QUOTE OF THE DAY
Words are to be taken seriously. I try to take seriously acts of language. Words set things in motion. I’ve seen them doing it. Words set up atmospheres, electrical fields, charges. I’ve felt them doing it. Words conjure. I try not to be careless about what I utter, write, sing. I’m careful about what I give voice to.
TONI CADE BAMBARA
I have myself always been terrified of plagiarism—of being accused of it, that is. Every writer is a thief, though some of us are more clever than others at disguising our robberies. The reason writers are such slow readers is that we are ceaselessly searching for things we can steal and then pass off as our own: a natty bit of syntax, a seamless transition, a metaphor that jumps to its target like an arrow shot from an aluminum crossbow.
Any writer who has difficulty in writing is probably not onto his true subject, but wasting time with false, petty goals; as soon as you connect with your true subject you will write.
JOYCE CAROL OATES
Whether a story is told on the page or on the screen, the same elements are required. You’ve got to have characters you can identify with, and there’d better be trouble brewing somewhere. Whatever these people’s lives have been before, they’re about to change in a big way. That’s what stories are all about.
If today was not a productive day don't beat yourself to death over it. Wake up tomorrow and start from there. Try it. It works. We can't go back. We can only go forward. Let's go!
Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won't have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren't even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they're doing it.
There are three reasons for becoming a writer: the first is that you need the money; the second, that you have something to say that you think the world should know; the third is that you can’t think of what to do with the long winter evenings.
I like to imagine a sentence as a boat. Each sentence, after all, has a distinct shape, and it comes with something that makes it move forward or stay still — whether a sail, a motor or a pair of oars. There are as many kinds of sentences as there are seaworthy vessels: canoes and sloops, barges and battleships, Mississippi riverboats and dinghies all-too-prone to leaks. And then there are the impostors, flotsam and jetsam — a log heading downstream, say, or a coconut bobbing in the waves without a particular destination.
. . .
Just as there is no one perfect boat, there is no one perfect sentence structure. Mark Twain wrote sentences that were as humble, sturdy and American as a canoe; William Faulkner wrote sentences as gaudy as a Mississippi riverboat. But no matter the atmospherics, the best sentences bolt a clear subject to a dramatic predicate, making a mini-narrative.
You have the right to not change anything, but don’t be a fool. Change things if somebody else is right. But if you do change something because somebody else is right, you must instantly take credit for it yourself. That’s very important.
Autobiography is a life writing its life. . . . How does autobiography begin? With memory. And the consequent division of the self into the-one-who-was and the-one-who-is. The-one-who-is has the advantage of having been the-one-who-was. Once. The-one-who-was is, furthermore, at the present self’s mercy, for it may not wish to remember that past, or it may wish the-one-who-was was other than the one it was, and consequently alter its description, since the-one-who-is is writing the history and has the upper hand. Every moment a bit of the self slides away toward its station in the past, where it will be remembered partially, if at all; with distortions, if at all; and then rendered even more incompletely, with graver omissions and twists to the plot by the play of the pen, so that its text will no doubt be subsequently and inaccurately read, systematically misinterpreted and put to use in yet another version, possibly by a biographer bent on revising the customary view of you and surrounding his selected subject with himself, as Sartre surrounded Genet, as a suburb surrounds a town and slowly sucks its center out.
Constructing a sentence is the equivalent of taking a Polaroid snapshot: pressing the button, and watching something emerge. To write one is to document and to develop at the same time. Not all sentences end up in novels or stories. But novels and stories consist of nothing but. Sentences are the bricks as well as the mortar, the motor as well as the fuel. They are the cells, the individual stitches. Their nature is at once solitary and social. Sentences establish tone, and set the pace. One in front of the other marks the way.
Most of us live in a condition of secrecy: secret desires, secret appetites, secret hatreds and relationship with the institutions which is extremely intense and uncomfortable. These are, to me, a part of the ordinary human condition. So I don't think I'm writing about abnormal things. ... Artists, in my experience, have very little center. They fake. They are not the real thing. They are spies. I am no exception.
JOHN LE CARRÉ
Writing is hard work, not magic. It begins with deciding why you are writing and whom you are writing for. What is your intent? What do you want the reader to get out of it? What do you want to get out of it. It's also about making a serious time commitment and getting the project done.
I sometimes suggest to inexperienced writers that they try to summarize their novels in progress in a sentence or two. It’s a useful though limited way of finding out whether a book has a coherent theme, a theme that’s likely to attract readers. “One day in the life of a humble prisoner in Stalin’s gulag,” or “one day in the life of a middle-aged mediocre Dublin Jew, explored as an odyssey,” would convince most literate people that there was, at least, a worthy and intelligible subject.
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
Creation of character is, like much of fiction writing, a mixture of subjective feel and objective control.
Characters are not created by writers. They pre-exist and have to be found.
The characters that I create are parts of myself and I send them on little missions to find out what I don’t know yet.
I don’t have a very clear idea of who the characters are until they start talking.
I visualize the characters completely; I have heard their dialogue. I know how they speak, what they want, who they are, nearly everything about them.
JOYCE CAROL OATES
When I write, I live with my characters. It’s like going to work. You see the people at the next desk in full regalia all the time, and you know where they came from and where they are going. The point is to define the nuances of everything that’s happening with them and to find the element of their lives that is fascinating enough to record. That takes a lot of doing.
Don't write about a character. Become that character, and then write your story.
The character that lasts is an ordinary guy with some extraordinary qualities.
It doesn’t matter if your lead character is good or bad. He just has to be interesting, and he has to be good at what he does.
Think of your main characters as dinner guests. Would your friends want to spend ten hours with the characters you’ve created? Your characters can be loveable, or they can be evil, but they’d better be compelling.
I talk about the things people have always talked about in stories: pain, hate, truth, courage, destiny, friendship, responsibility, growing old, growing up, falling in love, all of these things. What I try to write about are the darkest things in the soul, the mortal dreads. I try to go into those places in me that contain the cauldrous. I want to dip up the fire, and I want to put it on paper. The closer I get to the burning core of my being, the things which are most painful to me, the better is my work.
The writer learns to write, in the last resort, only by writing. He must get words onto paper even if he is dissatisfied with them. A young writer must cross many psychological barriers to acquire confidence in his capacity to produce good work—especially his first full-length book—and he cannot do this by staring at a piece of blank paper, searching for the perfect sentence.
There is neither a proportional relationship, nor an inverse one, between a writer’s estimation of a work in progress and its actual quality. The feeling that the work is magnificent, and the feeling that it is abominable, are both mosquitoes to be repelled, ignored, or killed, but not indulged.