QUOTE OF THE DAY
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?
A writer who has never explored words, who has never searched, seeded, sieved, sifted through his knowledge and memory…dictionaries, thesaurus, poems, favorite paragraphs, to find the right word, is like someone owning a gold mine who has never mined it.
Perhaps it would be better not to be a writer, but if you must, then write. You feel dull, you have a headache, nobody loves you, write. If all feels hopeless, if that famous “inspiration” will not come, write. If you are a genius, you’ll make your own rules, but if not – and the odds are clearly against it – go to your desk, no matter what your mood, face the very challenge of the paper – write.
J. B. PRIESTLEY
The best advice on writing I’ve ever received was, “Rewrite it!” A lot of editors said that. They were all right. Writing is really rewriting—making the story better, clearer, truer.
Anton Chekhov gave some advice about revising a story: first, he said, throw out the first three pages. As a young writer I figured that if anybody knew about short stories, it was Chekhov, so I tried taking his advice. I really hoped he was wrong, but of course he was right. It depends on the length of the story, naturally; if it’s very short, you can only throw out the first three paragraphs. But there are few first drafts to which Chekhov’s Razor doesn’t apply. Starting a story, we all tend to circle around, explain a lot of stuff, set things up that don’t need to be set up. Then we find our way and get going, and the story begins...very often just about on page three.
Writing is not a job description. A great deal of it is luck. Don't do it if you are not a gambler because a lot of people devote many years of their lives to it (for little reward). I think people become writers because they are compulsive wordsmiths.
To the young writers, I would merely say, "Try to develop actual work habits, and even though you have a busy life, try to reserve an hour say—or more—a day to write." Some very good things have been written on an hour a day. . . . So, take it seriously, you know, just set a quota. Try to think of communicating with some ideal reader somewhere. Try to think of getting into print. Don't be content just to call yourself a writer and then bitch about the crass publishing world that won't run your stuff. We're still a capitalist country, and writing to some degree is a capitalist enterprise, when it's not a total sin to try to make a living and court an audience. "Read what excites you," would be advice, and even if you don't imitate it you will learn from it. . . . I would like to think that in a country this large—and a language even larger—that there ought to be a living in it for somebody who cares, and wants to entertain and instruct a reader.
All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you; the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was. If you can get so that you can give that to people, then you are a writer.
A thriller is always about people in danger. The key is to make the reader share the hero’s anxiety. In all popular fiction, the author’s aim must be to get the reader to feel the emotions of the characters. That’s what makes the reader turn the pages.
The dream, surely, that we all have, is to write this beautiful paragraph that actually is describing something but at the same time in another voice is writing a commentary on its own creation, without having to be a story about a writer.
Don’t have a soft heart. Get a strong stomach. Make a friend of heartbreak. Learn how to spend a few months on a script or a year on a script with it not being bought.
Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.
E. L. DOCTOROW
When writing loses touch with the beautiful surface of the world, it loses its way. You always want to be in touch with how things look and what people say and what they call their dogs.
Do it every day. Make a habit of putting your observations into words and gradually this will become instinct. This is the most important rule of all and, naturally, I don't follow it.
Exile and political upheaval have intervened with the lives of great writers and confronted them with the reality that they might have to express themselves in a language other than their mother tongue. The poetic voice is difficult to translate or even impossible, so your poems will be better in the language you developed poetically. Prose you could probably write at the same level in both languages. I am a writer with a Caribbean Spanish linguistic soul that uses the English language, appropriates the English and submits it to my flavors and my longings.
VICTOR HERNÁNDEZ CRUZ
A mass of Latin words falls upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outline and covering up all the details. The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink. In our age there is no such thing as "keeping out of politics". All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia. When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer.
My attitude toward punctuation is that it ought to be as conventional as possible. The game of golf would lose a good deal if croquet mallets and billiard cues were allowed on the putting green. You ought to be able to show that you can do it a good deal better than anyone else with the regular tools before you have a license to bring in your own improvements.
Until I was about seven, I thought books were just there, like trees. When I learned that people actually wrote them, I wanted to, too, because all children aspire to inhuman feats like flying. Most people grow up to realize they can’t fly. Writers are people who don’t grow up to realize they can’t be God.
That you can learn to write better is one of our fundamental assumptions. No sensible person would deny the mystery of talent, or for that matter the mystery of inspiration. But if it is vain to deny these mysteries, it is useless to depend on them. No other art form is so infinitely mutable. Writing is revision. All prose responds to work.