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Quotes on Writing

Opinionated quotations from the famous and not-so-famous.

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While tight with concentration on what is being written, the writer has a thought, an insight, a partially articulate concept. The natural response is to think, "I can't stop what I am writing. I'll remember the idea," and continue writing. The writer is wrong. He will not remember it. The thought, the insight, the concept will disappear. It may return, but you will not need it then, or recall when it might have been appropriate.

Insights and perceptions pass through the mind like fleet fireflies. Lit for an instant, then gone back into the dark. They are precious, irreplaceable. Stop what you are writing and write them into a notebook, onto a napkin, a scrap of paper. ANYWHERE. They are more important than what you are writing now. What you are writing now is there. It is visible, tangible. You will not lose the mood, the flow, the roll.

Leonard Bishop from the book Dare to be a Great Writer: 329 Keys to Powerful Fiction

Write it, even if you think it's terrible. Don't prevent yourself from jotting down a word, phrase, or paragraph just because it "isn't quite right" or "it won't work." Maybe it will, maybe it won't, but it's better to write it down, you can always edit later. And you don't want to stop yourself before you even get started! The point isn't to use everything you write. You can't be expected to pop out perfect prose your first time out! Write now, edit later.

Cristine Grace (adapted)

Always Avoid Alliteration

I think I did pretty well, considering I started out with nothing but a bunch of blank paper.

Steve Martin

I write on the computer and I have a very strange method; I wish I could plot everything out in advance because it would make life easier but it's a very organic process. I sort of work the cases the same way the characters are; we're sort of doing it together. So this may surprise you, but I usually don't know who the killer is until very far into the book. And most people would assume that I've already picked that person; doesn't work that way. I usually find out very close to the time that Scarpetta finds out "oops this is not a good person to be with right now." So I think one thing that's good about that, though, is because I'm a little bit in suspense about what I'm doing, not so sure what's going to happen next, I think that gets translated to the reader and it makes it a little more lively and a little more emotional for them.

Patricia Cornwell from an Imus in the Morning interview on Oct 18, 2012

A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit.

Richard Bach

Pen, paper, perseverance, and proficiency.

Duane Alan Hahn

I write when I'm inspired, and see to it that I'm inspired at nine o'clock every morning.

Peter De Vries

The Passive Voice Is to Be Avoided

Be wary of professional writers and writing instructors who tell you, "Quick success in writing can be harmful." The statement is a sly adage dragged out of a long-dead philosophy. The greatest encouragement any writer can experience is instant success. Grab success when you can. Buffer your problems with fame and wealth. Not one of these professional writers or instructors would ever dare tell a realtor who opens an office, "Be careful of doing great business and making great profits. It will spoil you."

From the book Dare to be a Great Writer: 329 Keys to Powerful Fiction by Leonard Bishop (adapted)

One gains universal applause who mingles the useful with the agreeable, at once delighting and instructing the reader.

Horace

The reason why so few good books are written is that so few people who can write know anything.

Walter Bagehot

If you can't annoy somebody, there is little point in writing.

Kingsley Amis

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.

Benjamin Franklin

Most bad books get that way because their authors are engaged in trying to justify themselves. If a vain author is an alcoholic, then the most sympathetically portrayed character in his book will be an alcoholic. This sort of thing is very boring for outsiders.

Stephen Vizinczey

To write what is worth publishing, to find honest people to publish it, and get sensible people to read it, are the three great difficulties in being an author.

Charles Caleb Colton

Put down everything that comes into your head and then you're a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff's worth, without pity, and destroy most of it.

Colette

A book should be luminous not voluminous.

Christian Nevell Bovee

There's a great power in words, if you don't hitch too many of them together.

Josh Billings

I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil.

Truman Capote

The first draft of anything is sh*t.

Ernest Hemingway

Review. Reread. Rewrite.

From the book How to Write Better in One Hour by George Mair

Rereading reveals rubbish and redundancy.

Duane Alan Hahn

The only valid reason to use clichés is in the speech of a character. Clichés are indications of sloppy writing. The writer does not respect the scene he is trying to dramatize enough to fashion it through precise prose and imaginative imagery.

From the book Dare to be a Great Writer: 329 Keys to Powerful Fiction by Leonard Bishop (adapted)

The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.

Thomas Jefferson

Good things, when short, are twice as good.

Baltasar Gracian

It is my ambition to say in ten sentences; what others say in a whole book.

Friedrich Nietzsche

Never be so brief as to become obscure.

Tryon Edwards

A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.

Thomas Mann

Only amateurs say that they write for their own amusement. Writing is not an amusing occupation. It is a combination of ditch-digging, mountain-climbing, treadmill and childbirth. Writing may be interesting, absorbing, exhilarating, racking, relieving. But amusing? Never!

Edna Ferber

I love being a writer. What I can't stand is the paperwork.

Peter De Vries

It took me fifteen years to discover I had no talent for writing, but I couldn't give it up because by that time I was too famous.

Robert Benchley

If you describe things as better than they are, you are considered to be a romantic; if you describe things as worse than they are, you will be called a realist; and if you describe things exactly as they are, you will be thought of as a satirist.

Quentin Crisp

Writing crystallizes thought and thought produces action.

Paul J. Meyer

I never know what I think about something until I read what I've written on it.

William Faulkner

I write to teach myself what I already know.

Duane Alan Hahn

First, I do not sit down at my desk to put into verse something that is already clear in my mind. If it were clear in my mind, I should have no incentive or need to write about it. We do not write in order to be understood; we write in order to understand.

Robert Cecil Day-Lewis

We are as much informed of a writer's genius by what he selects as by what he originates.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

The secret of good writing is to say an old thing in a new way or to say a new thing in an old way.

Richard Harding Davis

The most original of authors are not so because they advance what is new, but more because they know how to say something, as if it had never been said before.

Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

If you steal from one author, it's plagiarism; if you steal from many, it's research.

Wilson Mizner

The writer must believe that what he is doing is the most important thing in the world. And he must hold to this illusion even when he knows it is not true.

John Steinbeck

Unless a writer lives with a periodic delusion of his greatness, he will not continue writing. He must believe, against all reason and evidence, that the public will experience a catastrophic loss if he does not complete his novel. The public is just clamoring to give him his fame.

From the book Dare to be a Great Writer: 329 Keys to Powerful Fiction by Leonard Bishop

An author who speaks about his own books is almost as bad as a mother who talks about her own children.

Benjamin Disraeli

A writer is rarely so well inspired as when he talks about himself.

Anatole France

Every writer is a narcissist. This does not mean that he is vain; it only means that he is hopelessly self-absorbed.

Leo Rosten

Writers should be read, but neither seen nor heard.

Daphne Du Maurier

What has a writer to be bombastic about? Whatever good a man may write is the consequence of accident, luck, or surprise, and nobody is more surprised than an honest writer when he makes a good phrase or says something truthful.

Edward Dahlberg

Rewriting ripens what you've written.

Duane Alan Hahn

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Disclaimer

Read these quotes and any adapted quotes at your own risk. (An adapted quote is a quote I have edited in some way to make it clearer or shorter so I can understand it better.) View this page and any external web sites at your own risk. I am not responsible for any possible spiritual, emotional, physical, financial or any other damage to you, your friends, family, ancestors, or descendants in the past, present, or future, living or dead, in this dimension or any other.

 

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