Picture of The Art of Nonfiction: A Guide for Writers and Readers

The Art of Nonfiction: A Guide for Writers and Readers

By Ayn Rand


Edited by Robert Mayhew

Introduction by Peter Schwartz

In what way is the role of the subconscious different in writing than in editing? Should a writer's work "propagandize" for his particular philosophy of life? How does a writer acquire a distinctive style? How does one find good ideas for writing? Ayn Rand addresses these, and countless other, questions about the craft of writing in this extraordinary book.

Culled (by Robert Mayhew) from sixteen informal lectures she delivered to a select audience in the late 1960s, this book offers theoretical insights and concrete advice. If you engage in any act of written communication—from lengthy books to brief letters-to-the-editor--this will be an invaluable guide for you.

As explained in the book's Introduction:
"[Ayn Rand] maintains that writing is a rational sphere, governed by rationally identifiable principles. 'Writing is no more difficult a skill than any other, such as engineering,' she says. 'Like every human activity, it requires practice and knowledge. But there is nothing mystical to it.'

" 'Since writing is essentially the act of communicating your thoughts clearly, it can be done by virtually everyone. . . .'  Repudiating the standard, subjectivist perspective, she holds that writing is to be treated as an objective science: 'Whenever you have a problem, whether you are writing an article or building a doghouse, do not look inside for the solution. Do not ask: "How do I do it?" Look outside and ask: "What is the nature of the thing I want to do?" ' From this, she proceeds to discuss the nature of writing and its consequent requirements. . . .

"This is not just the de-mysticizing, but the de-agonizing of writing. It will not make writing problem-free, but something much better: problem-solvable. The conviction that one's work can be guided by rational principles rescues writers from a sense of helplessness. It saves them from the state of pre-science savages, who felt they were at the mercy of incomprehensible forces."

Whether you are an aspiring or an experienced writer, you will find The Art of Nonfiction exhilaratingly instructive.

Table of Contents

Introduction by Peter Schwartz

Editor’s Preface

1. Preliminary Remarks

2. Choosing a Subject and Theme

3. Judging One’s Audience

4. Applying Philosophy Without Preaching It

5. Creating an Outline

6. Writing the Draft: The Primacy of the Subconscious

7. Editing

8. Style

9. Book Reviews and Introductions

10. Writing a Book

11. Selecting a Title

12. Acquiring ideas for Writing

Appendix: Selected Outlines Used by Ayn Rand in Writing Articles


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