Friday, September 2, 2016

A Memoir Doesn't Have To Be a Book-Length Confession

Some readers of memoir are looking for secrets, for complete transparency on the part of the author, as if the point is confession, and the process of reading a memoir, a voyeuristic one. The idea of transparency troubles me, and is, I think, at the root of the serial memoirist's plight. My goal when I sit down to write out of my own circumstances is not to make myself transparent. In fact, I am building an edifice. Stone by stone, I am constructing a story.

Dani Shapiro 

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

"Ulysses": The Great Novel No One Can Finish

It's OK to admit it: You tried to read James Joyce's "Ulysses" and ended up chucking the thing aside in frustration. You are not alone. According to her letters, Virginia Woolf had a long stall after 200 pages. Several well-known authors in the Book Review's By the Book interview feature admit to leaving the novel unfinished. "Ulysses" even notched the No. 3 spot in the Top Five Abandoned Classics poll published by the Goodreads site a few years ago.

J. D. Biersdorfer 

Friday, August 26, 2016

Sequels To Novels

Some sequels seem fitting or inevitable while others, usually ones written by somebody besides the original and dead author, feel more like grave robberies. But the impulse toward exhumation can be hard to resist.

Thomas Mallon

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Grand Tour Novel

Novelists send their characters abroad for the same reason we send ourselves: for a change of pace, to get out of a rut, to shake off the rust. Henry James built a whole career on exploring the theme of Americans traveling abroad and being transformed by the experience.

Charles McGrath 

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Google Versus Library Research

When you're writing a book based on archival research and you have two children who come home from school at three, no matter how much you love libraries, you become grateful for Google. For three years, I sat down most mornings at my dining room table in my slippers and read newspapers in the 1870s. No need to travel to distant archives, or spend fruitless hours turning the wrong pages. I could open a browser, punch in a range of dates and a few search terms, and within seconds have a presorted queue of articles, every one of which was relevant.

Janice P. Nimura 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Tolerating Bad Behavior In The Name Of Art

The belief that artists are entitled to be morally careless--that great art excuses everything--has proved to be one of the more tenacious parts of our Romantic inheritance. In Hollywood movies about artists, the characters who challenge the hero's license to be inconsiderate--the landlady who hassles van Gogh about the appalling state of his garret, the neighbor who yells at Beethoven to keep the noise down, the sulky wife who insists that Johnny Cash stop canoodling with June Carter--are invariably presented as dreary philistines who must be ignored or defeated if truth and beauty are to triumph.

Zoe Heller 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Writing The Novelization Versus The Screenplay

A novelization is much harder to write than a screenplay. When a couple of screenwriters take a best-selling novel and write a screenplay from it and it wins a couple Academy Awards, everybody says thats great writing. But when you take a screenplay and turn it into a novel, it's a much more difficult task because there's much more writing involved and much more character development and scene development. Some people say it's hack work. I say the writing stands on its own.

Dean Foster 

Friday, August 12, 2016

Writer Immortality

I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying.

Woody Allen 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Writers' Envy

Writers are known to suffer a few categories of envy. There is envy of money, of accolades, of publication in this or that place. There is envy of profligacy and of well-managed scarcity. There is envy of accomplishment and of potential. There is envy of great writing and envy of those who despite not being great seem immune to self-doubt. And all of these envies are simply a feeling that is shorthand for one thought: "He doesn't deserve that….but I might."

Sarah Manguso 

Monday, August 8, 2016

Novels Are Written Word By Word

I kind of build a novel the way marine polyps build a coral reef; it's millions and millions of little precarious bodies stacked on one another.

Dean Koontz 

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Humor In Literary Fiction

Make the reader laugh, and he will think you a trivial fellow. But bore him the right way and your reputation is assured. 

Somerset Maugham 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Are Book Reviews About The Book Or The Reviewer?

Literary criticism shouldn't be about performing intellectual acrobatics to prove yourself, and that's how I'd describe a lot of the reviews I wrote.

Alice Gregory 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Avoiding Scholarly Books Because The Writing Is So Bad

Honestly: scholars bore me. I don't have the spine to withstand colorless writing for very long, and furthermore I suspect that colorless writing is indicative of colorless thought.

Luc Sante

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Books Versus The Internet

E-book sales have plateaued. Bookstores have staged a modest resurgence. Turning off your phone has become a prized luxury. Over these last few years all of us, readers and writers alike, have developed a growing appreciation for what the Internet wants to take away: our time alone with the written word.

Lorin Stein 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Booze: The Enemy Of Creativity

Lewis Hyde's essay "Alcohol and Poetry: John Berryman and the Booze Talking" is a fascinating artifact of anger. It's an attack on the poems in "The Dream Songs" waged in Berryman's own name. Hyde protests the idea of Berryman's alcoholism as something that fueled or abetted his creative process--resisting the mythos of the Drunk Poet and presenting booze as a creative enemy.

Leslie Jamison 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Why Many Writers Are Less Impressive In Person Than Their Books

A book, Proust wrote, "is the product of a different self from the self we manifest in our habits, in our social life, in our vices." This may explain why authors are often a disappointment in the flesh, particularly when you have admired their wisdom on the page. The common-place vices of an other-directed existence--vanity, envy, insecurity--seem to be magnified many times among these denizens of solitude.

Pankaj Mishra 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Learning To Write Well

To learn to write and write decently is simply a much longer and harder thing than is generally admitted.

James Gould Cozzens 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Praise For Stephen King

To say Stephen King is the Edgar Allan Poe of our generation is to diminish him. He's had a longer and more nuanced career. He'll be read a hundred years from now.

Jonathan Kellerman 

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Writing About Old Memories

Old memories are very easy to get, except that once you write about something, you've destroyed it. You no longer have the memory. You only have the memory of what you've written.

Anne Dillard

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Novella Genre

Katherine Anne Porter argued (or at least asserted) that "novella" is "a slack, boneless, affected word that we do not need to describe anything"; her stern yet vague taxonomy recognized only "short stories, long stories, short novels, novels."

David Gates

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Plagiarism

I have sympathy for plagiarists to some extent--because it's really hard to know what you've invented and what is someone else's invention that you've absorbed.

Helen Oyeyemi

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Literature's Limited Influence On Life

Life is larger than books. Any bully has more character-building effects on you than the most moving of books.

Alvaro Enrique 

Monday, July 18, 2016

Coming Up With a Title For Your Novel

I make a list of titles after I've finished the book--sometimes as many as a hundred. Then I start eliminating them, sometimes all of them.

Ernest Hemingway 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Unreal Protagonists

Heroes are always too heroic to be real. Or wholly sympathetic. James Bond is nicely flawed. Sadistic. Sexist. Bitter. I like that. I hate Sherlock Holmes in all his incarnations.

Philip Kerr 

Friday, July 15, 2016

Novels Would Benefit From Less psychobabble And More Action

Literature has become too psychological. We discount the physical, when in fact much of life is physical. People's personalities are partly formed by, or in response to, how they take up space.

Karan Mahajan

Thursday, July 14, 2016

How Do Most Novelists Survive?

When people ask me what I do for a living, I try to change the subject. If they persist, I tell them I teach writing, judge writing contests, edit manuscripts, and give lectures and readings. These are not lies; I do all these things. They are, in fact, what I do for a living--that is, to pay the rent and health insurance. What I do for a life is write, and that's the part that's hard to explain.

Rebecca McClanahan 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Even Good Novels Have Weak Endings

The pithiest book about writing is E. M. Forster's Aspect of the Novel, in which he chose to reveal some of the trade's darkest secrets. "Nearly all novels are feeble at the end," he observed. "This is because the plot requires to be wound up, and usually the characters go dead." My own interpretation is that all novels are hobbled at their end by a fundamental problem of verisimilitude: Life goes on, but a novel does not.

Scott Turow 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Problem With Young Adult Fiction

Young adult fiction is filled with despair, mental illness and violence. I don't believe that young adults should be shielded from these elements of existence, but why don't we create a more balanced picture? It is as if moral courage, kindness and joy do not really exist, or worse, that they are not really interesting, not the real stuff of life.

Adele Baruch

Saturday, July 9, 2016

A Novel Should Be More Than Just A Collection Of Literary Sentences

I don't read a Don DeLillo novel for its plot, character, or setting…I read a DeLillo novel for its sentences. [Give me a break. Who wants to read a book-length collection of literary pretentious sentences?]

Joshua Ferris

Friday, July 8, 2016

The Importance Of A Novel's Setting

In a novel, the convergence of a single figure or group of figures in a bare unpopulated landscape foreshadows a grim outcome.

Mary McCarthy

Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Manuscript Rejection Response

When you get used to being disappointed, the recovery time gets shorter, the time you need before you get back to work gets shorter and shorter.

Colson Whitehead

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

College Writing Students

I think that out of seven years of teaching [at the University of Pennsylvania] I found maybe two students who had their own voice, in my judgment. There were lots who were competent but only two who were startling.

Paula Fox 

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Writing Skills Common To Journalists and Novelists

It's easy to recognize the tools in the journalist's kit that also work in a novelist's hands: an economic but energetic prose style; solid intuition about the motives of the characters; an appreciation for detail; a good sense of how individuals connect in society.

Scott Turow  

Monday, July 4, 2016

Novels Without Humor

It's the hardest thing, writing humor into a book. But it's also essential. I just don't feel like I've got a book unless there's something funny in it.

Louise Erdrich 

Sunday, July 3, 2016

The Aging Writer

There are several compensations for growing older as a writer, as you get to know yourself better, in your writing inclinations and so on. One gets more cunning, improves one's technique slightly as one gets older.

Kingsley Amis 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Not All Novelists Start a Book With a Plot in Mind

I don't plot. I don't sit down and plot a book. It sort of unreels as I write.

Nora Roberts 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Truman Capote On Sudden Fame

Most people who become suddenly famous overnight will find that they lose practically eighty percent of their friends. Your old friends just can't stand it for some reason.

Truman Capote

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Economics Of The Writing Profession

Being a writer is a little bit like being a shepherd: it's quaint, people envy the solitude, but everyone knows the real money in in synthetic fibers.

Rob Long  

Saturday, June 25, 2016

One Novelist's Opinion Of Book Reviewers

I have a friend who says that reviewers are the tickbirds of the literary rhinoceros--but he is being kind. Tickbirds perform a valuable  service to the rhino and the rhino hardly notices the birds.

John Irving 

Friday, June 24, 2016

Writers Like to Cry Over Their Beers About How Stressful It Is To Create

The attitude that writers are a special class, that really alienates me. They talk about stress and how awful it is to be a writer--you hear that talk a lot in Hollywood. I had to catch a flight out of L.A. at eleven the night before last, so I walk around a little bit goofy for a couple of days because I'm sleepy, but that is nothing like unloading trucks for 20 years.

Pete Dexter

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Novelists, Don't Misuse Dialogue

Dialogue presents a terrible temptation. It offers the writer a convenient platform from which to set forth his pet theories and ideas.

John Hersey 

Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Advantage Of Writing Your Novel In The First Person

Just write your novel in the first person, and you won't be tempted to let the viewpoint wander. If your hero or heroine is "I" instead of "he" or "she," you'll never find yourself slipping into any other viewpoint accidentally, just because it makes the plot work out more easily. You're locked into one character for good or ill.

Donald Hamilton 

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Finding The Talent To Write

I've been increasingly drawn to the belief that talent is much as I believe intuition to be, something accessible to everyone who takes the trouble to gain access to it.

Lawrence Block 

Friday, June 17, 2016

Is Everyone in Los Angeles a Screenwriter?

The screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker once said that no one in Los Angeles is ever more than fifty feet from a screenplay. They're stowed in the trunks of cars. In desk drawers at work. In laptop computers. Always ready to be pitched. A winning lottery ticket for its jackpot. An un-cashed paycheck.

Chuck Palachniuk 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Professional Versus Vocational Novelists

There's a difference between a vocation and a profession. A vocation is a calling--something you are called to do. A profession is something that you practice. In the United States, I think about 10 percent of the novelists writing actually make a living out of their novel writing. [It's more like 1 percent.] The others have the vocation, but they can only partly have the profession, because they have to spend the rest of their time making money in order to keep themselves in their habit. They are word junkies. They've got to pay for their fix. I chose university teaching because there is a long summer vacation, and also because you could fake it.

Margaret Atwood 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Novelist Joseph Heller's Work Habits

I work almost constantly. For a novelist without hobbies, weekends don't make much difference. Most people don't enjoy weekends anyway; they don't know what to do with Sundays.

Joseph Heller 

Monday, June 13, 2016

Creative People

Those of us who aspire to art--writers, painters, sculptors, designers--like to think of ourselves as creative individuals. The truth is, we are creative only because we create.

Rebecca McClanahan 

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Selecting a Narrator For Your Story

Perhaps the single most important decision a writer makes when he begins a story is who the narrator is and where he's going to stand. The decision casts itself in the first sentence and is more complex than it seems on first sight. In making it, the writer answers a surprising number of questions, and those answers lay down the ground rules for the story he is writing. They will forecast the shape his story is going to take, and they will inform his style.

Kit Reed 

Saturday, June 11, 2016

The Talent To Right: A Gift Or Disease?

Personally, I think the talent to write is a disease, and the fact it produces books that people buy doesn't make it any more healthy.

James M. Cain 

Friday, June 10, 2016

Stamping Out The Desire To Write

Elementary, middle school, and high school teachers seem to play a big role in making it harder for people to write. Yet they can't quite stamp out the desire.

Peter Elbow 

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Sylvia Plath's Despair

Sometimes I feel so stupid and dull and uncreative that I am amazed when people tell me differently.

Sylvia Plath 

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The Creative Process

Many writers are reluctant to talk about the creative process--that is, how and where they get their talent, ideas, and inspiration to write. Many deny that talent is an inborn phenomenon, while others ridicule the notion that writers have to be inspired to create. Perhaps creativity is less a mystery than lack of creativity is. When a reader tells a writer that he can't image how one can produce a book, some writers may wonder how one cannot.

Jim Fisher 

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Writer's Catch-22

I didn't want to write what people would pay me to write, and no one wanted to pay me for what I wanted to write.

Sophy Burnham 

Monday, June 6, 2016

Intelligence and Taste In The Movie Making Business

In the picture business intelligence and taste are to be found only among the office help.

Joseph Hansen 

Sunday, June 5, 2016

For Most Book Writers, Success, If It Ever Comes, Comes Slowly

You write one book and you're ready for fame and fortune. I don't know that people are spending the time and attention on learning how to write--which takes years. Everybody sees the success stories.

Sue Grafton 

Saturday, June 4, 2016

The Will To Write

The consensus seems to be that drive is surprisingly more important than talent in producing creative work.

Dr. Alice W. Flaherty 

Friday, June 3, 2016

Why Do Writers Write?

It is easy to lose sight of the fact that writers do not write to impart knowledge to others; rather, they write to inform themselves.

Judith Guest 

Thursday, June 2, 2016

William Faulkner on Inspiration to Write

I don't know anything about inspiration, because I don't know what inspiration is--I've heard about it, but I never saw it.

William Faulkner 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

How To Get The Reader's Attention

Show me a villain and I'll show you conflict. Show me conflict and I'll show you a struggle. Show me a struggle, and I'll show you drama. Show me drama, and I'll show you readers paying attention.

William Noble 

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Writers, Before They Were Authors, Were Avid Readers

What I want to do is reproduce the primacy of the reading art that was so precious to me  when I was younger, when I was discovering my own excitement about books.

Jonathan Lethem 

Monday, May 30, 2016

How To Deal With Writer's Block

Regardless of the issues a wrier struggles with--creative blocks, procrastination, fear of failure, etc.--the very act of writing tends to stoke the energy, continue the flow, direct the current of further writing. Writing begets writing.

Dennis Palumbo 

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Avoid Award Winning Novels

Literary prize committees have always been unreliable judges of quality and any reader silly enough to buy a book for the stamp on the cover deserves a ghastly read.

B. R. Myers 

Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Celebrity Journalist

Journalists are now celebrities. Part of this has been caused by the ability and willingness of journalists to promote themselves. Part of this has been caused by television: the television reporter is often more famous than anyone he interviews.

Nora Ephron 

Friday, May 27, 2016

Fame Is Fleeting

When you're a famous person and cease to be active--particularly in journalism and politics--when you're no longer a mover or a shaker, the world quickly forgets or is too busy for you.

Richard Steel 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Second Novel Anxiety Syndrome

Some writers find their first novel, written on the sly during coffee breaks at their day job, easier than their second, with the success of the first has allowed them to become full-time professional writers, with all the attendant anxieties.

Dr. Alice W. Flaherty 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Finding Time To Write

Making writing a big deal tends to make writing difficult. Keeping writing casual tends to keep it possible. Nowhere is this more true than around the issue of time. One of the biggest myths about writing is that in order to do it we must have great swathes of uninterrupted time.

Julia Cameron 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Writing a Book Is a Long, Lonely Journey

To write, you must concentrate, concentrate long and hard, and being alone is the price of that concentration. It takes years of self-imposed quarantine to write even a bad novel.

Tobias Wolfe 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Drinking And Writing

In 1978, I got sober. I discovered I associated writing and drinking a little bit like scotch and soda: They went together. I needed to find a method of writing that was more grounded.

Julia Cameron 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Fiction Drawn From Reality

Almost anything drawn from "real life"--house, town, park, landscape--will certainly be found to require some distortion for the purpose of plot. Wholly invented scenes are as unsatisfactory (thin) as wholly invented physiques or characters.

Elizabeth Bowen 

Saturday, May 21, 2016

There Is No Secret Formula For How To Write For Publication

If writing could be reduced to a formula or algorithm, everyone would do it.

Jonathan Franzen 

Friday, May 20, 2016

Creative Writing Students All Write The Same Stories

It's often said of aspiring young writers in creative writing courses that they write the same six stories. Old man dies; old woman dies; why I hate my mother; why I hate my father; how I lost my virginity; how I tried to and failed. That's it.

George V. Higgins 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The MFA 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 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Writers On Characters and Characterization

When discussing characters and characterization, principally in the context of fiction, writers speak of round versus flat characters, changing versus static characters, dull versus interesting characters, and characters drawn from real life versus characters entirely imagined. Writers who have developed the skill to create compelling characters have also mastered the crafts of dialogue and description. It seems that the relative focus on characterization, vis-a-vis plot, is one of the elements that distinguishes genre from serious fiction.

Jim Fisher 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Becoming More Than a One-Book Author

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 

Monday, May 16, 2016

Turning Family Life Into Fiction

A would-be writer is supposed to have either a rich inner life or a rich outer one. I had neither. Still, I had to get material from someplace, and so I stole it, piecemeal, from my family.

Elizabeth McCracken 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Even Famous Novelists Are Kind Of Anonymous

Whatever fame a novelist may attain, it's always kind of an anonymous one. I can go anywhere, and no one knows who I am.

Jonathan Kellerman 

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Friday, May 13, 2016

Some Novelists, Before They Start a New Book, Know How It Will End

I almost know how a book is going to end before I start. In most cases, I have a good last paragraph before I start on page one.

William Boyd 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Are Writers Suicidal?

Many people ask why a writer commits suicide. But I think that people who ask don't know the vanity and the nothingness of writing. I think it is very usual and natural for a writer to commit suicide, because in order to keep on writing he must be a very strong person.

Abe Kobo 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Why Writers Drink

I often wonder if all the writers who are alcoholics drink a lot because they aren't writing or having trouble writing. It is not because they are writers that they are drinking, but because they are writers who are not writing.

Natalie Goldberg 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Writing A Novel Can Be A Thankless Job

Writing novels is something you have to believe in to keep going. It's a fairly thankless job when no one is paying you to do it. And you don't really know if it's ever going to get into the bookshops.

J. K. Rowling 

Monday, May 9, 2016

In Writing, You Don't Have To Get It Right The First Time

The beautiful part about writing is that you don't have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon. You can always do better, find the exact word, the apt phrase, the leaping simile.

Robert Cormier 

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Achieving Literary Fame

My idea of fame is to get the books out to the pubic so they can read them.

T. C. Boyle 

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Writing As A Reason To Live

Writing is the only thing that makes me feel I'm not wasting my time sticking around.

Ernest Hemingway 

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Basing Fictitious Characters On Real People

In practice I prefer to draw a character from someone I hardly know.

Norman Mailer

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Note To Writers: Inspiration Alone Is Not Enough

Many undergrads hang on tenaciously to the conviction that literature is produced spontaneously through inspiration alone.

Martin Russ

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Daunting Prospect Of Writing a Novel

In case no one's noticed, a novel is long. The prospect of writing four hundred pages about something yet undiscovered is daunting at best. The first page is as far as many writers get, frozen as they are into a solid block of ice.

Sheldon Russell 

Monday, May 2, 2016

One Disadvantage of Writing in First Person

If a story centers on the narrator's ability to survive life-threatening dangers, some suspense will be lost in the first person because the character will have to survive to finish the story!

Sol Stein 

Sunday, May 1, 2016

In Fiction, Good Dialogue Is Action

Dialogue, when properly handled, is one of the most entertaining divisions of action. The man who speaks even one truly significant word is as much in action as the man who throws the villain over the cliff from the thundering express train.

Elwood Maren 

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Revising What You Write

Revision tests our ability to be honest with ourselves about our strengths and our weaknesses. Who enjoys that sort of honesty, really?

Jan Burke 

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Overpowering Desire To Write

Neurologists have found that changes in a specific area of the brain can produce hypergraphia--the medical term for an overpowering desire to write.

Dr. Alice W. Flaherty 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Effect of Literary Prizes on Writers' Egos

Any author who gets a swelled head because he has been given a prize or a plaque is a foolish man.

John O'Hara 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Are Writers, As a Group, Unlikeable People?

Writers are a bad lot on the whole--petty, nasty, bilious, suffused with envy and riddled with fear.

Roger Rosenblatt 

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Blessings Of Not Being Able To Write

For a person to discover that she or he does not have a calling to write can be good news. Consider committing your life in an impossible difficult, underpaid profession that is not right for you.

Stephen Koch

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Friday, April 22, 2016

Creative Writing Courses

One of the oddities of creative writing courses is that there exists no standard theory on how to teach creative writing.

John Gardner

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Writing Requires Talent

Be it modest or magnificent, you've got to have some talent. It may be latent; it may be undeveloped; it may be neglected. But it must be there.

Stephen Koch 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Reading And The Dream of Becoming a Writer

Reading precedes writing. And the impulse to write is almost always fired by reading. Reading, the love of reading, is what makes you dream of becoming a writer.

Susan Sontag 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Stephen King On Talent

If you write something for which someone sent you a check, if you cashed the check and it didn't bounce, and if you paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented.
Stephen King 

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Manic-Depressive Writer

A surprising proportion of writers are manic-depressive.

Dr. Alice W. Flaherty 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Learning To Write

To learn to write and write decently is simply a much longer and harder thing than is generally admitted.

James Gould Cozzens 

Saturday, April 16, 2016

A Writer's Despair

At the age of thirty-four I am weary, tired, dispirited, and worn out. I was a decent-looking boy six years ago--now I am a bald, gross, heavy, weary-looking man. I wanted fame--and I have had for the most part shame and agony.

Thomas Wolfe 

Friday, April 15, 2016

Write What You Know

I have always tried to keep the setting of my novels as far as possible within the confines of my own experience.

Ngio Marsh 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Editing Your Own Writing

I hate editing. I love to write, but I hate to reread my stuff. To revise. And most students do, too. It's a killer.

Barry Hannah 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Mystery of Writer's Block

Sometimes writer's block will pass by itself, mysteriously slouching off as silently as it came, and you'll never know why it appeared, or why it slogged away.

Sophy Burnham 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

How One Writer Launches His Novels

I try to get the right people assembled, give them right-sounding names, and then I'm off and running.

Elmore Leonard 

Sunday, April 10, 2016

There's a Big Difference Between Wanting to Write a Book Than Actually Writing It

Large numbers of people apparently want to write, or think they do. They speak as if they are going out to catch a bus or whip up a batch of fudge: "One of these days I'm gonna sit down and write a book," or "I got an uncle Carl, he's real funny; if he'd just come and spend a long weekend then me and him could write a book."

Larry L. King 

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Learning To Write From Other Writers

Most writers like to talk, and one of the things they love to talk about is writing. In interviews and letters, in table talk and memoirs and manifestos, writers have always held forth in surprisingly full detail about how they do what they do. It adds up to a vast, largely untapped literature on technique.

Donald M. Murray 

Friday, April 8, 2016

Real Writers Don't Wait For Inspiration

Only writers in movies wait for inspiration. Real writers work on schedules, different ones for different writers, but always structured. Ask any writer you know.

Ed McBain 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

To Aspiring Novelists: There Is No Such Thing As a New Idea

One of the most common faults I have seen over the years is the attempt by the novice author to seek out an idea "that has never been done before."

Martin P. Levin 

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Facing the Blank Page

Many times, I just sit for three  hours with no ideas coming to me. But I know one thing; if an idea does come between nine and twelve, I am there ready for it.

Flannery O'Connor

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Writers On The Sets of Movies Based on Their Books

Producers of films tend to involve writers of books in the moviemaking process as little as possible, for the sensible reason that it's hard enough to make a film without having an interested amateur meddling in the process.

Tony Hillerman 

Monday, April 4, 2016

Getting Hit With The Talent Stick

I think God hits some people with the talent stick harder than He hits others. And it kills a lot of people. It's like dynamite: they blow up.

Stephen King 

Sunday, April 3, 2016

A Writer Must Be Persistent

The one talent that is indispensable to a writer is persistence. You must write the book, else there is no book. It will not finish itself.

Tom Clancy

Friday, April 1, 2016

Writers Have to Live With Rejection

When you get used to being disappointed, the recovery time gets shorter, the time you need before you get back to work gets shorter and shorter.

Colson Whitehead 

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Romanticizing Novelists Who Die Young

Athletes and dancers accept that their carers will be short. But--rightly or wrongly--we think of writing as a spiritual exercise, a project coextensive with the writer's life. When such a project is cut off early, it will always feel incomplete, a glorious cathedral nonetheless missing a spire. The idea, like the image, is itself highly romantic. But it might help explain what is so poignant about a dead young writer.

Benjamin Moser 

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Are Writers Snobs?

There seems to be a lot of snobbery with people who write, even those who write well. What I consider special is a good plumber or auto mechanic.

Charles Bukowski

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Graphic Novel: Mainly Visual Art Or Literature?

"Graphic Novel" is a perfectly serviceable phrase, but it expresses an unmistakable and unfortunate bias, emphasizing the literary identify of a given book at the expense of its visual essence.

A. O. Scott 

Monday, March 28, 2016

Writers Who Die Young

When we mourn the early death of a writer who was just beginning to find his or her true voice, we're also mourning, by implication, every work that author never finished, or never started.

Dana Stevens

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Got An Idea For a Book Or Article?

Ask a professional writer about ideas. In all likelihood, he'll ask, "Which ideas?" because he's got a million of them, and his biggest problem is choosing one.

Richard Curtis

Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Inspiration to Write

A lot of young writers wait for inspiration. The inspiration only hits you at the desk.

Robert Anderson

Friday, March 25, 2016

Are We All Creative?

Creativity is as natural to human beings as having blood and bone.

Julia Cameron

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Biographies Of History's Supporting Figures

One of the great challenges of setting down the history of marginalized people is how to amass enough information to produce a clear picture of subjects who didn't write letters themselves or only appeared in the letters of others, who didn't enter the public realm through the legal system or gain notoriety in other ways.

Annette Gordon-Reed

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Difficulty of Analyzing Books in The Humor Genre

No one ever questions the value of analyzing tragedy, but skepticism about breaking down comedy is a strangely enduring prejudice. Blame E. B. White. "Humor can be dissected, as a fog can,"he memorably groused, "but the thing dies in the process and the innards are discouraging to any but the purely scientific mind."

Jason Zinoman 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Biographies of Artists

What is the point of reading biographies of artists? Critics have frequently come down hard on them. They contend that the details of a life are helpless to explain the majesty of art. What matters are not the despairing childhoods and difficult relationships, the questions of whether a particular artist was altruistic or plainly cruel--but the object that emerged in the end, an object unburdened by life, succeeding or failing on the basis of its appeal to the eye.

Deborah Solomon 

Monday, March 21, 2016

Commercial Versus Literary Fiction

I'm sure someone's already invented the app that turns commercial prose into literary prose. Because at one level, it's simply a lexical matter. Sentences that include the word "skein" or "susurration," or use in any form of the disgusting verb "to limn"--they're literary. A line like " 'Be quiet, Paul' snapped Louise," on the other hand--that's commercial…Good language is about nailing the details, pinning down reality. Sometimes literary language gets this done--more often, it doesn't.

James Parker 

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Do You Enjoy Writing?

I have never been one of those "writing is fun" people. Writing has never been a pleasure for me.

Reynolds Price 

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Writing Well Is Not Easy For Anyone

Writing is hard for everybody, and I mistrust writers who find it easy. And it's still hard for me after all these years, but that's probably a good sign that it is.

Roger Angell

Friday, March 18, 2016

Writers Never Die

Writers never die while people still quote them.

Gregory David Roberts

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Real Life Versus Fiction

Life and fiction are different. Life has no obligation to make things seem real, since things in life just are real, whether they're believable or not. In fiction, though, things and events have got to be handled in such a way as, no matter what, to make them seem believable and thus real. Life often doesn't do that work, since it doesn't have to.

Anne Larsen 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Inability To Write Well Is Not a Character Flaw

If you have difficulty with writing, do not conclude that there is something wrong with you. Writing should never be a test of self-esteem. If things are not going as you want, do not see it as proof of a flaw in your subconscious.

Ayn Rand

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Poetry: The Unread Genre

Most poetry won't be read even five years after it's published, let alone 20, and definitely not 100. Most poets won't find their work growing more and more noticed; they will find it growing less and less noticed, until it vanishes entirely from everything but a few water-stained notebooks in a cardboard box in the basement.

David Orr 

Sunday, March 13, 2016

What Makes a Novel "Literary?" What Makes it "Commercial?"

Are we really supposed to rely on that crowd of editors and critics variously empowered to decide that is literary and what is commercial?…Isn't that literary-designating crowd broadly afflicted with pettiness, self-seriousness, social-class blinkers, an unsober love of language and erratic insightfulness? Sure. That great work gets overlooked and superfluous work gets deemed great is a given…Fiction that aims to, and often does, reach a wide audience and make a lot money is, in effect, Commercial Fiction. Fiction that, one argues, has a value that exceeds its commercial appeal would be Literary Fiction.

Rivka Galchen 

Saturday, March 12, 2016

George Orwell On Why He Writes

Why I write, sheer egoism. It is humbug to pretend that this is not a motive, and a strong one. Writers share this characteristic with scientists, artists, politicians, lawyers, soldiers, successful businessmen--in short, with the whole top crust of humanity.

George Orwell 

Friday, March 11, 2016

Literary Sacred Cows

About the only person you can write badly of in literature and not hear about it is the white American Male, which must tell you something.

Charles Bukowski

Thursday, March 10, 2016

One Reason to Write Creatively

I write, as I believe all artists perform their art, to exorcise internal conflicts and supplant reality with something more shapely and gratifying.

Ira Levin

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Urge to Write

The aesthetic gift is a process that begins with conception, often exciting, goes through gestation, usually exhausting, and ends with birth, which is invariably laborious, protracted, and painful.

James M. Cain

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Getting Started as a Novelist

I wanted to write novels, but I thought it was presumptuous to think I could write them and get published, so I thought I'd better get a job. I had a friend in advertising. I went and talked to her. She was running around her office in a T-shirt, she was funny, was making a lot of money, and she said this is easy. So I said, Ok, I can do this while I'm trying to write novels.

James Patterson 

Monday, March 7, 2016

What is the Force Behind Being Creative?

What drives creativity is discomfort and even a degree of hardship. Genius doesn't require paradise.

Eric Weiner

Sunday, March 6, 2016

A Reason to Write

The reason I write is to explain my life to myself. I've also discovered that when I do, I'm explaining other people's lives to them.

Pat Conroy

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Literary Sentences That Don't Add Up To Much

I think sometimes we give people a lot of credit just because they're writing nice sentences even if it isn't adding up to much.

James Patterson

Friday, March 4, 2016

The Style of An Insecure Writer

One of the first signs of insecure writers is the number of phrases they use to say what could be said in just a few words. Instead of "now" or "then," these writers use "at this point in time."

Richard Anderson

Thursday, March 3, 2016

The Professor-Writer

Professors are often shy, timid and even fearful people, and under these circumstances, dull, difficult prose can function as a kind of protective camouflage.

Patricia Nelson Limerick

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Creating a Novel's Tone

The tone of a novel may be described in words like comic, wry, reflective, tongue-in-cheek, bittersweet, or in compounds such as incipient fear, sense of lurking evil and sense of unease.

Lesley Grant-Adamson 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Charles Bukowski On The Advantage Of Drinking Alone

I have been crawling through one of those depressive fits that seem to fall upon me. Please believe me, I am not trying to play the sensitive Artist bit--that's sickening. I only wish it wouldn't happen. It's just like all the walls fall down upon me. I've almost analyzed it--it happens mostly after I have been on a drunk with two or more people. I don't understand it--I can drink more, all by myself, and don't even awaken with a hangover.

Charles Bukowski

Monday, February 29, 2016

As a Writer, Don't Worry Too Much About the First Draft

The beautiful part of writing is that you don't have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon. You can always do it better, find the exact word, the apt phrase, the leaping simile.

Robert Cormier 

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Charles Bukowski on Literary Prizes and Grants

Guggenheim, all those prizes and grants--you know how they go--most money is given to people who already have money. I know a professor who can't write but wins a prize every year--usually the same one--and he goes off to some island and works on some project, meanwhile still getting paid half salary for doing nothing at the university he's supposed to be teaching at.

Charles Bukowski

Friday, February 26, 2016

What is Literary Style?

Style is an author's choice of words (diction), arrangement of words in each sentence (syntax), and handling of sentences and paragraph units to achieve a specific effect.

David Madden

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Philosopher Novelist

I am a philosopher, I write novels only on the weekend.

Umberto Eco

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

A Writer Without a Literary Hero to Inspire Him

I am not so worried about whether I am writing any good or not; I know I write a valley of bad stuff. But what gets me is that nobody is coming on that I can believe in or look up to. It's hell not to have a hero.

Charles Bukowski 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

A Novelist Suffering For His Art

Sometimes I don't understand why my arms don't drop from my body with fatigue, why my brain doesn't melt away. I am leading an austere life, stripped of all external pleasure, and am sustained only by a kind of permanent frenzy, which sometimes makes me weep tears of impotence but never abates, I love my work with a love that is frantic and perverted, as an ascetic loves the hair shirt that scratches his belly.

Gustave Flaubert 

Monday, February 22, 2016

When Not To Write

Never, never at night. I don't believe in writing at night because it comes too easily. When I read it in the morning it's not good. I need daylight to begin.

Gunter Grass

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Harper Lee On Her Bestselling Classic Novel

I never expected any success with To Kill a Mockingbird. I was hoping for a quick and merciful death at the hands of reviewers, but, at the same time I sort of hoped someone would like it well enough to give me encouragement.

Harper Lee 

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Writing Three Hours a Day Is Enough For One Novelist

All those I think who have lived as literary men--working daily as literary laborers--will agree with me that three hours a day will produce as much as a man ought to write.

Anthony Trollope 

Friday, February 19, 2016

Finding the Strength To Write a Novel

[To complete a novel] physical strength is as necessary as artistic sensitivity.

Haruki Murakami 

Thursday, February 18, 2016

A Night Writer

I never work [write] in the mornings unless I'm in real trouble.

Tom Stoppard 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Henry Miller's Writing Secrets

I don't believe in draining the reservoir. I believe in getting up from the typewriter, away from it, while I still have things to say. I know that to sustain those true moments of insight one has to be highly disciplined, lead a disciplined life.

Henry Miller 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Boswell's Self-Motivation to Write

As soon as I am awake, I remember my duty, and like a brisk mariner I give lash to indolence and bounce up with as much vivacity as if a pretty girl, amorous and willing, were waiting for me.

James Boswell 

Monday, February 15, 2016

The Writing of "Ulysses"

All in all I calculate that I must have spent nearly 20,000 hours in writing Ulysses.

James Joyce

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Getting Away to Write

I write whenever I am able, for a few days or a week or a month if I can get the time. I sneak away to the country and work on a computer that's not connected to the Internet and count on the world to go away long enough for me to get a few words down on paper, whenever and however I can. When the writing is going well, I can work all day. When it's not, I spend a lot of time gardening and standing in front of the refrigerator.

Francine Prose 

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Spare Time Writer

I was brought up to think you had to have a day job, and write in your spare time.

Philip Larkin

Friday, February 12, 2016

The Depressed Writer

I shall always be depressed, but what comforts me is the realization that I can now accept this dark side as the commanding side of my personality. In accepting it, I will make it work for me.

Samuel Beckett 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

An Almost Permanent Case of Writer's Block

I really don't adhere to writing schedules at all. The times that I've tried that, when I have been in a slump and I try to get out of it by saying, "Come on, Ann, sit down at the typewriter," I've gotten in a worse slump. It's better if I just let it ride. I've learned I can't force it. I certainly am a moody and, I would say, not very happy person.

Ann Beattie 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

How "Catch-22" Was Written

I spent two or three hours a night on it for eight years. I gave up once and started watching television with my wife. Television drove me back to Catch-22. I couldn't imagine what Americans did at night when they weren't writing novels.

Joseph Heller 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Truman Capote: The "Horizontal" Writer

I am a completely horizontal writer. I can't think unless I'm lying down, either in bed or stretched out on a couch and with a cigarette and coffee handy. I've got to be puffing and sipping. As the afternoon wears on, I shift from coffee to mint tea to sherry to martinis.

Truman Capote 

Monday, February 8, 2016

Flaubert's Self Loathing: Get a Grip

Sometimes, when I am empty, when words don't come, when I find I haven't written a single sentence after scribbling whole pages, I collapse on my couch and lie their dazed, bogged down in a swamp of despair, hating myself. 

Sunday, February 7, 2016

One Novelist's Life Habits

My habits are simple, my tastes banal, soccer matches on the TV, an occasional cup of wine or a gulp of canned beer, sunbaths on the lawn, and composing chess problems.

Vladimir Nabokov 

Saturday, February 6, 2016

The Self-Disciplined Novelist

Someone once called me a bureaucrat among writers because my self-discipline seemed excessive. It seemed excessive to me, too.

Saul Bellow

Friday, February 5, 2016

F. Scott Fitzgerald And His Booze

It has become increasingly plain to me that the very excellent organization of a long novel or the finest perceptions and judgment in time of revision do not go well with liquor.

F. Scott Fitzgerald 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Tolstoy's Work Habits

I must write each day without fail, not so much for the success of the work, as in order not to get out of my routine.

Leo Tolstoy 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Difficulty of Writing in a Plain, Clear Style

Last night I began my novel [Madame Bovary]. Now I foresee terrifying difficulties of style. It's no easy business to be simple.

Gustave Flaubert 

Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Urge to Write

I would write ads for deodorants or labels for catsup bottles, if I had to. The miracle of turning inklings into thoughts and thoughts into words and words into print never palls for me.

John Updike 

Friday, January 29, 2016

Using Novelistic Techniques in Writing Nonfiction

Creative nonfiction requires the skills of the storyteller and the research ability of the conscientious reporter. Writers of creative nonfiction must become instant authorities on the subjects of their articles or books. They must not only understand the facts and report them using quotes from authorities, they must also see beyond them to discover their underlying meaning, and they must dramatize that meaning in an interesting, evocative, informative way--just as a good teacher does.

Theodore A. Reese Cheney 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Writing on a Sugar High

For seven years I ate at Bob's Big Boy. I would go at 2:30, after the lunch rush. I ate a chocolate shake and four, five, six, seven cups of coffee--with lots of sugar. And there's lots of sugar in that chocolate shake. It's a thick shake. In a silver goblet. I would get a rush from all this sugar, and I would get so many ideas! I would write them on these napkins. I was like I had a desk with paper. All I had to do was remember to bring my pen, but a waitress would give me one if I remembered to return it at the end of my stay. I got a lot of ideas at Bob's.

David Lynch 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

William Faulkner on The Inspiration to Write

I write when the spirit moves me, and the spirit moves me every day.

William Faulkner 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Tom Wolfe on Narrative Nonfiction

I certainly always use novelistic techniques [in nonfiction writing], but I also feel that the lines between fact and fiction should never be blurred.

Tom Wolfe 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Writing The Formula Romance Novel

There are a few ironclad rules in any world created by [romance novelist] Nicholas Sparks. If you're a man, you have square shoulders and muscles that reflect your belief in a hard day's work. If you're a woman, you have striking emerald eyes and blond hair, or hazel eyes to offset your high cheek-bones. If you own a farm, a harmonica-playing black man full of hard-earned wisdom lives next door. If you're Mexican, your parents own a restaurant and struggled to give you a better life. If you're a warehouse, you're located in a run-down neighborhood on the outskirts of town. If you're a thunderstorm, you roll up just as a woman with striking eyes and a man with square shoulders are about to kiss for the first time.

Heather Havrilesky 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Writing Narrative Nonfiction

Some people criticize nonfiction writers for "appropriating" the techniques of fiction writing. These techniques, except for the invention of characters and detail, never belonged to fiction. They belong to storytelling.

Tracy Kidder 

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Novels Based on Ideas Rather Than Plot and Character

In a novel, implausibility is fatal. And fakeness almost always ensues when situations and characters are extracted from ideas. When ideas emerge organically from situations and characters, the opposite effect is produced. Philosophy, however, must not seem real. It must actually be real, advancing its arguments, as in a geometric proof, through a succession of facts.

Benjamin Moser 

Friday, January 22, 2016

Literature Professors: Who Needs Them?

As a college student in the 1980s whose major was comparative literature, I had no choice but to take a course on literary theory: It was required. The smug bloviator who taught it told us that the defining characteristic of the written word was its inability to express meaning. Thea act of writing a novel, which I had previously regarded as a natural process, as organic as breathing, was actually a battle in which words engulfed readers, fuddling our wits and scattering the import of the text. Truth he added, deploying Nietzsche, was a mobile army of metaphor, metonym, and anthropomorphisms--without a general. He himself, he said, would be that general.

Liesl Schillinger 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Who Reads Historical Novels?

Enviously noting the insatiable public appetite for television dramas like "Downton Abby," writers often lament the prospects for their historical novels, which have faint hopes of attracting anything resembling such sizable audiences.

Randy Boyagoda 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Write The Book That Only You Can Write

Why bother writing a book that someone else could write--just a historical novel that you research in libraries and on the Internet? If I'm going to add a book to the endless mass of books out there, then it should be a book that only I can write.

Nell Zink 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Reading What You Have Written To Others

When I stand over the podium and crack open my book for an audience I cringe. I suppose I haven't plateaued yet. You should, as a writer, always be disgusted with your previous work.

Benjamin Percy 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Fictitious Nonfiction

The line between truth [nonfiction] and fiction has become so blurred that the reading public no longer knows what to expect.

Jack Olsen 

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Hyper-Intellectual Novel

There's a fashion now [2015] for fat, hyper-intellectual, cooler-than-thou novels that are loaded with lard and siphoned of believable feeling…

Mary Karr

Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Hatchet Job Memoir

Nothing is more offensive [in a memoir] than an adult child exposing his or her elderly parents to the appalled fascination of strangers.

Joyce Carol Oates 

Friday, January 15, 2016

Aspiring Authors Are On Their Own

No advice is useful, as you, an aspiring writer, already know. You have read Rilke's letters to a young poet. I'm sure you remember the first letter: "No one can advise and help you, no one." You know James Baldwin's words in is Paris Review interview: "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."

Siddhartha Deb

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Master of Fine Arts Programs

M. F. A. programs have developed something of a gate-keeping function. The system is certainly flawed: Programs vary wildly in quality and cost. They can inspire inflated expectations--after all, the formalized study of writing isn't an alchemic formulas by which every student becomes Tolstoy, or even publishes a book. It is also the case that the M. F. A's workshop model, with its intense scrutiny of new work, can be crippling for some writers.

     Nonetheless, M. F. A. candidates spend a couple of years studying the craft of literature, immersed in its more esoteric and ineffable qualities, as readers and as writers. That's no small thing.

Ayana Mathis 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

To Be Interesting, Novels Need Villains

Imaginary evil is romantic and varied; real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring. Imaginary good is boring; real good is always new, marvelous, intoxicating.

Simone Weil 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Question True Crime Writers Can't Answer

Murder. Dismemberment. Rape. Cannibalism. Jack the Ripper. The Newtown Shooter. Why are we fascinated by murder and murderers, by acts of evil and those who perpetrate them?

     Tabloids, biopics and even dignified, well-researched accounts of serial murders indulge our appetite for real-life horror, dishing up the lurid details--the mutilated body, the serving woman found bleeding on her pillow, the severed head floating downriver--and sell millions of copies. But these works usually leave the central, most troubling questions unanswered. Not only the obvious ones: Why did the murderer commit the crime?

Charlotte Gordon 

Monday, January 11, 2016

Prolific Writers Just Work Harder

I write and write and write, and rewrite, and even if I retain only a single page from a full day's work, it is a single page, and these pages add up. As a result I have acquired the reputation over the years of being prolix when in fact I am measured against people who simply don't work as hard or as long. Getting the first draft finished is like pushing a peanut with your nose across a very dirty floor.

Joyce Carol Oates 

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Writing: The Nightmare Profession

Coal mining is hard work. Writing [novels] is a nightmare. There's a tremendous uncertainty that's built into the profession, a sustained level of doubt that supports you in some way. A good doctor isn't in a battle with his work; a good writer is locked in a battle with his work. In most professions there's a beginning, a middle, and an end. With writing, it's always beginning again. Temperamentally, we need that newness. There's a lot of repetition in the work. In fact, one skill that every writer needs is the ability to sit still in this deeply uneventful business.

Philip Roth 

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Is There Such a Thing as a Professional Writer?

I may be a Professional Writer to the I.R.S. when I file my tax returns, but in creative terms, I'm still an amateur, still learning my craft.

Stephen King 

Friday, January 8, 2016

The Common Dead Spot in Most Biographies

Most biographies have to slog through an only marginally interesting youth until the real story kicks in.

Joseph Kanon 

Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Importance of Alcohol and Drugs in Writers' Lives

Alcohol and drug abuse are leitmotifs of writers' lives and work, from Thomas De Quincey's Confessions of an English Opium Eater to Caroline Knapp's Drinking: A Love Story. 

Sara Paretsky 

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Enduring Popularity of the Memoir Genre

The vogue for memoir, like all vogues, comes and goes. But the impulse perseveres. Celebrities, addicts, abuse victims, politicians, soldiers, grieving children: Everyone has a story to tell and a conviction that the world wants to hear it--and often enough, if the best-seller lists are any indication, the world does.

Gregory Cowles 

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Influence Old Novels Have on the New

Novels have to primary sources: writers' life experiences or their art experiences--although I suppose more religious writers might also make room for divine inspiration. While it's popular in publicity to focus on the life experience that informs a book, a writer's art experiences are just as responsible for how a story emerges from the imagination and eventually appears on the page. As Cormac McCarthy once said: "the ugly fact is books are made out of books. The novel depends for its life on the novels that have been written."

Matt Bell


Monday, January 4, 2016

Novels Written For the Ages Usually Stink

If you shoot for timelessness in your writing, consciously orient yourself to the upper realm, the shinning truths and the inexhaustible symbols etc., you will--by a kind of law--produce drivel. You will waft and drift and never get a toehold. If, on the other hand, you bet it all on the particular, really dive unreservedly into specificity, you will find--inevitably, magnificently--that your novel about three plumbers in Milwaukee in 1987 becomes a singing blueprint of human significance.

James Parker 

Sunday, January 3, 2016

A Writer Without a Writing Routine

I wish I had a routine for writing. I get up in the morning and I go out to to my studio and I write. And then I tear it up! That's the routine, really. Then, occasionally, something sticks. And then I follow that. The only image I can think of is a man walking around with an iron rod in his hand during a lightening storm.

Arthur Miller 

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Being Inspired to Write

I write when the spirit moves me, and the spirit moves me every day.

William Faulkner 

Friday, January 1, 2016

When Does Satire Become Bullying?

Broadly speaking, if satire strikes upward, outward or inward, it's satire. If it strikes downward, it's bullying.

James Parker