Writers comment on other writers
& on the writing profession.
ARE YOU READY? HERE WE GO!
“Ever heard of a carpenter not going to work because he has ‘carpenter’s block’? If a writer can’t write, it’s because he doesn’t really want to, he isn’t ready to get it on paper or he’s just plain lazy.”
The fact is, I don’t know where my ideas come from. Nor does any writer. The only real answer is to drink way too much coffee and buy yourself a desk that doesn’t collapse when you beat your head against it.
Prepositions are not words to end sentences with. Don’t be redundant; don’t use more words than necessary; it’s highly superfluous. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
–Frank L. Visco.
Easy reading is damn hard writing.
Critics are people who sit on the mountaintop and look down on the battlefield. When the fighting is finished, they take it upon themselves to come down from the mountain and shoot the survivors.
–Robert Altman (film director).
You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.
Have something to say, and say it as clearly as you can. That is the only secret.
Just don’t be boring!
Draw your chair up close to the edge of the precipice and I’ll tell you a story.
–F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Writing is an act of faith, not a trick of grammar.
–E. B. White.
Plot is, I think, the good writer’s last resort and the dullard’s first choice.
The reason 99% of all stories written are not bought by editors is very simple. Editors never buy manuscripts that are left on the closet shelf at home.
Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.
–Robert A. Heinlein.
You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.
The only way to learn to write is to write.
Resist the temptation to try to use dazzling style to conceal weakness of substance.
Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any.
–Orson Scott Card.
Writing is my love. If you love something, you find a lot of time. I write for two hours a day, usually starting at midnight; at times, I start at 11.
–A. P. J. Abdul Kalam.
If you haven’t got an idea, start a story anyway. You can always throw it away, and maybe by the time you get to the fourth page you will have an idea, and you’ll only have to throw away the first three pages.
–William C. Gault.
I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.
It begins with a character, usually, and once he stands up on his feet and begins to move, all I can do is trot along behind him with a paper and pencil, trying to keep up long enough to put down what he says and does.
Thank your readers and the critics who praise you, and then ignore them. Write for the most intelligent, wittiest, wisest audience in the universe: Write to please yourself.
To me, movies and music go hand in hand. When I’m writing a script, one of the first things I do is find the music I’m going to play for the opening sequence.
–Quentin Tarantino (film director).
I try to create sympathy for my characters, then turn the monsters loose.
Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.
Writing is mostly trying to chip through a wall with your hand, pebble by pebble. But you leap over that wall, soaring over it, from time to time. And that’s great.
–Frank Darabont (writer & film director).
I have long felt that any reviewer who expresses rage and loathing for a novel is preposterous. He or she is like a person who has just put on full armor and attacked a hot fudge sundae or banana split.
–Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
In science there is a dictum: Don’t add an experiment to an experiment. Don’t make things unnecessarily complicated. In writing fiction, the more fantastic the tale, the plainer the prose should be. Don’t ask your readers to admire your words when you want them to believe your story.
Writers aren’t people exactly. Or, if they’re any good, they’re a whole lot of people trying so hard to be one person.
–F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Writing in English is the most ingenious torture ever devised for sins committed in previous lives. The English reading public explains the reason why.
It took me fifteen years to discover I had no talent for writing, but I couldn’t give it up because by that time I was too famous.
A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: 1) What am I trying to say? 2) What words will express it? 3) What image or idiom will make it clearer? 4) Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?
Reading and weeping opens the door to one’s heart, but writing and weeping opens the window to one’s soul.
–M. K. Simmons.
My aim is to put down what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way I can tell it.
All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.
–F. Scott Fitzgerald.
One hasn’t become a writer until one has distilled writing into a habit, and that habit has been forced into an obsession. Writing has to be an obsession. It has to be something as organic, physiological and psychological as speaking or sleeping or eating.
I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil.
If you start with a bang, you won’t end with a whimper.
You may be able to take a break from writing, but you won’t be able to take a break from being a writer.
Substitute “damn” every time you’re inclined to write “very”; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.
It is perfectly okay to write garbage — as long as you edit brilliantly.
–C. J. Cherryh.
Never throw up on an editor.
Editor: A person employed by a newspaper, whose business it is to separate the wheat from the chaff, and to see that the chaff is printed.
If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don’t write, because our culture has no use for it.
The reader has certain rights. He bought your story. Think of this as an implicit contract. He’s entitled to be entertained, instructed, amused; maybe all three. If he quits in the middle, or puts the book down feeling his time has been wasted, you’re in violation.
When you send off a short story, it sits on the editor’s desk in the same pile with stories by the most famous and honored names in present-day writing — and it’s not going to be accepted unless it’s as good as theirs. (And it’ll probably have to be better.)
I write the last line, and then I write the line before that. I find myself writing backwards for a while, until I have a solid sense of how that ending sounds and feels. You have to know what your voice sounds like at the end of the story, because it tells you how to sound when you begin.
As for the adjective, when in doubt leave it out.
Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.
–E. L. Doctorow.
If you can tell stories, create characters, devise incidents, and have sincerity and passion, it doesn’t matter a damn how you write.
Close the door. Write with no one looking over your shoulder. Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer.
Short stories can be rather stark and bare unless you put in the right details. Details make stories human, and the more human a story can be, the better.
–V. S. Pritchett.
Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.
Asking a working writer what he thinks about critics is like asking a lamppost how it feels about dogs.
No one can write decently who is distrustful of the reader’s intelligence or whose attitude is patronizing.
–E. B. White.
When writing a novel, that’s pretty much entirely what life turns into: “House burned down. Car stolen. Cat exploded. Did 1,500 easy words, so all in all it was a pretty good day.”
The historian records, but the novelist creates.
–E. M. Forster.
The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.
I get up in the morning, torture a typewriter until it screams, then stop.
–Clarence Budington Kelland.
And just who are the critics? People of small accomplishment, mostly, whose dignity in life depends on the perpetuating of a set of artificial values conceived by other critics, who were also people of small accomplishment.
In Hollywood, the woods are full of people that learned to write but evidently can’t read. If they could read their stuff, they’d stop writing.
To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme.
If the sex scene doesn’t make you want to do it — whatever it is they’re doing — it hasn’t been written right.
Make (the reader) think the evil, make him think it for himself, and you are released from weak specifications.
There’s nothing to writing, Gellhorn. You just sit down at your typewriter and bleed.
–Ernest Hemingway to Martha Gellhorn, “Hemingway & Gellhorn,” HBO Films.
The task of a writer consists in being able to make something out of an idea.
There’s no such thing as writer’s block. That was invented by people in California who couldn’t write.
The first chapter sells the book; the last chapter sells the next book.
Writing is an occupation in which you have to keep proving your talent to those who have none.
The road to ignorance is paved with good editors.
–George Bernard Shaw.
…I discovered that if I trusted my subconscious, or imagination, whatever you want to call it, and if I made the characters as real and honest as I could, then no matter how complex the pattern being woven, my subconscious would find ways to tie it together — often doing things far more complicated and sophisticated than I could with brute conscious effort. I would have ideas for “nodes,” as I think of them — story or character details that have lots of potential connections to other such nodes — and even though I didn’t quite understand, I would plunk them in. Two hundred pages later, everything would back-fit, and I’d say, “Ah, that’s why I wrote that.”
I’m writing a book. I’ve got the page numbers done.
–Stephen Wright (comedian).