Sunday, October 25, 2015

Writing a Bad Novel Is Better Than Writing No Novel

A bad novel is better than an unwritten novel, because a bad novel can be improved; an unwritten novel is defeat without a battle.

Paul Johnson

Great Writers Produce a Body of Work

Young writers write two or three books that are not only brilliant, and mature, and then they are done for. But that is not what enriches the literature of a country. For that you must have writers who can produce not just two or three books, but a great body of work. Of course it will be uneven, because so many fortunate circumstances must go together to produce a masterpiece, but a masterpiece is more likely to come as the culminating point of a laborious career then as the lucky fluke of untaught genius.

W. Sommerset Maugham 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Becoming Versus Staying a Writer

Anyone can become a writer. The trick is not in becoming a writer, it is staying a writer. Day after week after month after year. Staying in there for the long haul.

Harlan Ellison

The Dissertation Genre

P.h.d. students famously despair that the academic dissertation, as a literary genre, is inherently boring to the point of unreadable, while joking that the difficulty of writing one is enough to drive a person insane.

James Camp

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Norman Mailer On Reading Reviews

I'd never dream of not reading reviews. It's like not looking at a naked woman if she happens to be standing in front of her open window.

Norman Mailer

Monday, October 19, 2015

Writers Hear Voices in Their Heads

Many people hear voices when no one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stare at the walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing.

Meg Chittenden

Friday, October 16, 2015

Raymond Chandler on Writers as a Class

Writers as a class I have found to be oversensitive and spiritually under-nourished.

Raymond Chandler

Who Do Writers Write For?

I made the decision very early on in my career to put everyone out of my mind when I write. Relatives, editors, Hollywood, critics. I have no reader in mind. I think it's death to a writer to consider how anyone will view their work. One writes for oneself in much the same way one daydreams for oneself.

Anita Shreve

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Importance of Setting in a Novel

Setting is as important as character. Go to the bookstore, open up a bunch of books and read the first line. You'll find that the majority of opening sentences have something to do with setting and evoking an emotion with the reader.

Bob Mayer 

The Interpretation of a Novelist's Intentions

The idea that readers could know an author's intentions better than she does herself is, of course, deeply destabilizing to our usual ways of thinking about literature. If a text can mean anything the reader wants it to mean, then why read it in the first place? Isn't literature supposed to help us achieve contact with other minds, rather than trapping us in a hall of mirrors, in which we can see only our own distorted reflections? Surely there must be limits to a text's interpretability.

Adam Kirsch 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

War Novels

The literature of war is by its very nature political. If a writer's sentences are personal--what else, really can they be?--and a writer has trained his lens on a bloody battleground, in reading him we will come to know where he stands, where his passions lie. When it comes to fiction, this passion can often result in rhetoric-spouting characters whose sole purpose is to serve the author's ideas.

Dani Shapiro 

Monday, October 12, 2015

A Writer's LIfe

A writer's like is hard. Everybody says so, and everybody is right.

Stephen Koch

The Master of Fine Arts Professor

Most writers who teach in academia aren't really academics. The majority of people who teach in MFA programs, I think, tend to be working writers who just need the gig.

James Hynes 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Isaac Asimov's Relationship to The Characters in His Novels

My stories write themselves, and the characters do and say whatever they please without reference to me at all. I am not responsible for them, and their views are not necessarily mine.

Isaac Asimov  

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Is Book Reviewing a Public Service or an Art Form?

There is an art to book reviewing. Or a craft, I should say--because if the reviewer tries to be artistic, if he once abandons the secondary zone of creation, he's sunk. The point of the review, after all, is not him: It's the book. The book that somebody else wrote. So good reviewing demands a certain transparency of language, and an absence of prancing and posturing.

James Parker 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

How Do You Feel After Finishing a Really Good Book?

I get slightly angry when I finish any good book--I'm miffed that I'm not reading it anymore, and that I'll never be able to read it again for the first time.

Daniel Handler

The Novel as an Evolving Genre

A remarkable thing about the novel is that it can incorporate almost anything--essays, short stories, mock memoirs, screenplays, emails--and remain a novel. The elasticity is also a sign that unlike, say, the epic or the ode, the novel is a living, evolving form. But if its outer limits are virtually nonexistent, the minimum requirement is generally that there be a narrative telling us something. In this way, any manner of book can find a way to justify calling itself a novel. But the label should not be worn lightly, since it invites scrutiny of the highest and most exacting kind.

Thad Ziolkowski

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

How Should a Writer Respond to a Critic Who Gave Him a Bad Review?

A writer should not respond to his or her critics. A writer should rise above, in radiant aloofness. Sometimes that's not possible, of course. I was drinking with a friend in London when he spotted, on the other side of the bar, a man who days before had reviewed him cruelly in a national newspaper. My friend grew  agitated. "I'll punch in in the face!" he said. "No, wait. I'll buy him a drink!" He paused. "What shall I do?" He had no idea and neither did I. Aggression, under the circumstances, seemed quite as promising/futile as magnanimity. I don't even remember what he did in the end. The point is: you can't win.

James Parker 

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Price of Fame

A writer dreams of the goddess Fame and winds up with the bitch Publicity.

Peter De Vries 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Former TV Talk Show Host Dick Cavett Remembers His Favorite Author Guests

Anthony Burgess recounted how, diagnosed with a deadly brain tumor, he rapidly dashed off four novels in succession to support his family. Upon learning he'd been misdiagnosed, he claimed he was "vaguely disappointed. All that hard work for nothing." John Cheever on drinking while writing: "I can detect a sip of sherry in a paragraph." Vidal Gore on Truman Capote's death: "A brilliant career move."

Dick Cavett 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Choosing Your Novel's Setting

When you choose setting, you had better choose it wisely and well, because the very choice defines--and circumscribes--your story's possibilities.

Jack M. Bickham

John Cheever On Writing For Hollywood

I went to Hollywood to make money. It's very simple. The people are friendly and the food is good, but I've never been happy there. Perhaps because I only went there to pick up a check.

John Cheever

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Raymond Chandler On Working in Hollywood

I simply don't want to do any more work for Hollywood. There is nothing in it but grief and exhaustion and discontent. In no real sense is it writing at all. It carries with it none of the satisfactions of writing. None of the sense of power over your medium. None of the freedom, even to fail.

Raymond Chandler

Ernest Hemingway on Writing During the Summer

Summer is a discouraging time to work--you don't feel death coming on as the way it does in the fall when the boys really put pen to paper.

Ernest Hemingway