fiction and I appreciate Rand's honesty and transparency, although this could be unintentional as her series of lectures was probably never intended to be committed to book form. Her writing / lecture is clear and detailed and although some readers have called her out for being repetitive, I actually found the repetition helpful because it leaves little I found this little gem for only USD2.95, so it is certainly well worth my money and time. Not many books deal with the "philosophy" behind non-fiction and I appreciate Rand's honesty and transparency, although this could be unintentional as her series of lectures was probably never intended to be committed to book form. Her writing / lecture is clear and detailed and although some readers have called her out for being repetitive, I actually found the repetition helpful because it leaves little doubt as to what she means. The book is well-structured (credit goes to Robert Mayhew who had to arrange her lecture notes) and it's hard to disagree with the philosophy she espouses. The fact that she talks about the "art" of writing non-fiction also means that a lot of her points may extend to other forms of art (e.g. painting, photography, etc.) so the book is not necessarily exclusive to non-fiction writers or readers. Some have called her arrogant - e.g. she compares what is considered good writing (articles written by her) and what is bad (articles written by others) - but it is always fun to read Rand when she is not gentle with criticism, as long as one remembers that these are cherry-picked examples and probably self-serving. Is the book flawless? My answer is no. Whilst I agree for the most part with her philosophy, I am not always convinced. For instance, she says a reviewer must never tell the author what he should have done. But she goes on to say that "it is permissible to say that the author has stated such and such, but he has not touched on these aspects." Maybe I am alone in thinking such distinction artificial but I struggle to see what is or isn't permissible. Her writing sometimes contradicts her philosophy (e.g. she says write simply, but her writing can be quite convoluted - just look at Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged and you'll know what I mean) and her philosophy is sometimes easier said than done (e.g. how exactly does one forget writing rules and allow the subconscious to run free to generate style?). Nonetheless, all things considered, there are plenty of nuggets of wisdom to take away and I think it is a good companion piece to Zinsser and Strunk.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Catherine

    Yesterday I had received a book I had ordered from Amazon called, The Art of Nonfiction, by Ayn Rand. The Subtitle Is “a Guide for Writers and Readers.” I finished the introduction which was written by Peter Schwartz back in 1999. Back then Peter Schwartz was chairman of the Board of Directors of the Ayn Rand Institute, as well as the instructor of an advance writing course at the Institute’s Objectivist Graduate Center. Here are my random notes from reading the introduction: (maybe some of these Yesterday I had received a book I had ordered from Amazon called, The Art of Nonfiction, by Ayn Rand. The Subtitle Is “a Guide for Writers and Readers.” I finished the introduction which was written by Peter Schwartz back in 1999. Back then Peter Schwartz was chairman of the Board of Directors of the Ayn Rand Institute, as well as the instructor of an advance writing course at the Institute’s Objectivist Graduate Center. Here are my random notes from reading the introduction: (maybe some of these will help you) Writing is a skill just like jewelry making or engineering. It requires practice and knowledge. It has nothing to do with self-esteem. There are “identifiable principles.” Writing is the act of communicating your thoughts clearly. Writing is not mystical. *Nonfiction needs an orderly method of thinking! Consciousness is to grasp (not create). Writing is an objective science. Do not look inside yourself for a solution – look outside. Ask, “What is the nature of the _________________ you want to do?” Writing is about DOING! Ms. Rand provides principles about the psychology process of writing (roles of your conscious and subconscious mind (along with methodical advice through the process of writing. Writing nonfiction is problem-solving. Writing is problem-solvable. The next chapter, chapter 1, is called Preliminary Remarks. After I finish with this chapter I will share my notes. Thus far, I found this book to be enlightening. At this point, I can say I highly recommend purchasing and reading; especially if you are having any self-doubt about your writing. Or maybe if you are struggling with a blank page. In fact, a lot of the tips above were about how to subconsciously rewrite the meaning of writing in order to never have a blank page again.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Shana Karnes

    I accidentally bought this book, but I began reading it anyway and ended up loving it. Ayn Rand is fascinating to me; yes, she is super radical, but hey, a girl's gotta get things done. The book is not actually written by Ayn, but is actually transcribed from a course she taught on writing nonfiction. It is extremely interesting because she is so frank in her conversations/lectures. The first half of the book is just verbatim what she spoke about in class; the second half if dialogue between her I accidentally bought this book, but I began reading it anyway and ended up loving it. Ayn Rand is fascinating to me; yes, she is super radical, but hey, a girl's gotta get things done. The book is not actually written by Ayn, but is actually transcribed from a course she taught on writing nonfiction. It is extremely interesting because she is so frank in her conversations/lectures. The first half of the book is just verbatim what she spoke about in class; the second half if dialogue between her and her students, in kind of a q and a format. All in all, I'd recommend this to a fledgling writer--she really preaches about the need for confidence and a rejection of self-doubt/fear, so I think it's great for newbies.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Richard Meadows

    Set aside your feelings about Ayn Rand and her objectionable objectivism. If you can do so, you will benefit from an extremely useful book. I particularly enjoyed the sections on subject and theme, showing not telling, creating an outline, editing, and abstractions vs concrete. As you'd expect, Rand attacks each element in a highly logical and rational manner, and she has clearly put an enormous amount of thought into this. The Art of Nonfiction loses a star because of its structure (it's a compil Set aside your feelings about Ayn Rand and her objectionable objectivism. If you can do so, you will benefit from an extremely useful book. I particularly enjoyed the sections on subject and theme, showing not telling, creating an outline, editing, and abstractions vs concrete. As you'd expect, Rand attacks each element in a highly logical and rational manner, and she has clearly put an enormous amount of thought into this. The Art of Nonfiction loses a star because of its structure (it's a compilation of lectures Rand gave, and wasn't written as a book). It's also unlikely to be of much interest to readers (as opposed to writers), so I don't think the subtitle is accurate.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kara Hartz

    I admit that I stopped reading it after chapter 4 when I realized I wasn't learning anything. This book was created from transcripts from oral lectures. Maybe I would have gotten more from the lectures, but as a book, I found this to be tedious to read for little information. It seemed to make simple concepts very complicated. From all the other rave reviews, I wonder if I would have gotten more out of it if I had stuck with it though. What I did read was almost all about picking a topic and foc I admit that I stopped reading it after chapter 4 when I realized I wasn't learning anything. This book was created from transcripts from oral lectures. Maybe I would have gotten more from the lectures, but as a book, I found this to be tedious to read for little information. It seemed to make simple concepts very complicated. From all the other rave reviews, I wonder if I would have gotten more out of it if I had stuck with it though. What I did read was almost all about picking a topic and focusing it. There were some very useful ideas, but you have to slog through a lot to get at them.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Anj

    I have so many "stickies" on the pages of this book!! Rand takes the reader throught the steps of writing using straightforwardness in her approach. She goes right to the heart of the matter in every chapter, not holding back in telling the reader/writer what she "really" thinks. The book is based on a series of lectures the author gave to a select group. A great read!!! Good resource for any writer.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Christopher

    This book, based on private lectures held by novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand, (author of "Atlas Shrugged" and "The Fountainhead") is a great resource on both reading and writing nonfiction. It has a particular focus on the importance of writing outlines and a superlatively thorough and effective three-layer editing process. Simply a marvelous book that teaches the proper writing methods for creating both articles and essays.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey Falk

    This was an informative, invaluable, fascinating informal private discussion in 1969, and it is an informative, invaluable, fascinating, meticulously transcribed and edited book now. I should have read it years ago (and, while I have some questions and different approaches, I was pleased to find I was already using some of the methods and guidelines the author advises using).

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sylvester Kuo

    The Art of Nonfiction is a guide for Objectivists and non-Objectivists to write articles or books effectively with flair. Ayn Rand used her own writing as examples on what could be done to improve the writing and what not to do if you want to write well. Worth a read for anyone who is interested in writing.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Steven P.R.

    This is an excellent book for writer's if you're looking for good advice on various things such as editing, creating an outline, writing a draft, etc. I read this book in college as I was learning to improve my writing. As is characteristic of Ayn Rand's writing, the book is well written and the presentation of concepts and advice is direct and to the point.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Stacie

    Well, I don't share a lot of philosophical views with Ms. Rand, but I certainly found this lecture series interesting. There were writing ideas I could take away, and I enjoyed learning more about Ms. Rand and her philosophy. Sometimes it's a good thing to hear ideals that are extremely different from my own to make me pause and consider why I believe the way I do.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    This book was not written to help people it was written to belittle people, scorn other writers and feed into her huge opinion of herself. I like Ayn Rand's works, and I have no doubt that she was extremely intelligent - but this book was hugely annoying. As a reader, you have work extra hard to "get past" her arrogance just to pick up the helpful tidbits of information pertaining to the topic.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    Like all of Rand's writing, her treatment of "writing nonfiction" is logical and straightforward. I recommend this work for aspiring writers of nonfiction. It's not the definitive work on the subject, but Ayn Rand's experience and intellect add value to any writer's portfolio of ideas.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ricardo Ribeiro

    I am afraid I consider this book "unreadable".

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