Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those, who do not write, compose, or paint can manage to escape the madness, the melancholia, the panic fear, which is inherent in the human condition. GRAHAM GREENE
Take out another notebook, pick up another pen, and just write, just write, just write. In the middle of the world, make one positive step. In the center of chaos, make one definitive act. Just write. Say yes, stay alive, be awake. Just write. Just write. Just write. NATALIE GOLDBERG
Have more than one idea on the go at any one time. If it's a choice between writing a book and doing nothing I will always choose the latter. It's only if I have an idea for two books that I choose one rather than the other. I always have to feel that I'm bunking off from something.
Don't overwrite. Avoid the redundant phrases, the distracting adjectives, the unnecessary adverbs. Beginners, especially, seem to think that writing fiction needs a special kind of flowery prose, completely unlike any sort of language one might encounter in day-to-day life. This is a misapprehension about how the effects of fiction are produced. SARAH WATERS
"Read, read, read. Read everything—trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the most. Read! You'll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you'll find out. If it's not, throw it out the window."
Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something—anything—down on paper. What I’ve learned to do when I sit down to work on a shitty first draft is to quiet the voices in my head. ANNE LAMOTT
There are so many different kinds of writing and so many ways to work that the only rule is this: do what works. Almost everything has been tried and found to succeed for somebody. The methods, even the ideas of successful writers contradict each other in a most heartening way, and the only element I find common to all successful writers is persistence-an overwhelming determination to succeed. Sophy Burnham
The important thing in writing is the capacity to astonish. Not shock—shock is a worn-out word—but astonish. The world has no grounds whatever for complacency. The Titanic couldn’t sink, but it did. Where you find smugness, you find something worth blasting. I want to blast it. TERRY SOUTHERN
There's no "magic secret"; writing is like everything else; ten percent inspiration or talent, and ninety percent hard work. Persistence; keeping at it till you get there. As Agnes de Mille said, it means working every day—bored, tired, weary, or with a fever of a hundred and two. MARION ZIMMER BRADLEY
It should surprise no one that the life of the writer—such as it is—is colorless to the point of sensory deprivation. Many writers do little else but sit in rooms recalling the real world. This explains why so many books describe the author’s childhood. A writer’s childhood may well have been the occasion of his only firsthand experience. ANNIE DILLARD
My block was due to two overlapping factors: laziness and lack of discipline. If you really want to write, then shut yourself in a room, close the door, and WRITE. If you don't want to write, do something else. It's as simple as that. MARY GARDEN
At the beginning of their careers many writers have a need to overwrite. They choose carefully turned-out phrases; they want to impress their readers with their large vocabularies. By the excesses of their language, these young men and women try to hide their sense of inexperience. With maturity the writer becomes more secure in his ideas. He finds his real tone and develops a simple and effective style. JORGE LUIS BORGES
Behind the complicated details of the world stand the simplicities: God is good, the grown-up man or woman knows the answer to every question, there is such a thing as truth, and justice is as measured and faultless as a clock. Our heroes are simple: they are brave, they tell the truth, they are good swordsmen and they are never in the long run really defeated. That is why no later books satisfy us like those which were read to us in childhood—for those promised a world of great simplicity of which we knew the rules, but the later books are complicated and contradictory with experience; they are formed out of our own disappointing memories. GRAHAM GREENE
Every story would be another story, and unrecognizable if it took up its characters and plot and happened somewhere else. Fiction depends for its life on place. Place is the crossroads of circumstance, the proving ground of, What happened? Who’s here? Who’s coming? EUDORA WELTY
Dialogue that is written in dialect is very tiring to read. If you can do it brilliantly, fine. If other writers read your work and rave about your use of dialect, go for it. But be positive that you do it well, because otherwise it is a lot of work to read short stories or novels that are written in dialect. It makes our necks feel funny. ANNE LAMOTT
Heaven knows what pains the author has been at, what bitter experiences he has endured and what heartache suffered, to give some chance reader a few hours' relaxation or to while away the tedium of a journey. W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM
What lasts in the reader’s mind is not the phrase but the effect the phrase created: laughter, tears, pain, joy. If the phrase is not affecting the reader, what’s it doing there? Make it do its job or cut it without mercy or remorse. ISAAC ASIMOV
I had the pleasure of attending a talk by William Ryan on Saturday at the Limerick Writers Centre.
William Ryan is an Irish writer, living in London. Before turning his hand to writing full-time, William was a lawyer in the city for a number of years. His novel, ‘The Holy Thief’ is the first in a series about a detective Alexei Korolev, who works for the Moscow Criminal Division in 1930s Russia.
It was a cold morning, but William, and Dominic of the writer’s centre made us welcome. Thank you for the coffee Dominic. It was the first time I had attended a talk like this and was unsure of how it would go.
William started with a brief introduction of himself and his work to date. I found it very informative, he touched on such subjects as planning and characters right through to editing, and finding an agent.
William gave a few good tips that I will be putting into practice from now on. The first is to create a ‘Cuttings File’, so when you are editing and you find anything that is not relevant to the story, cut and paste it to your file. I think this is a great idea, because you are not losing the cut piece forever, you tend to be a bit more ruthless with what you can cut out.
‘Know your facts and be accurate’, another great point William raised. Know what you are writing about, as an example: writing about a certain species of bird in your novel, when due to the seasonal time of year it is on the other side of the world, is a definite no.
‘Make your research invisible’, we all need to research, but the reader does not want to see this in the story that you are telling, that is what they have the Internet for.
Most importantly, write what you enjoy reading. The reader will feel this in the words that you use. Remember by the time your novel is ready to be sent off to an agent; you may well have read the whole thing fifteen times, so you will want to enjoy it.
I really enjoyed the talk, and I would recommend attending a similar talk in your area. Join a writers group; get a feel for what and how others write, but most of all enjoy it.
I would once again like to thank William Ryan, and Dominic of the Limerick Writer’s Centre.
This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don’t consider it rejected. Consider that you’ve addressed it ‘to the editor who can appreciate my work’ and it has simply come back stamped “Not at this address.” Just keep looking for the right address. BARBARA KINGSOLVER
It was from Handel that I learned that style consists in force of assertion. If you can say a thing with one stroke, unanswerably you have style; if not, you are at best a marchande de plaisir, a decorative litterateur, or a musical confectioner, or a painter of fans with cupids and coquettes. Handel had power. GEORGE BERNARD SHAW
Inspired by the ‘Why I Write’ hash tag from Twitter, better known as #whyiwrite, and a blog I follow, here is why I write.
I started to write about eighteen months ago, to this day I could not tell you why, maybe it was my love for reading. My biggest love is the horror genre especially James Herbert, an English writer. I put pen to paper for the first time since leaving school, trying to echo the greats, such as Herbert. When my wife read them, she gave me such fantastic comments; from that moment on, I was hooked.
I have stories bursting from my mind, if only there was enough time to get them all written down before they escaped from me forever. The more comments I received the more I wanted to write, a vicious circle some may say, but not me.
I have been lucky, in the last twelve months I have had a number of short stories accepted for publication, from webzines and the local paper to anthologies. I am currently working on my first novel and I love it.
My name is Daniel Kaye, and I am addicted to writing.
Writers must fortify themselves with pride and egotism as best they can. The process is analogous to using sandbags and loose timbers to protect a house against flood. Writers are vulnerable creatures like anyone else. For what do they have in reality? Not sandbags, not timbers. Just a flimsy reputation and a name. BRIAN ALDISS
Clichés are common features of everyone's first draft, whether we write it down or keep it to ourselves. How could they not be? We hear and read them all the time and our brains are filled with them. The key to avoiding them in the second and succeeding drafts is recognizing them and casting them out. BEN YAGODA
Character is the very life of fiction. Setting exists so that the character has someplace to stand. Plot exists so the character can discover what he is really like, forcing the character to choice and action. And theme exists only to make the character stand up and be somebody. JOHN GARDNER
All good writing comes out of aloneness. You have to do it on an open highway. You wouldn’t want to do it in New York City. But on Highway 40 West or some of those big open highways, you can hold the wheel with one hand and write with the other. It’s a good discipline, because sometimes you can only write two or three words at a time before you have to look back at the road, so those three words have to count. The problem is whether you can read the damn thing by the time you reach your destination. SAM SHEPARD
Writing is like everything else: the more you do it the better you get. Don't try to perfect as you go along, just get to the end of the damn thing. Accept imperfections. Get it finished and then you can go back. If you try to polish every sentence there's a chance you'll never get past the first chapter. IAIN BANKS
You know what it means – you’re a writer and you understand it. It’s not just “the satisfaction of being published.” Great God! It’s the satisfaction of getting it out, or having that, so far as you’re concerned, gone through with it! That good or ill, for better or for worse, it’s over, done with, finished, out of your life forever and that, come what may, you can at least, as far as this thing is concerned, get the merciful damned easement of oblivion and forgetfulness. TOM WOLFE
Good writing is all handmade. It’s made of words. Looking up words as you write is a vital step in research. A word choice isn’t apt merely because a word’s formal definition seems to fit. Words are layered with meaning, and the layers need to fit as well. If you write “the final solution to our problem” unaware that “final solution” translates the Nazi euphemism for the Holocaust, die Endlösung; if you write “a supercilious handshake” unaware that “supercilious” derives from Latin words meaning “above the eyelid” (i.e., with a lifted eyebrow), you communicate more and less to your reader than you intend. Sloppy word choice isn’t only a literary sin; it’s confusing. If you choose words with their multileveled meanings in mind, your reader will have a better chance of understanding what you mean—and so will you. RICHARD RHODES
Don’t try to guess what sort of thing editors want to publish or what you think the country is in a mood to read. Editors and readers don’t know what they want to read until they read it. Besides, they’re always looking for something new. WILLIAM ZINSSER
For a true writer each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment. He should always try for something that has never been done or that others have tried and failed. Then sometimes, with great luck, he will succeed. ERNEST HEMINGWAY
To write is to practice, with particular intensity and attentiveness, the art of reading. You write in order to read what you've written and see if it's O.K. and, since of course it never is, to rewrite it once, twice, as many times as it takes to get it to be something you can bear to reread. You are your own first, maybe severest, reader. "To write is to sit in judgment on oneself," Ibsen inscribed on the flyleaf of one of his books. Hard to imagine writing without rereading. SUSAN SONTAG
Be daring, take on anything. Don’t labor over little cameo works in which every word is to be perfect. Technique holds a reader from sentence to sentence, but only content will stay in his mind. JOYCE CAROL OATES