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Writing Advice

“The first sentence can’t be written until the final sentence is written.” ~ Joyce Carol Oates

“The first draft of anything is shit.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

“Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” ~ Groucho Marx

“I’m all for keeping dangerous weapons out of the hands of fools. Let’s start with typewriters.” ~ Frank Lloyd Wright

“The beautiful thing about writing is that you don’t have to get it right the first time—unlike, say, brain surgery.” ~ Robert Corimer

“The responsibility of the writer is to observe, listen, and record. Then he tells a story, adding imagination to experience, and it bares the scars of his soul.” ~ John Le Carre

“The freelance writer is a man who is paid per piece or per word or perhaps.” ~ Robert Benchley

“I have never thought of myself as a good writer. Anyone who wants reassurance of that should read my first drafts. But I’m one of the world’s great revisers.” ~ James Michener

“If you are in difficulties with a book, try the element of surprise; attack it at an hour when it isn’t expecting it.” ~ H.G. Wells

“To me, writing is a horseback ride to hell and back. I am grateful to crawl back alive.” ~Thomas Sanchez

“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

“Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page for each day.” ~ John Steinbeck

“Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down.” ~ John Steinbeck

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

“Forget your generalized audience. In the first place, the nameless, faceless audience will scare you to death and in the second place, unlike the theater, it doesn’t exist. In writing, your audience is one single reader. I have found that sometimes it helps to pick out one person—a real person you know, or an imagined person and write to that one.” ~ John Steinbeck

“…one stiffens in exactly the same way one does when one is being photographed. The simplest way to overcome this is to write it to someone, like me. Write it as a letter aimed at one person.” ~ John Steinbeck

“The ancient commission of the writer has not changed. He is charged with exposing our many grievous faults and failures, with dredging up to the light our dark and dangerous dreams for the purpose of improvement.

Furthermore, the writer is delegated to declare and to celebrate man’s proven capacity for greatness of heart and spirit – for gallantry in defeat – for courage, compassion and love. In the endless war against weakness and despair, these are the bright rally-flags of hope and of emulation.

I hold that a writer who does not passionately believe in the perfectibility of man, has no dedication nor any membership in literature.”

~ John Steinbeck

“You can’t learn to write in college. It’s a very bad place for writers because the teachers always think they know more than you do—and they don’t. They have prejudices.” ~ Ray Bradbury

“The reason that fiction is more interesting than any other form of literature, to those who really like to study people, is that in fiction the author can really tell the truth without humiliating himself.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

“If you can’t annoy somebody, there is little point in writing.” ~ Kingsley Amis

“Sorry — If I had any advice to give I’d take it myself.” ~ John Steinbeck

“I would set my adventure story in an imaginary world, a vast, sprawling, mythical world like that of Tolkien, filled with magic that had replaced science and races that had evolved from Man. But I was not Tolkien and did not share his background in academia or his interest in cultural study. So I would eliminate the poetry and songs, the digressions on the ways and habits of types of characters, and the appendices of language and backstory that characterized and informed Tolkien’s work. I would write the sort of straightforward adventure story that barreled ahead, picking up speed as it went, compelling a turning of pages until there were no more pages to be turned.” ~ Terry Brooks

“[M]y protagonists are cut from the same bolt of cloth as Bilbo and Frodo Baggins. It was Tolkien’s genius to reinvent the traditional epic fantasy by making the central character neither God nor hero, but a simple man in search of a way to do the right thing. … I was impressed enough by how it had changed the face of epic fantasy that I never gave a second thought to not using it as the cornerstone of my own writing.” ~ Terry Brooks

“Making people believe the unbelievable is no trick; it’s work. … Belief and reader absorption come in the details: An overturned tricycle in the gutter of an abandoned neighborhood can stand for everything.” ~ Stephen King

“Being a writer is a very peculiar sort of a job: it’s always you versus a blank sheet of paper (or a blank screen) and quite often the blank piece of paper wins.” ~ Neil Gaiman

“We’re past the age of heroes and hero kings. … Most of our lives are basically mundane and dull, and it’s up to the writer to find ways to make them interesting.” ~ John Updike

“If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it. Or, if proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative.” ~ Elmore Leonard

“I do not over-intellectualize the production process. I try to keep it simple: Tell the damned story.” ~ Tom Clancy

“Remember: Plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations.” ~ Ray Bradbury

“I write to give myself strength. I write to be the characters that I am not. I write to explore all the things I’m afraid of.” ~ Joss Whedon

“You must write every single day of your life… You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads… may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.” ~ Ray Bradbury

“Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.” ~ Mark Twain

“People love a happy ending. So every episode, I will explain once again that I don’t like people. And then Mal will shoot someone. Someone we like. And their puppy.” ~ Joss Whedon

“You don’t write about the horrors of war. No. You write about a kid’s burnt socks lying in the road.” ~ Richard Price

“Cut out all these exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.” ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald

“If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn’t brood. I’d type a little faster.” ~ Isaac Asimov

“Write the kind of story you would like to read. People will give you all sorts of advice about writing, but if you are not writing something you like, no one else will like it either.” ~ Meg Cabot

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

“If you tell the reader that Bull Beezley is a brutal-faced, loose-lipped bully, with snake’s blood in his veins, the reader’s reaction may be, ‘Oh, yeah!’ But if you show the reader Bull Beezley raking the bloodied flanks of his weary, sweat-encrusted pony, and flogging the tottering, red-eyed animal with a quirt, or have him booting in the protruding ribs of a starved mongrel and, boy, the reader believes!” ~ Fred East

“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is … the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” ~ Mark Twain

“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.” ~ Douglas Adams

“When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people, not characters. A character is a caricature.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” ~ Anton Chekhov

“You do not have to explain every single drop of water contained in a rain barrel. You have to explain one drop—H2O. The reader will get it.” ~ George Singleton

“Plot is people. Human emotions and desires founded on the realities of life, working at cross purposes, getting hotter and fiercer as they strike against each other until finally there’s an explosion—that’s Plot.” ~ Leigh Brackett

“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.” ~ Robert Frost

“Many suffer from the incurable disease of writing, and it becomes chronic in their sick minds.” ~ Juvenal

“Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.” ~ Robert A. Heinlein

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