QUOTE OF THE DAY
The delete key is a boon to any writer who hates a cluttered page, although it makes the word processor the least eternal of all writing instruments. Cross-outs are usually consigned to oblivion. (I prefer to move the rejected phrases to the bottom of the screen, where they are continuously pushed ahead of the text-in-progress like an ever-burgeoning mound of snow before a plow.)
I don’t think that writer’s block exists really. I think that when you’re trying to do something prematurely, it just won’t come. Certain subjects just need time. . . . You’ve got to wait before you write about them.
JOYCE CAROL OATES
A young writer is easily tempted by the allusive and ethereal and ironic and reflective, but the declarative is at the bottom of most good writing.
You begin with a subject, gather material, and work your way to structure from there. You pile up volumes of notes and then figure out what you are going to do with them, not the other way around.
Becoming a writer is not a “career decision” like becoming a doctor or a policeman. You don't choose it so much as get chosen, and once you accept the fact that you're not fit for anything else, you have to be prepared to walk a long, hard road for the rest of your days.
Don’t quit. It’s very easy to quit during the first 10 years. Nobody cares whether you write or not, and it’s very hard to write when nobody cares one way or the other. You can’t get fired if you don’t write, and most of the time you don’t get rewarded if you do. But don’t quit.
Push it. Examine all things intensely and relentlessly. Probe and search each object in a piece of art; do not leave it, do not course over it, as if it were understood, but instead follow it down until you see it in the mystery of its own specificity and strength.
The novel sprang from the letter, the diary, the report of a journey; it felt itself alive in the form of every record of private life. Subjectivity was soon everybody’s subject.
A good novel is worth more than the best scientific study.
No one says a novel has to be one thing. It can be anything it wants to be, a vaudeville show, the six o'clock news, the mumblings of wild men saddled by demons.
A great novel is worth one thousand films.
A novel is like a bow, and the violin that produces the sound is the reader's soul.
Expansion, that is the idea the novelist must cling to, not completion, not rounding off, but opening out.
E. M. FORSTER
It seems to me that popular novels in our age might serve the same function as stained-glass windows did in the Middle Ages.
Art, though, is never the voice of a country; it is an even more precious thing, the voice of the individual, doing its best to speak, not comfort of any sort, but truth. And the art that speaks it most unmistakably, most directly, most variously, most fully, is fiction; in particular, the novel.
When I teach literature I always tell them, these would-be writers (we don’t do workshops, we just read great books), I say, “When you read Pride and Prejudice, don’t if you’re a girl identify with Elizabeth Bennet, if you’re a boy with Darcy. Identify with the author, not with the characters.” All good readers do that automatically, but I think it’s helpful to make that clear. Your affinity is not with the characters, always with the writer.
You should always be asking yourself, if you want to become an expert reader or perhaps a writer, you should always say, “How is this being achieved?” “How is this scene being managed?” “How is this being brought off?” Because the characters are artifacts. They’re not real people with real destinies and I know that feeling, when you’re reading Pride and Prejudice even for the fourth time, you feel definite anxiety about whether they’re going to get married, even though you know perfectly well that they do. There’s a slight sort of, “Come on, kiss her!”
You are full of your material—your family, your friends, your region of the country, your generation—when it is fresh and seems urgently worth communicating to readers. No amount of learned skills can substitute for the feeling of having a lot to say, of bringing news. Memories, impressions, and emotions from your first 20 years on earth are most writers’ main material; little that comes afterward is quite so rich and resonant. By the age of 40, you have probably mined the purest veins of this precious lode; after that, continued creativity is a matter of sifting the leavings.
You most likely need a thesaurus, a rudimentary grammar book, and a grip on reality. This latter means: there's no free lunch. Writing is work. It's also gambling. You don't get a pension plan. Other people can help you a bit, but essentially you're on your own. Nobody is making you do this: you chose it, so don't whine.
I want the reader to turn the page and keep on turning to the end. This is accomplished only when the narrative moves steadily ahead, not when it comes to a weary standstill, overloaded with every item uncovered in the research.
Crass stupidities shall not be played upon the reader . . . by either the author or the people in the tale.
The personages of a tale shall confine themselves to possibilities and let miracles alone; or, if they venture a miracle, the author must so plausibly set it forth as to make it look possible and reasonable.
The author shall make the reader feel a deep interest in the personages of his tale and in their fate.
So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say. But to sacrifice a hair of the head of your vision, a shade of its color, in deference to some Headmaster with a silver pot in his hand or to some professor with a measuring-rod up his sleeve, is the most abject treachery.
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.
Creativity is paradoxical. To create, a person must have knowledge but forget the knowledge, must see unexpected connections in things but not have a mental disorder, must work hard but spend time doing nothing as information incubates, must create many ideas yet most of them are useless, must look at the same thing as everyone else, yet see something different, must desire success but embrace failure, must be persistent but not stubborn, and must listen to experts but know how to disregard them.
You can’t wait to write until you’re in the mood. My God, if you waited until you were in the mood, it would take forever. You have to sit down. The name of the game is to put it in the chair.
"The king died and then the queen died" is a story. "The king died, and then the queen died of grief" is a plot...."The queen died, no one knew why, until it was discovered that it was through grief at the death of the king." This is a plot with a mystery in it, a form capable of high development.
E. M. FORSTER