WISDOM OF AUTHORS
- If you
can't annoy somebody, there's little point in writing.
- I think
the first duty of all art, including fiction of any kind, is to entertain.
That is to say, to hold interest. No matter how worthy the message of
something, if it's dull, you're just not communicating.
- If the
doctor told me I had six minutes to live, I'd type a little faster.
is probably no hell for authors in the next world--they suffer so much
from critics and publishers in this.
produces quality. If you only write a few things, you're doomed.
find out what your hero wants. Then just follow him.
can't try to do things; you simply must do them.
- I have
been successful probably because I have always realized that I knew
nothing about writing and have merely tried to tell an interesting story
- If you
write one story, it may be bad; if you write a hundred, you have the
odds in your favor.
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.
faster I write the better my output. If I'm going slow, I'm in trouble.
It means I'm pushing the words instead of being pulled by them.
in doubt, have a man come through the door with a gun in his hand.
interest nearly always weakens a mystery because it introduces a type
of suspense that is antagonistic to the detective's struggle to solve
- I owe
my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice,
and then going away and doing the exact opposite.
- A good
novel tells us the truth about its hero, but a bad novel tells us the
truth about its author.
difference between fiction and reality is that fiction has to make sense.
- I don't
pretend we have all the answers. But the questions are certainly worth
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.
sells us all things at the price of the labor.
has its own reason for existence. The important thing is not to stop
I examine myself and my methods of thought I come to the conclusion
that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing
is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination
encircles the world.
spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.
those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.
poets imitate; mature poets steal.
editors are failed writers, but so are most writers.
alone cannot make a writer. There must be a man behind the book.
- In good
writing, words become one with things.
my horse is running good, I don't stop to give him sugar.
writer's only responsibility is to his art. He will be completely ruthless
if he is a good one. If a writer has to rob his mother, he will not
hesitate; the Ode on a Grecian Urn is worth any number of old ladies.
- 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.
ideal view for daily writing, hour for hour, is the blank brick wall
of a cold-storage warehouse. Failing this, a stretch of sky will do,
cloudless if possible.
reason one writes isn't the fact he wants to say something. He writes
because he has something to say.
the key emotion; this may be all you need know to find your short story.
- An editor
should have a pimp for a brother so he'd have someone to look up to.
- If you
would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write things
worth reading or do things worth writing.
- No tears
in the writer, no tears in the reader.
- In nearly
all good fiction, the basic--all but inescapable--plot form is this:
A central character wants something, goes after it despite opposition,
perhaps including his own doubts, and so arrives at a win, lose, or
writer who cares more about words than about story--characters, action,
setting, atmosphere--is unlikely to create a vivid and continuous dream;
he gets in his own way too much; in his poetic drunkenness, he can't
tell the cart – and its cargo – from the horse.
- We read
five words on the first page of a really good novel and we begin to
forget that we are reading printed words on a page; we begin to see
must learn to overcome your very natural and appropriate revulsion for
your own work.
a working writer what he thinks about critics is like asking a lamppost
what he thinks about dogs.
most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shockproof shit
none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think
you were born that way.
- We are
all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.
is life with the dull bits cut out.
them pleasure. The same pleasure they have when they wake up from a
a blessed thing it is that nature, when she invented, manufactured and
patented her authors, contrived to make critics out of the chips that
writers, present company included, don't understand very much about
what they do--not why it works when it's good, not why it doesn't when
is a lie, and good fiction is the truth inside the lie.
- If you’re
going to be a writer, the first essential is just to write. Do not wait
for an idea. Start writing something and the ideas will come. You have
to turn the faucet on before the water starts to flow.
- My most
important piece of advice to all you would-be writers: when you write,
try to leave out all the parts readers skip.
is the art of beginning, but greater is the art of ending.
can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.
- I would
rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark burn out in
a brilliant blaze than it be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a
superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and
- 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.
fits all her children with something to do. He who would write and can't
write, can surely review.
- I want
story, wit, music, wryness, color, and a sense of reality in what I
read, and I try to get it in what I write.
never knocks on an open door--it simply walks right in.
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.
If you can tell stories, create characters, devise incidents, and have
sincerity and passion, it doesn't matter a damn how you write.
the readers a story! Because without a story, you are merely using words
to prove you can string them together in logical sentences.
- To produce
a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme.
are no dull subjects. There are only dull writers.
- I have
never thought of myself as a good writer. Anyone who wants reassurance
of that should read one of my first drafts. But I'm one of the world's
anyone can be an author; the business is to collect money and fame from
this state of being.
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.
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.
is an occupation in which you have to keep proving your talent to those
who have none.
the action to the word, the word to the action.
only way to avoid being miserable is not to have enough leisure to wonder
whether you are happy or not.
men see things as they are and ask why. Others dream things that never
were and ask why not.
road to ignorance is paved with good editors.
are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don't believe
in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people
who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can't
find them, make them.
when people get to the end of a chapter, they close the book and go
to sleep. I deliberately write my books so when the reader gets to the
end of a chapter, he or she must turn one more page. When people tell
me I've kept them up all night, I feel like I've succeeded!
are no rules in writing. There are useful principles. Throw them away
when they're not useful. But always know what you're throwing away.
around is good for creativity: the next line of dialogue that you desperately
need may well be waiting in the back of the refrigerator or half a mile
along your favorite walk.
- It is
better to write a bad first draft than to write no first draft at all.
first chapter sells the book. The last chapter sells the next book
only two kinds of books that could earn an American writer a living
are cookbooks and detective novels.
your mind's height by the shadow it casts.
only way to learn to write is to write.
vain it is to sit down to write if you have not stood up to live.
cannot depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.
your facts first, and then you can distort 'em as much as you please.
- A critic
is a man who knows the way but can't drive the car.
writer is born with a repertory company in his head and as you get older,
you become more skillful casting them.
- A story
isn't about a moment in time, a story is about THE moment in time.
is the last refuge of the unimaginative.
are never finished, They are merely abandoned.
- An idea
that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all.
is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.
comes to a writer, as a rule, so gradually that it is always something
of a shock to him to look back and realize the heights to which he has
P. OLIVER OBSERVATIONS
success as a writer
- I don't
care what the lousy dictionary says; you are not an "author"
until your books are selling like hotcakes...ten years after you're
dead and buried. Until then, you are a writer.
- I don't
strive to be the best writer in the annals of literature; I strive to
the best writer in the annals of me.
the craft of writing
writing is a craft, not therapy or a hobby.
of fiction are story tellers in as much and as little as that entails.
- As writers
we are the torch bearers of the English language. It is, therefore,
our responsibility to protect and preserve English through its correct
trust a writer. We lie for a living.
learning the craft
- In most
things quality is preferable to quantity, but in writing, quantity leads
to quality--the more I write the better I become.
- A writer
doesn't have to be brilliant to start, but to be brilliant, a writer
may not be rocket science, but it takes longer to learn.
considering whose advice to follow, remember the immortal words of George
Bernard Shaw, "He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches."
three keys to success in writing are write, write, and write.
to communicate and learn to spin a good yarn. Then you are a writer.
- I believe
it was Robert Heinlein who said, "Writing can be learned, but not
taught." No truer words were ever spoken.
writing craft is a way of life. To be good at it you have to live it.
writers, excess contemplation leads to complication.
- In the
English language many words seem to mean the same thing, but only one
of those words precisely conveys your meaning. Finding that word is
what makes you a writer.
writing, I drive everything else from my mind because the story is the
are the palette of the accomplished wordsmith.
in heaven's name can writers expect to write stories about life if they
have not lived?
for a story idea? Go for a drive. If you don't see at least one story
idea, you should be arrested for driving with your eyes closed.
about life doesn't require that you understand it, but you must know
me, stories tell themselves. All I have to do is type fast enough to
keep up with them.
- I never
write from an outline; they are much too confining. However, I do create
a summary of chapters based on the first draft as an aid to finding
the rough spots that must be sanded smooth in subsequent drafts.
the business of writing
- In writing,
as in any other craft, the goal is to earn a living. To achieve that
goal, writers must be responsible to their readers.
are great at helping you make money...for them.
most writers, I dislike promoting myself. That's where an honest agent
is useful. The trick is finding an honest agent.
- I don't
want to set the world on fire, but I would like to make enough at my
writing to heat up a can of beans from time to time.
sewage, agents follow the path of least resistance. They would much
rather represent a writer with an established track record than go to
all the effort of making an unknown become known.