How an LA novel about poverty, unrequited love, and hard times broke all the rules, fought Hitler, and changed writing forever.

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Photo by Da Kraplak on Unsplash

Never before has a novel encapsulated downtrodden, depression-era Los Angels like John Fante’s Ask the Dust. And it’s not up for debate.

It’s a pure masterclass through and through, one of the greatest pieces in the literary canon without even trying. It’s the Left Coast’s Great American Novel, their Gatsby.

The way Fante describes the city and goes into deep, ruthless detail about its poor and struggling underbelly is nothing short of stunning. He makes even the hardest and hungriest of times beautiful. And that’s why we love him.

“Los Angeles, give me some of you! Los Angeles come to…


Quality over quantity, always and with no exceptions.

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Photo by Ross Findon on Unsplash

I remember picking up Stephen King’s On Writing a few years back and reading it like an avid fiend. Back then I was a sophomore in high school and thought it was the Holy Grail of writing and would change everything.

But it wasn’t, and it didn’t.

It’s not that his advice was wrong, it just wasn’t for me (I was still able to find some gems in it, though). But at the time I viewed the world in black and whites, unchanging binaries.

King’s one of the most successful people to ever pick up a pen (love him or…


What happened and how it felt.

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Cold showers and productivity have long been linked. Ever since I got into the idea of better myself and starting my journey towards self-actualization I’ve seen all kinds of article and videos about the wonders that come from taking cold showers.

And now that I’m finally starting this journey, it felt like a natural place to start. It’s a bit of a daunting prospect, seven days of ice cold misery is. But I’m up for the challenge, anything that can help improve myself is worth pursuing.

I’m a little scared going (of the unknown more than anything else), but I’m…


Literary minimalism is the art of cutting out the fluff and making your prose get right to the point. And these are the best to ever do it.

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Photo by Roman Mager on Unsplash

A love for literary minimalism is a hatred for fluffy adverbs and all things purple. Well-written minimalist books are one of the best things this world has to offer.

Writers who adopt the style cut out everything that isn’t essential to the story’s heartbeat and get right to the point.

Writing a great minimalist book isn’t as easy as it often seems. To the untrained eye, the simple prose may feel elementary. But it’s not. It’s much, much harder.

The art of making a sentence sparse and stripped down is knowing everything it could be but only writing what it…


If you want to write, you have to read. A lot.

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Photo by Lesly Juarez on Unsplash

The easiest way to improve your writing is through avidly reading anything you can get your hands on. The next best thing is reading the classics. There’s nothing quite like it.

For the price of a cheap paperback, you can get a one-on-one lesson from one of the greats. Compare that to the going rate of an MFA and you’d be a fool not pick up a few books and getting stuck in.

Below are five of the books that have taught me more about writing than any teacher ever has. And it’s not even close.

Note: I won’t be…


When the grandfather of sentences speaks, you shut up and listen.

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Photo by Derek Oyen on Unsplash

Somewhere in the middle of Parisian 1923, Ernest Hemingway found himself in some cafe on the Left Bank writing a story called “Out of Season” and going about his day as normal. Just like he did everyday.

Little did he know at the time, but it’d be the story that changed everything. If not for him, everyone else. Later on in life, in the essay “The Art of the Short Story”, Hem summed up the theory in a way only he could, truly.

“A few things I have found to be true. If you leave out important things or events…


Picking up a new language is hard. Reading your first book in it is even harder.

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Photo by Shelby Miller on Unsplash

Over the past year I’ve been working towards fluency in another language: French, my family’s long forgotten mother tongue. It hasn’t been easy, not by any stretch of the imagination — their love of grouping things in threes took my American mind a long time to wrap around.

The process is fairly easy in the beginning, when you’re full of enthusiasm and the desire to learn. But eventually, like all things, the fun of it all begins to wither away and it starts feeling like a chore. …


One of the oldest techniques in the book remains effective even today.

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Photo by Pavan Trikutam on Unsplash

Many people brush off cold outreach in favor of newer methods. In my opinion, this is one of the biggest mistakes a young professional, especially a freelancer, can do. Not doing it leaves money on the table, something we can’t afford in these times.

The implementation of cold outreach into my business plan has been a game changer. It took my struggling business and made it into something livable. I just wish I would’ve done it sooner.

For the first few months of my career as a freelancer, I primarily used specified job hunting sites like UpWork and Fiverr to…


To make it as a writer, you’ve got to read like it’s your job. Even if you’re not getting paid.

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Photo by Nong Vang on Unsplash

I know it doesn’t need to be said, but we all grew up loving books. That’s why we’re here, reading articles on the internet. That’s why we want to be writers. It’s been engrained into our DNA since we were little kids, devouring Harry Potter books as quickly as J.K. Rowling could write them.

As we’d read we’d dream about the books we’d one day write. Our ideas were terrible at the time — I say this because mine were the worst of all — but that wasn’t what mattered.

What mattered was that we were learning. We were learning…


The first step is always the hardest. Cliche, but true.

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Photo by Joshua Ness on Unsplash

When I first started copywriting I had no idea what to do, no idea where to begin. In my head, all I had to do was be a good writer and everything else would fall into place. Every business needs a good writer on hand, so I figured that if I became one it’d all work out. I’d be making money hand over fist and living my dream life working remotely.

If only it was that easy.

I’d overlooked 90% of what goes into being a successful freelancer. I had no idea how to run a business, and finding clients…

Nicholas Coursel-Stoll

Reader of old stories, writer of new ones. Life’s too short to read bad books. nicholascoursel-stoll.com for more.

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