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Recommended Books
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    The Writing Life: Writers On How They Think And Work
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    Writing the Novel: From Plot to Print
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    Writing Past Dark: Envy, Fear, Distraction and Other Dilemmas in the Writer's Life
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    You're a Genius All the Time: Belief and Technique for Modern Prose
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    Zen in the Art of Writing: Releasing the Creative Genius Within You
    by Ray Bradbury

QUOTE OF THE DAY

Saturday
Dec192009

Be Careful in Choosing Your Agent or Publisher

Be exceedingly careful in choosing your agent or your publisher. Don’t send the book to anyone who charges a fee for reading it or publishing it. In the real world of publishing, people pay you for your work. . . . Choose a publisher who has previously published your sort of book. Don’t shotgun it around blindly. If your novel espouses atheism, don’t send it to a religious publisher.

EVAN HUNTER

Friday
Dec182009

Absolute Words

Our language contains perhaps a score of words that may be described as absolute words. These are words that properly admit of no comparison or intensification. . . . My own modest list of words that cannot be qualified by “very” or “rather” or “a little bit” includes unique, imperative, universal, final, fatal, complete, virgin, pregnant, dead, equal, eternal, total, unanimous, essential, and indispensable.

JAMES J. KILPATRICK

Thursday
Dec172009

Start As Near the End As Possible

A good magazine article doesn't need an introduction, so don't begin with the background of your subject, how you happened to get interested in it, why the reader should read it, or how you obtained the information for it. Begin your article with conflict that produces tension, often revealed by including a brief example or anecdote and problem that will be resolved at the end. It's a good rule to start as near the end as possible and then plunge your reader into the central tension. When you've involved your reader in this way, weave in background facts or information as you think the reader needs it to understand the purpose and point of your piece.

DONALD M. MURRAY

Wednesday
Dec162009

A Story Should Be A Finished Work Before It Is Shown

I think it is the most curious lack of judgment to publish before you are ready. If there are echoes of other people in your work, you're not ready. If anybody has to help you rewrite your story, you're not ready. A story should be a finished work before it is shown.

KATHERINE ANNE PORTER

Tuesday
Dec152009

Cut Without Mercy or Remorse

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

Monday
Dec142009

Don't Use Words Too Big for the Subject

Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say “infinitely” when you mean “very”; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.

C.S. LEWIS

Sunday
Dec132009

Keep Your Self-Doubt

The writer who loses his self-doubt, who gives way as he grows old to a sudden euphoria, to prolixity, should stop writing immediately: the time has come for him to lay aside his pen.

COLETTE

Saturday
Dec122009

You Do Not Need to Leave Your Room

You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quite still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.

FRANZ KAFKA

Friday
Dec112009

Writers Have to Have Two Countries

Everybody who writes is interested in living inside themselves in order to tell what is inside themselves. That is why writers have to have two countries, the one where they belong and the one in which they live really.

GERTRUDE STEIN

Thursday
Dec102009

Let the Writer Open His Mouth & Yap It Like Shakespeare

Never did tell you my theory of writing. If it isn’t spontaneous, right unto the very sound of the mind, it can only be crafty and revised, by which the paradox arises, we get what a man has hidden, i.e., his craft, instead of what we need, what a man has shown, i.e. blown (like jazz musician or rose)-

     The requirements for prose & verse are the same, i.e. blow-What a man most wishes to hide, revise, and un-say, is precisely what Literature is waiting and bleeding for-Every doctor knows, every Prophet knows the convulsion of truth.-Let the writer open his mouth & yap it like Shakespeare and get said what is only irrecoverably said once in time the way it comes, for time is of the essence-

JACK KEROUAC in a letter to Malcolm Cowley (1955)

Wednesday
Dec092009

Read Ceaselessly

The greatest symbol of what writing is about is the full text version of the Oxford English Dictionary. The CD-ROM version is nice, but the physical enormity of the printed text gives a writer a sense of humility (if that is still possible), because the mountain to be scaled is the language. Auden used to sit on the first volume while at the dinner table, the better to stay even with language and with dinner. Any good teacher I've ever had—and the best was John McPhee—stressed the enormity of choice English provides, its capacity for clarity and ambiguity, dullness and thrill. It is the greatest invention ever devised (and re-devised). And, of course, the only way to get anywhere as a writer is to have read ceaselessly and then read some more. Pound (that rat) says somewhere that it is incredible to him that so many "poets" simply pick up a pen and start writing verse and call it poetry, while a would-be pianist knows full well how necessary it is to master scales and thousands of exercises before making music worthy of the name. Playing scales, for a writer, means reading. Is there any real writing that has no reading behind it? I don't think so.

DAVID REMNICK

Tuesday
Dec082009

All Novels Should Be Journalism to Start

I think all novels should be journalism to start, and if you can ascend from that plateau to some marvelous altitude, terrific. I really don’t think it’s possible to understand the individual without understanding the society.

TOM WOLFE

Monday
Dec072009

A Writer Is An Eternal Outsider

Although it is not necessary for a writer to be a prick, neither does it hurt. A writer is an eternal outsider, his nose pressed against whatever window on the other side of which he sees his material. Resentment sharpens his eye, hostility hones his killer instinct.

JOHN GREGORY DUNNE

Sunday
Dec062009

Writing Was Not Meant to Be An Occult Operation

Every writer’s assumption is that he is as other human beings are, and that they are more or less as he is. There’s a principle of psychic unity. [Writing] was not meant to be an occult operation; it was not meant to be an esoteric secret.

SAUL BELLOW

Saturday
Dec052009

The First Draft

The only true creative aspect of writing is the first draft. That’s when it’s coming straight from your head and your heart, a direct tapping of the unconscious. The rest is donkey work. It is, however, donkey work that must be done.

EVAN HUNTER

Friday
Dec042009

Three Characteristics A Work of Fiction Must Possess

[The] three characteristics a work of fiction must possess in order to be successful:

1. It must have a precise and suspenseful plot.

2. The author must feel a passionate urge to write it.

3. He must have the conviction, or at least the illusion, that he is the only one who can handle this particular theme.

ISAAC BASHEVIS SINGER

Thursday
Dec032009

Ask Yourself Four Questions

A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: What am I trying to say? What words will express it? What image or idiom will make it clearer? Is this image fresh enough to have an effect? And he will probably ask himself two more: Could I put it more shortly? Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?

GEORGE ORWELL

Wednesday
Dec022009

Things Keep Knotting Up

I like to think of what happens to characters in good novels and stories as knots—things keep knotting up. And by the end of the story—readers see an “unknotting” of sorts. Not what they expect, not the easy answers you get on TV, not wash and wear philosophies, but a reproduction of believable emotional experiences.

TERRY McMILLAN

Tuesday
Dec012009

Don't Worry About Success and Failure

You must once and for all give up being worried about successes and failures. Don’t let that concern you. It’s your duty to go on working steadily day by day, quite steadily, to be prepared for mistakes, which are inevitable, and for failures.

ANTON CHEKHOV

Monday
Nov302009

The Rules

The rules seem to be these: if you have written a successful novel, everyone invites you to write short stories. If you have written some good short stories, everyone wants you to write a novel. But nobody wants anything until you have already proved yourself by being published somewhere else.

JAMES MICHENER