“So much in writing depends on the superficiality of one’s days. One may be preoccupied with shopping and income tax returns and chance conversations, but the stream of the unconscious continues to flow undisturbed, solving problems, planning ahead: one sits down sterile and dispirited at the desk, and suddenly the words come as though from the air: the situations that seemed blocked in a hopeless impasse move forward: the work has been done while one slept or shopped or talked with friends.”
— Graham Greene (The End of the Affair)
“I always write with music. It takes me a while to figure out the right piece of music for what I’m working on. Once I figure it out, that’s the only thing I’ll play.” ~Kate DiCamillo
“We’re always attracted to the edges of what we are, out by the edges where it’s a little raw and nervy.” ~E.L. Doctorow
“Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader – not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.” ~E.L. Doctorow
“A good teacher, like a good entertainer first must hold his audience’s attention, then he can teach his lesson.” ~John Henrik Clarke
“It was still quite light out of doors, but inside with the curtains drawn and the smouldering fire sending out a dim, uncertain glow, the room was full of deep shadows.” ~Kate Chopin
“Some people are born with a vital and responsive energy. It not only enables them to keep abreast of the times; it qualifies them to furnish in their own personality a good bit of the motive power to the mad pace.” ~Kate Chopin
“The light that radiates from the great novels time can never dim, for human existence is perpetually being forgotten by man and thus the novelists discoveries, however old they may be, will never cease to astonish.” ~Milan Kundera
“I have brought myself, by long meditation, to the conviction that a human being with a settled purpose must accomplish it, and that nothing can resist a will which will stake even existence upon its fulfillment.” ~Benjamin Disraeli
“I read and walked for miles at night along the beach, writing bad blank verse and searching endlessly for someone wonderful who would step out of the darkness and change my life. It never crossed my mind that that person could be me.” ~Anna Quindlen
“Everywhere the human soul stands between a hemisphere of light and another of darkness; on the confines of the two everlasting empires, necessity and free will.” ~Thomas Carlyle
“Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.” ~Edgar Allan Poe
“But it is true that sometimes an enveloping darkness aids one to clearer vision; as in a panorama building, for example, where the obscurity about the entrance prepares one better for the climax, and gives the scene depicted a more real and vivid appearance.” ~Pierre Loti
“Make him [the reader] think the evil, make him think it for himself, and you are released from weak specifications.” -Henry James
“When you look into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you.” ~Friedrich Nietzche
“We used to think that if we knew one, we knew two, because one and one are two. We are finding that we must learn a great deal more about “and.” ~Arthur Stanley Eddington
“Our greatest pretenses are built up not to hide the evil and the ugly in us, but our emptiness. The hardest thing to hide is something that is not there.” ~Eric Hoffer,Passionate State of Mind, 1955
“How long has it been since someone touched part of you other than your body?” ~Laurel Hoodwrit
“The fish trap exists because of the fish. Once you’ve gotten the fish you can forget the trap. The rabbit snare exists because of the rabbit. Once you’ve gotten the rabbit, you can forget the snare. Words exist because of meaning. Once you’ve gotten the meaning, you can forget the words. Where can I find a man who has forgotten words so I can talk with him?” ~Chuang Tzu
“An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life.” –Robert Heinlein
“Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat.” –Robert Heinlein
“Be wary of strong drink. It can make you shoot at tax collectors… and miss.” –Robert Heinlein
“Never insult anyone by accident.” –Robert Heinlein
“There is no way that writers can be tamed and rendered civilized or even cured. the only solution known to science is to provide the patient with an isolation room, where he can endure the acute stages in private and where food can be poked in to him with a stick.” –Robert Heinlein
“They didn’t want it good, they wanted it Wednesday.” –Robert Heinlein
“Your characters get angry at you if you speak about them and stop you from giving birth to them on the page in revenge. Real writers sit down and write. Wannabe writers sit around and talk.” – Joe Eszterhas
“An absolutely necessary part of a writer’s equipment, almost as necessary as talent, is the ability to stand up under punishment, both the punishment the world hands out and the punishment he inflicts on himself.” – Irwin Shaw
“Where words leave off, gesture begins. Don’t we speak of a person being speechless with rage, dancing with impatience, setting his teeth? The final motions of the soul are speechless, animal, grotesque, or of an incomparable beauty.” – Charlie Chaplin
“The Queen dies, then the King dies is a plot. The Queen dies, then the King dies of a broken heart is a narrative.” – E.M. Forster
“The beauty of the soul shines out when a man bears with composure one heavy mischance after another, not because he does not feel them, but because he is a man of high and heroic temper.” – Aristotle
“If you are in difficulties with a book, try the element of surprise – attack it at an hour when it isn’t expecting it.” – H.G. Wells
“Writing is like giving birth to a piano sideways. Anyone who perseveres is either talented or nuts.” – Flannery O’Connor
“When I’m near the end of a book, I need to sleep in the same room with it.” – Joan Didion
“If I had to give young writers advice, I’d say, don’t listen to writers talking about writing.” – Lillian Hellman
“It is not possible to eat me without insisting that I sing praises of my devourer?” —Fyodor Dostoevsky
“Power is given only to those who dare to lower themselves and pick it up. Only one thing matters, one thing; to be able to dare!”—Fyodor Dostoevsky
“There are some moments in life, some feelings; one can only point to them and pass by.”—Ivan Turgenev
“Whatever a person may pray for, that person prays for a miracle. Every prayer comes down to this – Almighty God, grant that two times two not equal four.”—Ivan Turgenev
“You fall into my arms. You are the good gift of destruction’s path, When life sickens more than disease. And boldness is the root of beauty. Which draws us together.”—Boris Pasternak
“No one will ever know what ‘In Cold Blood’ took out of me. It scraped me right down to the marrow of my bones. It nearly killed me. I think, in a way, it did kill me.”—Truman Capote
“Sometimes when I think how good my book can be, I can hardly breathe.”—Truman Capote
“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
“Moonlight is sculpture. Sunlight is painting.”—Nathaniel Hawthorne
“We sometimes congratulate ourselves at the moment of waking from a troubled dream; it may be so the moment after death.”—Nathaniel Hawthorne
“Sarcasm: the last refuge of modest and chaste-souled people when the privacy of their soul is coarsely and intrusively invaded.”—Fyodor Dostoevsky
“We sometimes encounter people, even perfect strangers, who begin to interest us at first sight, somehow suddenly, all at once, before a word has been spoken.”—Fyodor Dostoevsky
“Writing is a solitary occupation. Family, friends, and society are the natural enemies of the writer. He must be alone, uninterrupted, and slightly savage if he is to sustain and complete an undertaking.” – Jessaymn West
There was never a good biography of a good novelist. There couldn’t be. He is too many people if he’s any good. –F. Scott Fitzgerald
There are some books that refuse to be written. They stand their ground year after year and will not be persuaded. It isn’t because the book is not there and worth being written — it is only because the right form of the story does not present itself. There is only one right form for a story and if you fail to find that form the story will not tell itself. –Mark Twain
I notice that you use plain, simple language, short words and brief sentences. That is the way to write English – it is the modern way and the best way. Stick to it; don’t let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in. When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don’t mean utterly, but kill most of them – then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are wide apart. An adjective habit, or a wordy, diffuse, flowery habit, once fastened upon a person, is as hard to get rid of as any other vice. –Mark Twain
Some editors are failed writers, but so are most writers. –T.S. Eliot
A bad book is as much of a labour to write as a good one; it comes as sincerely from the author’s soul. –Aldous Huxley
There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein. ~Walter Wellesley “Red” Smith
Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia. ~E.L. Doctorow
A word is not the same with one writer as with another. One tears it from his guts. The other pulls it out of his overcoat pocket. ~Charles Peguy
Writing became such a process of discovery that I couldn’t wait to get to work in the morning: I wanted to know what I was going to say. ~Sharon O’Brien
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
Ink and paper are sometimes passionate lovers, oftentimes brother and sister, and occasionally mortal enemies. ~Emme Woodhull-Bäche
The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. ~Mark Twain
I am returning this otherwise good typing paper to you because someone has printed gibberish all over it and put your name at the top. ~English Professor (Name Unknown), Ohio University
M John Harrison: (On World Building)
Every moment of a science fiction story must represent the triumph of writing over worldbuilding.
Worldbuilding is dull. Worldbuilding literalises the urge to invent. Worldbuilding gives an unneccessary permission for acts of writing (indeed, for acts of reading). Worldbuilding numbs the reader’s ability to fulfil their part of the bargain, because it believes that it has to do everything around here if anything is going to get done.
Above all, worldbuilding is not technically neccessary. It is the great clomping foot of nerdism. It is the attempt to exhaustively survey a place that isn’t there. A good writer would never try to do that, even with a place that is there. It isn’t possible, & if it was the results wouldn’t be readable: they would constitute not a book but the biggest library ever built, a hallowed place of dedication & lifelong study. This gives us a clue to the psychological type of the worldbuilder & the worldbuilder’s victim, & makes us very afraid.
Asking a writer what he thinks about criticism is
like asking a lamppost what it feels about dogs.
– John Osborne
I’m all in favor of keeping dangerous weapons out
of the hands of fools. Let’s start with
– Frank Lloyd Wright
Many suffer from the incurable disease of writing
and it becomes chronic in their sick minds.
– Juvenal (AD 60-130)
All of us learn to write in the second grade. Most
of us go on to greater things.
– Bobby Knight
Better to write for yourself and have no public,
than to write for the public and have no self.
– Cyril Connolly
Forget all the rules. Forget about being published. Write for yourself and celebrate writing.
My purpose is to entertain myself first and other people secondly.
-John D. MacDonald
The only reason for being a professional writer is that you just can’t help it.
Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.
-Robert A. Heinlein
All writers are vain, selfish and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives lies a mystery. Writing a book is a long, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.
People are certainly impressed by the aura of creative power which a writer may wear, but can easily demolish it with a few well-chosen questions. Bob Shaw has observed that the deadliest questions usually come as a pair: “Have you published anything?” – loosely translated as: I’ve never heard of you – and “What name do you write under?”– loosely translatable as: I’ve definitely never heard of you.
The way you define yourself as a writer is that you write every time you have a free minute. If you didn’t behave that way you would never do anything.
Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position.
At night, when the objective world has slunk back into its cavern and left dreamers to their own, there come inspirations and capabilities impossible at any less magical and quiet hour. No one knows whether or not he is a writer unless he has tried writing at night.
-H. P. Lovecraft
“A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.” ~James Joyce (The Dead)