QUOTE OF THE DAY
When I discover a bad assonance or a repetition in one of my phrases, I am sure that I am floundering in error; by dint of searching, I find the exact expression which was the only one and is, at the same time, the harmonious one. The word is never lacking when one possesses the idea.
I want my reader to be wholly engaged, gripped rather than shocked. I'm pleased when people tell me that they sat down and read Enduring Love in one sitting. In that respect, writers are like jealous lovers: “I just want you to think of me."
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.
Heaven knows what pains the author has been at, what bitter experiences he has endured and what heartache suffered, to give some chance reader a few hours' relaxation or to while away the tedium of a journey.
W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM
Dialogue that is written in dialect is very tiring to read. If you can do it brilliantly, fine. If other writers read your work and rave about your use of dialect, go for it. But be positive that you do it well, because otherwise it is a lot of work to read short stories or novels that are written in dialect. It makes our necks feel funny.
The curse of all successful writers is the dream of all Americans: owning a house. Houses have ruined a lot of literary artists, more so than drugs or drink. Jack London built himself a palace and then committed suicide. Mark Twain almost went bust maintaining his Connecticut digs. …If I had one piece of advice to give to aspirant writers it would be: Don’t—don’t, don’t, don’t—under any circumstances buy a house you could not afford if you were a plumber’s assistant. Or, as a veteran Hollywood agent told me not long ago: Put your money in the bank; if you buy anything, pay cash, and if you can’t pay cash, don’t buy it.
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?
My block was due to two overlapping factors: laziness and lack of discipline. If you really want to write, then shut yourself in a room, close the door, and WRITE. If you don't want to write, do something else. It's as simple as that.
Behind the complicated details of the world stand the simplicities: God is good, the grown-up man or woman knows the answer to every question, there is such a thing as truth, and justice is as measured and faultless as a clock. Our heroes are simple: they are brave, they tell the truth, they are good swordsmen and they are never in the long run really defeated. That is why no later books satisfy us like those which were read to us in childhood—for those promised a world of great simplicity of which we knew the rules, but the later books are complicated and contradictory with experience; they are formed out of our own disappointing memories.
It should surprise no one that the life of the writer—such as it is—is colorless to the point of sensory deprivation. Many writers do little else but sit in rooms recalling the real world. This explains why so many books describe the author’s childhood. A writer’s childhood may well have been the occasion of his only firsthand experience.
It can take years. With the first draft, I just write everything. With the second draft, it becomes so depressing for me, because I realize that I was fooled into thinking I’d written the story. I hadn’t—I had just typed for a long time. So then I have to carve out a story from the 25 or so pages. It’s in there somewhere—but I have to find it. I’ll then write a third, fourth, and fifth draft, and so on.
I remember one English teacher in the eighth grade, Florence Schrack, whose husband also taught at the high school. I thought what she said made sense, and she parsed sentences on the blackboard and gave me, I'd like to think, some sense of English grammar and that there is a grammar, that those commas serve a purpose and that a sentence has a logic, that you can break it down. I've tried not to forget those lessons, and to treat the English language with respect as a kind of intricate tool.
There's no "magic secret"; writing is like everything else; ten percent inspiration or talent, and ninety percent hard work. Persistence; keeping at it till you get there. As Agnes de Mille said, it means working every day—bored, tired, weary, or with a fever of a hundred and two.
MARION ZIMMER BRADLEY
The important thing in writing is the capacity to astonish. Not shock—shock is a worn-out word—but astonish. The world has no grounds whatever for complacency. The Titanic couldn’t sink, but it did. Where you find smugness, you find something worth blasting. I want to blast it.
Occasionally, I write essays or articles in English, but I write poetry only in Polish because I feel that poetry should be written in the language of your childhood. . . . Because it’s a different, much more sensual approach to the language. You have a very intimate relationship with words which you know since your childhood.
Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something—anything—down on paper. What I’ve learned to do when I sit down to work on a shitty first draft is to quiet the voices in my head.
Collaboration is marriage without sex, and subject to many vexations. But pay no attention to them, because in one respect at least it is wonderful. The total result is frequently far more than the combined abilities of two people might give you.
GEORGE S. KAUFMAN
If you are going to be a writer there is nothing I can say to stop you; if you're not going to be a writer nothing I can say will help you. What you really need at the beginning is somebody to let you know that the effort is real.
Write while the heat is in you. The writer who postpones the recording of his thoughts uses an iron which has cooled. He cannot inflame the minds of his audience.
HENRY DAVID THOREAU