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    The Writer's Chapbook: A Compendium of Fact, Opinion, Wit, and Advice from the Twentieth Century's Preeminent Writers (Modern Library)
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    The Writing Life: Writers On How They Think And Work
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    Zen in the Art of Writing: Releasing the Creative Genius Within You
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QUOTE OF THE DAY

Monday
May162016

Tony Bill’s Advice to Aspiring Screenwriters

1. Move to Los Angeles. That’s where you need to live to get your work read and known. No one is looking for you. You need to introduce yourself and your work in person somehow. It will undoubtedly happen by accident. Los Angeles is where the accidents happen.

2. People are not looking for a writer to “bring their ideas to fruition.” It’s your ideas that they will be interested in, combined with your unusually talented screenwriting ability (if that’s what it is). "Good" will not be good enough.

3. By definition, “freelance” means that you are on your own, without a steady salary or ongoing employment. If you can’t survive financially in that manner, it’s unlikely that you should pursue screenwriting. It’s the most difficult and competitive form of writing there is. That’s why really excellent screenwriters are in demand and handsomely paid in the movie business…and the rest are not.

4. You better start thinking less about movie screenplays and more about writing for television. The cost of making films, and the diminishing audience for them, has almost outlawed the original screenplay. Series TV — weekly or limited — is the place to be if you’re looking for employment. That’s also where the original, fresh, iconoclastic action is.

5. Just remember: Ideas are a dime a dozen. It’s all about execution. West Wing without Aaron Sorkin is a political show. Deadwood without David Milch is a Western. Homicide without David Simon is a cop show. Gray’s Anatomy without Shonda Rhimes is a hospital show. And none of them would ever have seen the light of day without the genius of those writers. And, by the way…you have to be able to put it out there 26 times a year for at least 5 years, or it might not be worth doing in the first place.

6. Whatever you do…don’t read any “How-to-write-a-screenplay” books. Just read a bunch of great scripts and let it go at that. (And if you have to ask what a great one is, you’re in trouble already.)

Sunday
May152016

Character is the Very Life of Fiction

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

Saturday
May142016

The Secret of Short-Story Writing

I'll give you the sole secret of short-story writing, and here it is: Rule 1. Write stories that please yourself. There is no rule 2. The technical points you can get from Bliss Perry. If you can't write a story that pleases yourself, you will never please the public. But in writing the story forget the public.

O. HENRY

Friday
May132016

You Lay Out a Line of Words

When you write, you lay out a line of words. The line of words is a miner’s pick, a woodcarver’s gouge, a surgeon’s probe. You wield it, and it digs a path you follow. Soon you find yourself deep in new territory. Is it a dead end, or have you located the real subject? You will know tomorrow, or this time next year.

ANNIE DILLARD

Thursday
May122016

Vigorous Writing Is Concise

Omit needless words. Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.

WILLIAM STRUNK, JR. and E.B. WHITE

Wednesday
May112016

You Get Ideas All the Time

You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we're doing it.

NEIL GAIMAN

Tuesday
May102016

Keep Your Bones in Good Motion

Keep your bones in good motion, kid, and quietly consume and digest what is necessary. I think it is not so much important to build a literary thing as it is not to hurt things. I think it is important to be quiet and in love with park benches; solve whole areas of pain by walking across a rug.

CHARLES BUKOWSKI in a letter to John William Corrington (1963)

Monday
May092016

It's the Hardest Work There Is

Don’t get discouraged because there’s a lot of mechanical work to writing. There is, and you can’t get out of it. I rewrote A Farewell to Arms at least fifty times. You’ve got to work it over. The first draft of anything is shit. When you first start to write you get all the kick and the reader gets none, but after you learn to work it’s your object to convey everything to the reader so that he remembers it not as a story he had read but something that happened to himself. That’s the true test of writing. When you can do that, the reader gets the kick and you don’t get any. You just get hard work and the better you write the harder it is because every story has to be better than the last one. It’s the hardest work there is. I like to do and can do many things better than I can write, but when I don’t write I feel like shit. I’ve got the talent and I feel that I’m wasting it.

ERNEST HEMINGWAY

Sunday
May082016

Writing Is Selection

Writing is selection. Just to start a piece of writing you have to choose one word and only one from more than a million in the language. Now keep going. What is your next word? Your next sentence, paragraph, section, chapter? Your next ball of fact. You select what goes in and you decide what stays out. At base you have only one criterion: If something interests you, it goes in—if not, it stays out. That’s a crude way to assess things, but it’s all you’ve got.

JOHN McPHEE

Saturday
May072016

Good Writing is Lean and Confident

Don’t say you were a bit confused and sort of tired and a little depressed and somewhat annoyed. Be tired. Be confused. Be depressed. Be annoyed. Don’t hedge your prose with little timidities. Good writing is lean and confident.

WILLIAM ZINSSER

Friday
May062016

Aim for the Chopping Block

Aim for the chopping block. If you aim for the wood, you will have nothing. Aim past the wood, aim through the wood; aim for the chopping block.

ANNIE DILLARD

Thursday
May052016

Composition is a Discipline

Composition is a discipline; it forces us to think. If you want to “get in touch with your feelings,” fine—talk to yourself; we all do. But, if you want to communicate with another thinking human being, get in touch with your thoughts. Put them in order; give them a purpose; use them to persuade, to instruct, to discover, to seduce. The secret way to do this is to write it down and then cut out the confusing parts.

WILLIAM SAFIRE

Wednesday
May042016

Close the Door

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

Tuesday
May032016

Keep Your Paragraphs Short

Keep your paragraphs short. Writing is visual—it catches the eye before it has a chance to catch the brain. Short paragraphs put air around what you write and make it look inviting, whereas a long chunk of type can discourage a reader from even starting to read.

WILLIAM ZINSSER

Monday
May022016

It's Not the Writing Part That's Hard

There’s a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don’t, and the secret is this: It's not the writing part that's hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write.

STEVEN PRESSFIELD

Sunday
May012016

Nothing Comes Free in Movies

I got so good at writing to a budget, my brain was restricting myself. I'd write, It's a stormy night. Then I'd cross out stormy. I'd write: It's a calm night. Then I'd cross out night. It's noon. Because you know how much night costs. You know how much rain costs. Nothing comes free in movies.

ALBERT BROOKS

Saturday
Apr302016

Just Write

If you start to edit as you write, you are climbing into your “editor” self, the self that reads. You’ve done plenty of reading, you don’t need practice right now. Just write.

SANDRA JENSEN

Friday
Apr292016

Abandon the Idea That You Are Ever Going to Finish

Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page for each day, it helps. Then when it gets finished, you are always surprised.

JOHN STEINBECK

Thursday
Apr282016

Confront the Dark Parts of Yourself

Confront the dark parts of yourself, and work to banish them with illumination and forgiveness. Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing.

AUGUST WILSON

Wednesday
Apr272016

Everybody Gets Stuck

Writer’s block is not the same as getting stuck. Everybody gets stuck. The myth of writer’s block may exist partly because not everybody knows how to get unstuck. Allen: I’ve found over the years that any momentary change stimulates a fresh burst of mental energy. So if I’m in this room and then I go into the other room, it helps me. If I go outside to the street, it’s a huge help. If I go up and take a shower it’s a big help. So I sometimes take extra showers. I’ll be in the living room and at an impasse and what will help me is to go upstairs and take a shower. It breaks up everything and relaxes me. I go out on my terrace a lot. One of the best things about my apartment is that it’s got a long terrace and I’ve paced it a million times writing movies. It’s such a help to change the atmosphere.

WOODY ALLEN