4 Quotes On Writing


So much has been written on the art of writing, but the words that resonate the strongest for me usually come from writers who have written books I can't put down. Here are some of my personal favorites. Do you have any you'd like to share? Please suggest them in the comments and we'll add them in.



There is no better feeling than when you write something you know is a piece of you and that, at some point, is going to communicate with someone else. Alanis Morissette

The way to write a book is to actually write a book. A pen is useful, typing is also good. Keep putting words on the page.  Anne Enright

Only bad writers think that their work is really good. Anne Enright

Description is hard. Remember that all description is an opinion about the world. Find a place to stand. Anne Enright

Write whatever way you like. Fiction is made of words on a page; reality is made of something else. It doesn't matter how "real" your story is, or how "made up": what matters is its necessity. Anne Enright

I want to write but more than that I want to bring out all kinds of things that lie buried deep in my heart. Anne Frank

The more you read, the more you will write. The better the stuff you read, the better the stuff you will write. Annie Dillard

Don’t tell me the moon is shining, show me the glint of light on broken glass. Anton Chekhov

If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don't put it there. Anton Chekhov

For heaven's sake, don't write writing. Write reading! Avi

Let’s agree then . . . if you’re about to come to a conclusion, you’ll head off in another direction. You might even find your own voice. Avi

This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don't consider it rejected. Consider that you've addressed it 'to the editor who can appreciate my work' and it has simply come back stamped 'not at this address.' Just keep looking for the right address." Barbara Kingsolver

Books are humanity in print. Barbara Tuchman

I want the reader to turn the page and keep on turning to the end. Barbara Tuchman

I have made this [letter] longer, because I have not had the time to make it shorter. Blaise Pascal

Don't use words too big for the subject. Don't say 'infinitely' when you mean 'very'; otherwise you'll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite. C. S. Lewis

Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become. C. S. Lewis

When I was 8, I was reading a book in which it was snowing. When I looked outside, I expected there to be snow on the ground. I thought, "This is the most powerful thing I can do! I’m going to be a writer.” Candace Bushnell

Creating characters is like throwing together ingredients for a recipe. I take characteristics I like and dislike in real people I know, or know of, and use them to embellish and define characters. Cassandra Clare

Writing gives you the illusion of control, and then you realize it's just an illusion, that people are going to bring their own stuff into it. David Sedaris

I hold a beast, an angel, and a madman in me, and my enquiry is as to their working, and my problem is their subjugation and victory, down throw and upheaval, and my effort is their self-expression. Dylan Thomas

Be obscure clearly. E.B. White

Write about it by day, and dream about it by night. E.B. White

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. Ernest Hemmingway

All my life I've looked at words as though I were seeing them for the first time. Ernest Hemingway

All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know. Ernest Hemingway

Forget your personal tragedy. We are all bitched from the start and you especially have to be hurt like hell before you can write seriously. But when you get the damned hurt, use it-don't cheat with it. Ernest Hemingway

It's none of their business that you have to learn how to write. Let them think you were born that way. Ernest Hemingway

My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way. Ernest Hemingway

Never confuse movement with action. Ernest Hemingway

Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words? He thinks I don’t know the ten-dollar words. I know them all right. But there are older and simpler and better words, and those are the ones I use. Ernest Hemingway

The first draft of anything is shit. Ernest Hemingway

The hard part about writing a novel is finishing it. Ernest Hemingway

The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shockproof, shit detector. Ernest Hemingway

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed. Ernest Hemingway

Write drunk; edit sober. Ernest Hemingway

Writing is something that you can never do as well as it can be done. It is a perpetual challenge and it is more difficult than anything else that I have ever done. Ernest Hemingway

It's not enough to create magic. You have to create a price for magic, too. You have to create rules. Eric A. Burns

Character is plot, plot is character. F. Scott Fitzgerald

Have regrets. They are fuel. On the page they flare into desire. Geoff Dyer

Beware of clichés. Not just the ­clichés that Martin Amis is at war with. There are clichés of response as well as expression. There are clichés of observation and of thought – even of conception. Many novels, even quite a few adequately written ones, are ­clichés of form which conform to clichés of expectation. Geoff Dyer

A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: 1. What am I trying to say? 2. What words will express it? 3. What image or idiom will make it clearer? 4. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect? George Orwell

No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else's draft. H. G. Wells

Finish the day's writing when you still want to continue. Helen Dunmore

Reread, rewrite, reread, rewrite. If it still doesn't work, throw it away. It's a nice feeling, and you don't want to be cluttered with the corpses of poems and stories which have everything in them except the life they need.  Helen Dunmore

You have to write a million words before you find your voice as a writer. Henry Miller

You must keep sending work out; you must never let a manuscript do nothing but eat its head off in a drawer. You send that work out again and again, while you're working on another one. If you have talent, you will receive some measure of success - but only if you persist. Isaac Asimov

A story to me means a plot where there is some surprise. Because that is how life is—full of surprises. Isaac Bashevis

You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club. Jack London

I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotion. James A. Michener

I loved and still love watching words flower into sentences and sentences blossom into stories. Jacqueline Woodson

Talent is helpful in writing, but guts are absolutely essential. Jessamyn West

[Writing] is edit, edit, edit. It's almost like getting a boat ready to go to sea. You've still got a countless number of things left to fix, but you've just got to go, "O.K., everybody get on the boat. We're going, ready or not." Jimmy Buffett

There's always room for a story that can transport people to another place. J. K. Rowling

Grammar is a piano I play by ear. All I know about grammar is its power. Joan Didion

Interesting verbs are seldom very interesting. Jonathan Franzen

A writer is a writer not because she writes well and easily, because she has amazing talent, because everything she does is golden. In my view, a writer is a writer because even when there is no hope, even when nothing you do shows any sign of promise, you keep writing anyway. Junot Diaz

Writing fiction is the act of weaving a series of lies to arrive at a greater truth. Khalid Hosseini

newWhat I enjoy most are those times when I get an idea and it just flows — the words coming so fast that I’m scribbling to keep up with my characters. I don’t have any writing must-haves; this is a good thing, since I’ve done a lot of my writing in random places like the playground or the subway.  Leah Cypess

Writing is 1 percent inspiration, and 99 percent elimination. Louise Brooks

You have to write whichever book it is that wants to be written. And then, if it's going to be too difficult for grown-ups, you write it for children. Madeleine L'Engle

As to the adjective: when in doubt, strike it out. Mark Twain

You need not expect to get your book right the first time. Go to work and revamp or rewrite it. God only exhibits his thunder and lightning at intervals, and so they always command attention. These are God's adjectives. You thunder and lightning too much; the reader ceases to get under the bed, by and by. Mark Twain

The difference between the right and the nearly right word is the same as that between lightning and the lightning bug. Mark Twain

The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one. Mark Twain

To get the right word in the right place is a rare achievement. To condense the diffused light of a page of thought into the luminous flash of a single sentence, is worthy to rank as a prize composition just by itself...Anybody can have ideas--the difficulty is to express them without squandering a quire of paper on an idea that ought to be reduced to one glittering paragraph. Mark Twain

I notice that you use plain, simple language, short words and brief sentences. That is the way to write English - it is the modern way and the best way. Stick to it; don't let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in. When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don't mean utterly, but kill most of them - then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are wide apart. An adjective habit, or a wordy, diffuse, flowery habit, once fastened upon a person, is as hard to get rid of as any other vice. Mark Twain

A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song. Maya Angelou

Sometimes I think creativity is magic; it's not a matter of finding an idea, but allowing the idea to find you. Maya Lin

Punctuation is a fabulous tool for controlling your reader - you even get to control where they breathe. That's what I call power! Nicola Morgan

The metaphor is probably the most fertile power possessed by men. Ortega Y Gassett

I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again. Oscar Wilde

Set a goal. Make it concrete. Make it measurable. Make your dreams your reality. P. J. Hoover

Write a novel if you must, but think of money as an unlikely accident. Pearl S. Buck

As Jane Austen might have put it: It is a truth universally acknowledged that young protagonists in search of adventure must ditch their parents. Philip Pullman

Good writing is a kind of skating which carries off the performer where he would not go. Ralph Waldo Emerson

You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you. Ray Bradbury

My characters talk to one another, and when it reaches a certain pitch of excitement I jump out of bed and run and trap them before they are gone. Ray Bradbury

You have to know how to accept rejection and reject acceptance. Ray Bradbury

You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you. Ray Bradbury

Detail makes the difference between boring and terrific writing. It’s the difference between a pencil sketch and a lush oil painting. As a writer, words are your paint. Use all the colors. Rhys Alexander

A good many young writers make the mistake of enclosing a stamped, self-addressed envelope, big enough for the manuscript to come back in. This is too much of a temptation to the editor. Ring Lardner

The difficulty of literature is not to write, but to write what you mean. Robert Louis Stevenson

The most influential books, and the truest in their influence, are works of fiction. They repeat, they re-arrange, they clarify the lessons of life; they disengage us from ourselves, they constrain us to the acquaintance of others; and they show us the web of experience, but with a singular change--that monstrous, consuming ego of ours being, nonce, struck out. Robert Louis Stevenson

It is with words as with sunbeams -- the more they are condensed, the deeper they burn. Robert Southey

Read over your compositions, and wherever you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out. Samuel Johnson

There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are. Somerset Maugham

Any word you have to hunt for in a thesaurus is the wrong word. There are no exceptions to this rule. Stephen King


Writing is magic, as much the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink. Drink and be filled up. Steven King

I type in one place, but I write all over the house. Toni Morrison

If you like to tell stories and compose sentences, and if you work hard at being good at these things, then you are a writer even if you haven’t published anything.  Trenton Lee Stewart

It takes a lot of bad writing to get to a little good writing. Truman Capote

It had never occurred to me before that music and thinking are so much alike. In fact you could say music is another way of thinking, or maybe thinking is another kind of music. Ursula K. LeGuin


Writers, like teeth, are divided into incisors and grinders. Walter Bagehot

The good writing of any age has always been the product of someone's neurosis, and we'd have a mighty dull literature if all the writers that came along were a bunch of happy chuckleheads. William Styron

Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart. William Wordsworth

Don’t try to guess what sort of thing editors want to publish or what you think the country is in a mood to read. Editors and readers don’t know what they want to read until they read it. Besides, they’re always looking for something new. William Zinsser

4 comments:

  1. A wonderful collection of knowledge!

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  2. I love "write drunk, edit sober." I've never heard that one before, but I'll bet it works like a charm.

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  3. I'm a first-time children's book publisher. I hadn't planned to write a children's book, but the story was in my head and finally needed to come out. It was great fun and maybe someday I'll write another one.

    max

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  4. I would like to win Delirium. Actually would like to win them all lol. Tore923@aol.com

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