writers comment on other writers & on the writing profession

Writers comment on other writers
& on the writing profession.

 

A clipboard with us trying to be funny. This page is about what writers have to say about other writers, editors and the writing profession.

 

ARE YOU READY? HERE WE GO!

I’m especially grateful to my parents for not once in twenty years suggesting that being a writer wasn’t a noble, practical and worthwhile profession.
–Andrew Blum.

If you have an idea that you genuinely think is good, don’t let some idiot talk you out of it.
–Stan Lee.

The best way to stay alive as a good writer is to run a bulldozer through your conditioned values, learn to live frugally — which I haven’t — and take all the time you need to develop your ideas. You can’t do that if economics are smashing you to the wall. Movies and television are so mechanized now that if you’ve got a little bit of talent there are a lot of fellas in shiny suits waiting to grab you and chain you to a typewriter. Pretty soon you’re thinking they way they’re thinking. Or a television producer wants you to write a story about a bird with a broken wing or some other piece of idiocy which people don’t have to watch at all — they can just hear it kind of subliminally. This is what you’ve got to resist.
–Mel Brooks.

Good instincts usually tell you what to do long before your head has figured it out.
–Michael Burke.

They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.
–Carl Buechner.

A true author, no matter the medium, is an artist with godlike knowledge of his subject, and the proof of his authorship is that his pages smack of authority.
–Robert McKee.

Poetry lies its way to the truth.
–John Ciardi.

It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.
–Herman Melville.

Dialog should simply be a sound among other sounds, just something that comes out of the mouths of people whose eyes tell the story in visual terms.
–Alfred Hitchcock.

Be obscure clearly.
–E.B. White.

I get tired of stories that keep going and going and never get anywhere. It’s like a promise that’s never fulfilled. Stories need endings. Otherwise, they aren’t really stories. Just pages.
–Ted Naifeh.

It’s always better to give a little less than the reader wants, than more.
–Max Perkins.

Every writer with half a brain knows to surround himself or herself with editors who are smarter, far more articulate and infinitely better looking.
–Chris Claremont.

Some editors are failed writers, but so are most writers.
–T.S Eliot.

No writer has ever yet been known to hang himself as long as he had another chapter left.
–Thomas Wolfe.

Stories are never too long or too short. They’re too interesting or too boring
–William Shawn.

Knights use swords. Archers use bows. Writers use pens.
–Joe Galindo.

Is there anything a writer can do to make a script rejection proof? Yes. One hundred percent guaranteed. If your best friend is Tom Cruise and he attaches himself to star in that script, your script is rejection proof. You win! So I recommend that to everybody.
–Adam Rifkin (as quoted in Tales From the Script).

You write because you need to write, or because you hope someone will listen, or because writing will mend something broken inside you, or bring something back to life.
–Joanne Harris.

Note to fledgling writers: Under threat of torture, never write a long novel. I once met James Clavell, who only writes monsters. and asked him how he got the courage to start when he knew what was going to happen to him before he reached page 1,500. His answer was simple: Each time he began, he genuinely believed this one was going to be short. And that once into it and it began expanding, he was trapped.
–William Goldman.

Don’t annoy an author, you’ll end up in their book and you won’t look good.
–Lawrence Wray.

I’ve always been a pantser. No outline, just an idea, and I let the story work itself out. It’s like a ghost is telling me a story and I’m just dictating.
–Thomas K. Matthews.

Books aren’t written, they’re rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it.
–Michael Crichton.

A writer who is afraid to overreach himself is as useless as a general who is afraid to be wrong.
–Raymond Chandler.

If my poetry aims to achieve anything, it’s to deliver people from the limited ways in which they see and feel.
–Jim Morrison.

We map out the plot. Then Dick may have a catchy tune idea. He picks it out on the piano — I listen and suddenly an idea for a lyric comes. That happens often. On the other hand, I may think of a couple of verses that will fit into the show. I write them out and say them over to Dick. He sits down at the piano and improvises. I stick my oar in sometimes and before we know it, we have the tune to hang the verses on. It’s like that — simple!
–Oscar Hammerstein II (on how he collaborates with composer Richard Rodgers).

English majors, cast off your Starbucks aprons: A desperate nation finally needs you!
–Ron Charles (Washington Post column about preventing impeachment charges spin).

Out of the thousand writers huffing and puffing through movieland, there are scarcely fifty men and women of wit or talent. The rest of the fraternity is deadwood. Yet, in a curious way, there is not much difference between the product of a good writer and a bad one. They both have to toe the same mark.
–Ben Hecht.

Do you know what a playwright is? A playwright is someone who lets his guts hang out on the stage.
–Edward Albee.

Writers can be only so conscientious about truth before becoming paralyzed.
–Peter Schjeldahl.

Probably, the first episode exists: It’s the pilot. But the audience might not discover your series the first week, or even the second. So in a way, the first three episodes will function as pilots. Episodes Two and Three have to reach a balance between orienting first-time viewers by reprising the overall “mission” and identifying the cast, while progressing the stories to hold people who watched before.
–Pamela Douglas.

Poetry is not an expression of the party line. It’s that time of night, lying in bed, thinking what you really think, making the private world public, that’s what the poet does.
–Allen Ginsberg.

Socially, a journalist fits in somewhere between a whore and a bartender. But spiritually he stands beside Galileo. He knows the world is round.
–Sherman Reilly Duffy.

Our tanks are worthless if the souls who must steer them are made of clay…. And that is why I raise my glass to you, writers, to the engineers of the human soul.
–Joseph Stalin.

Do not be told something is impossible. There is always a way.
–Robert Rodriguez.

We have escapist fiction, so why not escapist biography?
–John Kenneth Galbraith.

Biography should be written by an acute enemy.
–Arthur Balfour.

A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author.
–G.K. Chesterton.

If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.
Dorothy Parker.

To thine own self be true.
–William Shakespeare.

I act as a sponge. I soak it up and squeeze it out in ink every two weeks.
–Janet Flanner.

Biography lends to death a new terror.
–Oscar Wilde.

Gil Pender: Can I ask you the biggest favor in the world?
Ernest Hemingway: What is it?
Gil Pender: Would you read it?
Ernest Hemingway: Your novel.
Gil Pender: Yeah. It’s like 400 pages long and I’m just, you know, looking for an opinion.
Ernest Hemingway: My opinion is, I hate it.
Gil Pender: I mean, you haven’t even read it.
Ernest Hemingway: If it’s bad, I’ll hate it because I hate bad writing. If it’s good, I’ll be envious and hate it all the more. You don’t want the opinion of another writer.
–Woody Allen (screenwriter of “Midnight in Paris”).

A story is a letter that the author writes to himself, to tell himself things that he would be unable to discover otherwise.
Carlos Ruiz Zafón.

A poet can survive everything but a misprint.
–Oscar Wilde.

All writing is discipline, but screenwriting is a drill sergeant.
–Robert McKee.

You have to be wise. You can’t go into a producer’s office with a $20,000 watch on. You can’t come in with an Armani suit on. You can’t look like a rapper or something like that. People are not gonna take you seriously. You have to be authentic. You’re a writer. I have a ball cap and a flannel shirt on — that’s a writer. You have to be writer-like: eccentric, a little wily, a little confused — but when you answer back, it’s so sharp you could cut them with it. They go, “Oh! I didn’t know he was gonna do that.” Being writer-like is pretending not to be as smart as you really are, and then turning it on.
–Antwone Fisher (as quoted in Tales From the Script).

What I loved most about calling myself a reporter was that it gave me an excuse to show up anyplace.
–Jeanette Walls.

[Novelist John] Hersey, by the later stages of his career, was at pains to counter what he perceived as an underrating of his fiction because of his work as a journalist. [Jeremy] Treglown quotes him writing defensively to an academic admirer, “If the fact that I still write journalism puts off serious critics of fiction, then that will have to be their problem.” In 1986, when he sat for a Paris Review interview with the novelist Jonathan Dee, a former student of his, he said that fiction had always been “more attractive to me,” because “there was a better chance, if what I did worked, to get the reader to experience the material than there would be in journalism.”
–Nicholas Lemann.

Poetry is the journal of the sea animal living on land, wanting to fly in the air. Poetry is a search for syllables to shoot at the barriers of the unknown and the unknowable. Poetry is a phantom script telling how rainbows are made and why they go away.
–Carl Sandburg.

There are three primal urges in human beings: Food, sex, and rewriting someone else’s play.
–Romulus Linney.

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.
–Chet Cunningham.

Last week I saw my cardiologist. He told me I drink too much. This wasn’t a shock. I live on Martha’s Vineyard, by the wine-dark sea, where drink animates the bleak winter months — and lays down a base for the heroic imbibing of the summer social season. Also, I’m a writer, a trade unrenowned for temperance. William Styron, my former island neighbor, spoke of drinking “abundantly, almost mercilessly” as a “magical conduit” to his literary imagination.
–Tony Horwitz.

When I’m waiting for the person I’m interviewing to break a silence by giving me a piece of information, I write “SU” (for Shut Up!) in my notebook. If anyone were ever to look through my notebooks, he would find a lot of “SU”s.
–Robert A. Caro.

It is only natural to pattern yourself after someone. But you can’t just copy someone. If you like someone’s work, the important thing is to be exposed to everything that person has been exposed to.
–Bob Dylan.

Poetry is not an expression of the party line. It’s that time of night, lying in bed, thinking what you really think, making the private world public, that’s what the poet does.
–Allen Ginsberg.

News is how the government delivers propaganda to the masses and it is an essential requirement of the television broadcasting job to be emotionless to this.
–Steven Magee.

Do not place a photograph of your favorite author on your desk, especially if the author is one of the famous ones who committed suicide.
–Roddy Doyle.

I’m beginning to feel that if you create something, you’re killing a lot of other things. And the way I write, since I leave out most of the connections, and very little is pinned down, I feel that I am doing a minimum of damage to other possibilities that might arise in a reader’s mind.
–Edward Gorey.

I think that as a playwright, if I detail that environment, then I’m taking away something from them [designers]. I’m taking away their creativity and their ability to have input themselves, not just to follow what the playwright has written. So I do a minimum set description and let the designers create within that.
–August Wilson.

Sitting down to write is not a random act. It’s the intentional result of thinking over time about an idea that begins to take shape and form itself into a story. It might start from a character, a scene, a moment you’re working from, or working toward. In any case, there is pre-thinking involved. And passion. And a desire to get it down on paper. But no one sits down to write having no clue what they’re writing about. If you find yourself sitting at the computer staring at the blinking cursor, looking for an idea, the idea you might want to look for is that of finding a new profession.
–Ian Gurvitz.

Someone else shoved a pencil in your hand and aimed you in the direction of a burning building somewhere and told you not to come back without a quote from the fire marshal, kid, and that was it: you were a reporter.
–Garth Risk Hallberg.

I’ve had a diverse career as a writer, underwater explorer, space promoter, and science popularizer. Of all these, I want to be remembered most as a writer — one who entertained readers, and, hopefully, stretched their imagination as well.
–Arthur C. Clarke.

Writing has … been to me like a bath from which I have risen feeling cleaner, healthier, and freer.
–Henrik Ibsen.

He who would write for the theatre must not despise the crowd.
–Clayton Hamilton.

Eula-Beulah was prone to farts — the kind that are both loud and smelly. Sometimes when she was so afflicted, she would throw me on the couch, drop her wool-skirted butt on my face, and let loose. ‘Pow!’ she’d cry in high glee. It was like being buried in marshgas fireworks. I remember the dark, the sense that I was suffocating, and I remember laughing. Because, while what was happening was sort of horrible, it was also sort of funny. In many ways, Eula-Beulah prepared me for literary criticism.
–Stephen King (memories of a babysitter, from age 4).

Read a thousand books and your words will flow like a river.
–Lisa See.

Write the character first and think about what would make them stand out from all the other characters that we’ve seen before.
–Stan Lee.

I have a smell in my mind that relates instantly to just about everything I’ve ever done. Mustard, early coffee and late coffee — they are different — fresh grass, which I don’t like because that means sunlight and I like rain, and the musty smell that was sour but at the same time with an off-sweet taste of licorice. It was printer’s ink and that first deep breath ran into my consciousness forever. Words are best when they have their start amidst the smells of printing.
–Jimmy Breslin.

A writer is a world trapped in a person.
–Victor Hugo.

Write drunk, edit sober.
–Ernest Hemingway (supposedly).

Work on a computer that is disconnected from the Internet.
–Zadie Smith.

It’s an accepted fact that all writers are crazy; even the normal ones are weird.
–William Goldman.

Writing has laws of perspective, of light and shade, just as painting does, or music. If you are born knowing them, fine. If not, learn them. Then rearrange the rules to suit yourself.
–Truman Capote.

Writers spend three years rearranging 26 letters of the alphabet. It’s enough to make you lose your mind day by day.
–Richard Price.

I haven’t got 10 rules that guarantee success, though I promise I’d share them if I did. The truth is that I found success by stumbling off alone in a direction most people thought was a dead end, breaking all the 1990s shibboleths about children’s books in the process.
–J.K. Rowling.

I have to write with a pen or pencil on a legal pad. I can’t have anything mechanical between my body and the page. Later, I’ll type it on a computer in order to revise. I can compose nonfiction directly on the computer, but not fiction. Perhaps it’s because fiction is so messy, like life.
–Lee Smith.

Scripts are what matter. If you get the foundations right and then you get the right ingredients on top, you stand a shot. But if you get those foundations wrong, then you absolutely don’t stand a shot. It’s very rare — almost never — that a good film gets made from a bad screenplay.
–Tim Bevan.

If you’re going to write a novel and a screenplay, write the novel first. It will be the more complete story. Adapting the novel to a screenplay is usually a matter of judicious subtraction of story elements and characters.
–Michael McKown.

To be a poet is a condition, not a profession.
–Robert Graves.

If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.
–Oscar Wilde.

We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.
–Ernest Hemingway.

Write every day, line by line, page by page, hour by hour. Do this despite fear. For above all else, beyond imagination and skill, what the world asks of you is courage, courage to risk rejection, ridicule and failure. As you follow the quest for stories told with meaning and beauty, study thoughtfully but write boldly. Then, like the hero of the fable, your dance will dazzle the world.
–Robert McKee.

It always comes down to characters, and individual stories about courage.
–Steven Bochco.

I consider myself a poet first and a musician second. I live like a poet and I’ll die like a poet.
–Bob Dylan.

How do we get out of this? What will the reader feel? What will a person in the cinema feel as they walk out, as the reader puts down the book? It doesn’t have to be a happy end, but it has to be a logically convincing end. And that is the satisfaction which I believe I owe the reader.
–John le Carré (via 60 Minutes Overtime).

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.
–Douglas Adams.

For a songwriter, you don’t really go to songwriting school; you learn by listening to tunes. And you try to understand them and take them apart and see what they’re made of, and wonder if you can make one, too.
–Tom Waits.

With the new book being released, I am being kept fairly busy with interviews and stupid requests from Penguin but I am still managing to find time to write. Having already tried my hand at fiction, I have decided to write a non-fiction novel. Look for the cover featuring a cyborg cat riding a dolphin in bookstores later this year. I started writing it this week so I should have something to send to my publisher by Tuesday. These things pretty much write themselves, which is handy as I intend to spend the next few days in bed watching television.
–David Thorne.

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.

Poetry is the journal of the sea animal living on land, wanting to fly in the air. Poetry is a search for syllables to shoot at the barriers of the unknown and the unknowable. Poetry is a phantom script telling how rainbows are made and why they go away.
–Carl Sandburg.

A writer without interest or sympathy for the foibles of his fellow man is not conceivable as a writer.
–Joseph Conrad.

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.
–Octavia E. Butler.

Westbrook Pegler blasted the practice of ghostwritten articles carrying the bylines of luminaries such as Babe Ruth, Jack Dempsey and Knute Rockne. Rockne protested to the editor who asked his columnist to say a few kind words about the Notre Dame football coach. Pegler was agreeable. He wrote of the coach’s battered nose, and said that Rockne reminded one of a broken-down but beloved prize fighter. When Rockne gave his squad a pep talk, the words, said Pegler, flowed like champagne from a beat-up oil can. Pegler, his friends gathered, thought it a laudatory article and he seemed genuinely puzzled when Rockne, angrier than ever, barred him from the Notre Dame field.
–John J. McPhaul.

One sure window into a person’s soul is his reading list.
–Mary B. W. Tabor.

Easy reading is damn hard writing.
–Nathaniel Hawthorne.

As any songwriter will tell you, writing lyrics is more demanding than writing music. Music is created with broad strokes on a large canvas, whereas lyrics are tiny mosaics that must be painstakingly cut and fitted into a frame.
–Richard Rodgers (composer).

If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it. Or, if proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative.
–Elmore Leonard.

Hollywood lives and dies on something that seems new and original, but is very much like something that made money before. If you, as a writer, can figure out how to make that formula work, then you can become quite wealthy.
–Michael January (as quoted in Tales From the Script).

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).

A mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge.
–George R. R. Martin.

You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.
–Ray Bradbury.

Have something to say, and say it as clearly as you can. That is the only secret.
–Matthew Arnold.

If the book is true, it will find an audience that is meant to read it.
–Wally Lamb.

Just don’t be boring!
–Robert Liebmann.

I have a structured songwriting process. I start with the music and try to come up with musical ideas, then the melody, then the hook, and the lyrics come last.
–John Legend.

Poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world, and makes familiar objects be as if they were not familiar.
–Percy Bysshe Shelley.

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.

A picture is worth a thousand words, but the way I paint I’m going to need to contact an editor. Even if I were to abstractly paint the phrase “I love you,” it would be the visual equivalent of Joyce’s Ulysses.
–James Lee Schmidt.

Most of the basic material a writer works with is acquired before the age of fifteen.
–Willa Cather.

Plot is, I think, the good writer’s last resort and the dullard’s first choice.
Stephen King.

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.
–John Campbell.

Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.
–Robert A. Heinlein.

I do not over-intellectualize the production process. I try to keep it simple: Tell the damned story.
–Tom Clancy.

You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.
–Jodi Picoult.

The only way to learn to write is to write.
–Peggy Teeters.

I don’t care if a reader hates one of my stories, just as long as he finishes the book.
–Roald Dahl.

Literature is a luxury; fiction is a necessity.
–G.K. Chesterton.

Resist the temptation to try to use dazzling style to conceal weakness of substance.
–Stanley Schmidt.

Half my life is an act of revision.
–John Irving.

A good editor is someone who cares a little less about the author’s needs than the reader’s.
–Dene October.

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.

“Therefore” is a word the poet must not know.
–Andre Gide.

My own experience is that once a story has been written, one has to cross out the beginning and the end. It is there that we authors do most of our lying.
–Anton Chekhov.

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.
–Douglas Adams.

The character that lasts is an ordinary guy with some extraordinary qualities.
–Raymond Chandler.

Ensure that your script is watertight. If it’s not on the page, it will never magically appear on the screen.
–Richard E. Grant.

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.
–William Faulkner.

Keep a small can of WD-40 on your desk — away from any open flames — to remind yourself that if you don’t write daily, you will get rusty.
–George Singleton.

All readers come to fiction as willing accomplices to your lies. Such is the basic goodwill contract made the moment we pick up a work of fiction.
–Steve Almond.

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.
–Harlan Ellison.

Poetry … is the revelation of a feeling that the poet believes to be interior and personal which the reader recognizes as his own.
Salvatore Quasimodo.

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.
–Stephen King.

Editing might be a bloody trade, but knives aren’t the exclusive property of butchers. Surgeons use them too.
–Blake Morrison.

Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.
–Gloria Steinem.

Telling a story in a futuristic world gives you this freedom to explore things that bother you in contemporary times.
–Suzanne Collin.

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.

A blank piece of paper is God’s way of telling us how hard it to be God.
–Sidney Sheldon.

A good writer is always a people watcher.
–Judy Blume.

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.
–Ben Bova.

I almost always urge people to write in the first person. Writing is an act of ego and you might as well admit it.
–William Zinsser.

For me, writing is a physical joy. It is almost sexual — not the moment of fulfillment, but the moment when you open the door to the room where your lover is waiting, and everything else falls away.
–Lee Smith.

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.

Being a good television screenwriter requires an understanding of the way film accelerates the communication of words.
–Steven Bochco.

A poet dares be just so clear and no clearer…. He unzips the veil from beauty, but does not remove it. A poet utterly clear is a trifle glaring.
E. B. White.

Writing in English is the most ingenious torture ever devised for sins committed in previous lives. The English reading public explains the reason why.
–James Joyce.

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.
–Robert Benchley.

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?
–George Orwell.

Reading and weeping opens the door to one’s heart, but writing and weeping opens the window to one’s soul.
–M. K. Simmons.

Finishing a book is just like you took a child out in the back yard and shot it.
–Truman Capote.

And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.
–Sylvia Plath.

My aim is to put down what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way I can tell it.
–Ernest Hemingway.

All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.
–F. Scott Fitzgerald.

All the words I use in my stories can be found in the dictionary—it’s just a matter of arranging them into the right sentences.
–Somerset Maugham.

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.
–Niyi Osundare.

I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil.
–Truman Capote.

If you start with a bang, you won’t end with a whimper.
–T.S. Eliot.

No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else’s draft.
–H.G. Wells.

Anecdotes don’t make good stories. Generally, I dig down underneath them so far that the story that finally comes out is not what people thought their anecdotes were about.
–Alice Munro.

You may be able to take a break from writing, but you won’t be able to take a break from being a writer.
–Stephen Leigh.

The more closely the author thinks of why he wrote, the more he comes to regard his imagination as a kind of self-generating cement which glued his facts together, and his emotions as a kind of dark and obscure designer of those facts. Reluctantly, he comes to the conclusion that to account for his book is to account for his life.
–Richard Wright.

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.
–Mark Twain.

It is perfectly okay to write garbage — as long as you edit brilliantly.
–C. J. Cherryh.

Never throw up on an editor.
–Ellen Datlow.

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.
–Elbert Hubbard.

Whether a character in your novel is full of choler, bile, phlegm, blood or plain old buffalo chips, the fire of life is in there, too, as long as that character lives.
–James Alexander Thom.

I went for years not finishing anything. Because, of course, when you finish something, you can be judged.
–Erica Jong.

The poet is the priest of the invisible.
Wallace Stevens.

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.
–Anais Nin.

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.
–Larry Niven.

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.)
–Daniel Quinn.

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.
–John Irving.

As for the adjective, when in doubt leave it out.
–Mark Twain.

Everywhere I go I’m asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don’t stifle enough of them.
–Flannery O’Connor.

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.
–Somerset Maugham.

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.
–Barbara Kingsolver.

If you have other things in your life — family, friends, good productive day work — these can interact with your writing and the sum will be all the richer.
–David Brin.

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.
–Isaac Asimov.

I am irritated by my own writing. I am like a violinist whose ear is true, but whose fingers refuse to reproduce precisely the sound he hears within.
–Gustave Flaubert.

Asking a working writer what he thinks about critics is like asking a lamppost how it feels about dogs.
–Christopher Hampton.

Film’s thought of as a director’s medium because the director creates the end product that appears on the screen. It’s that stupid auteur theory again, that the director is the author of the film. But what does the director shoot — the telephone book? Writers became much more important when sound came in, but they’ve had to put up a valiant fight to get the credit they deserve.
–Billy Wilder.

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.”
–Neil Gaiman.

People on the outside think there’s something magical about writing, that you go up in the attic at midnight and cast the bones and come down in the morning with a story, but it isn’t like that. You sit in back of the typewriter and you work, and that’s all there is to it.
–Harlan Ellison.

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.
–Thomas Jefferson.

Any man who keeps working is not a failure. He may not be a great writer, but if he applies the old-fashioned virtues of hard, constant labor, he’ll eventually make some kind of career for himself as writer.
–Ray Bradbury.

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.
–Raymond Chandler.

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.
–Will Rogers.

To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme.
–Herman Melville.

If the sex scene doesn’t make you want to do it — whatever it is they’re doing — it hasn’t been written right.
–Sloan Wilson.

Make (the reader) think the evil, make him think it for himself, and you are released from weak specifications.
–Henry James.

There’s nothing to writing, Gellhorn. You just sit down at your typewriter and bleed.
–Ernest Hemingway to Martha Gellhorn, “Hemingway & Gellhorn,” HBO Films.

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.
–Barbara Kingsolver.

The task of a writer consists in being able to make something out of an idea.
–Thomas Mann.

There’s no such thing as writer’s block. That was invented by people in California who couldn’t write.
–Terry Pratchett.

The first chapter sells the book; the last chapter sells the next book.
–Mickey Spillane.

Writing is an occupation in which you have to keep proving your talent to those who have none.
–Jules Renard.

Books are the treasured wealth of the world and the fit inheritance of generations and nations.
–Henry David Thoreau.

The road to ignorance is paved with good editors.
–George Bernard Shaw.

I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living; it’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope. Which is what I do, and that enables you to laugh at life’s realities.
–Dr. Seuss.

…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.”
–Tad Williams.

I’m writing a book. I’ve got the page numbers done.
–Stephen Wright (comedian).

 

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