About Writers, inspiration, Uncategorized, Writers Co-op, writing technique

Writers on Writing

write drunkThere is no proof, of course, that Hemingway ever said that. It was probably his bartender. But many writers we know have offered useful advice. Here’s seven:

Ray Bradbury
“If you stuff yourself full of poems, essays, plays, stories, novels, films, comic strips, magazines, music, you automatically explode every morning like Old Faithful. I have never had a dry spell in my life, mainly because I feed myself well, to the point of bursting. I wake early and hear my morning voices leaping around in my head like jumping beans. I get out of bed quickly, to trap them before they escape.”

Stephen King
“For me, writing is like walking through a desert and all at once, poking up through the hardpan, I see the top of a chimney. I know there’s a house under there.”

Arthur C. Clarke
“When I start on a book, I have been thinking about it and making occasional notes for some time—20 years in the case of Imperial Earth, and 10 years in the case of the novel I’m presently working on. So I have lots of theme, locale, subjects and technical ideas. It’s amazing how the subconscious self works on these things. I don’t worry about long periods of not doing anything. I know my subconscious is busy.”

James Michener
“Being goal-oriented instead of self-oriented is crucial. I know so many people who want to be writers. But let me tell you, they really don’t want to be writers. They want to have been writers. They wish they had a book in print. They don’t want to go through the work of getting the damn book out. There is a huge difference.”

Tom Clancy
“Two questions form the foundation of all novels: ‘What if?’ and ‘What next?’ (A third question, ‘What now?’, is one the author asks himself every 10 minutes or so; but it’s more a cry than a question.) Every novel begins with the speculative question, What if ‘X’ happened? That’s how you start.”

Richard North Patterson
“The most exciting thing is when you find a character doing something surprising or unplanned. Like a character saying to me: ‘Hey, Richard, you may think I work for you, but I don’t. I’m my own person.’”

Tom Robbins
“I’m very concerned with the rhythm of language. ‘The sun came up’ is an inadequate sentence. Even though it conveys all the necessary information, rhythmically it’s lacking. The sun came up. But, if you say, as Laurie Anderson said, ‘The sun came up like a big bald head,’ not only have you, perhaps, entertained the fancy of the reader, but you have made a more complete sentence. The sound of a sentence.”

Write to be a writer if that’s the one identity that makes sense of everything else you are.

What about you? If other writers want your advice. What do you say?


15 thoughts on “Writers on Writing

  1. Arthur Clarke’s quote strikes me as the perfect excuse for procrastination – my subconscious mind is busy so it is all alright! That being said, he does have a poignant point. Sometimes ideas are born in dreams.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I can speak from experience. After twenty years of thinking about a character you know him inside and out, and that can only be a good thing.

    No power tonight, we have just been informed. They’re discovered another tree down, in a difficult spot. This after they’d announced yesterday that all fallen trees (in Danbury, other towns are still a wreck) had been cleared.

    I’m depressed and getting more so with each day.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Perry Palin says:

    Write the story that you know, and make it real. Live in each of your characters. Read the story aloud, and revise until your dog no longer gets up to leave the room.

    Ray Bradbury’s quote reminds me of a librarian friend who stuffed herself with literature of all kinds for decades, and lamented that as much as she wanted to, she couldn’t write a story herself. Stuffing sometimes results in bloat, and no product.

    Tom Robbins’ quote sounds spot on to me. I worked on sentences until the dog stayed, and the story was better for it. Her name was Molly, not Spot. She has passed on now. My wife is looking for a discerning puppy.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. This is the way I feel.

    Richard North Patterson: “… a character saying to me: ‘Hey, Richard, you may think I work for you, but I don’t. I’m my own person.”

    If my characters don’t boss me around, I haven’t done my job in creating them.

    I may disappear again for a while, I have more trouble, computer trouble, bad trouble. Tomorrow may be the day I head down to the mall to buy a new iMac. (I’m on my husband’s PC right now.)

    Why should I bother to outline, except very, very roughly? My people are going to destroy my best-laid plans. I’ve learned to live with it. They have way better ideas than I do.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. “And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” Sylvia Plath.
    If I may add a female perspective. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Writers on Writing — writers co-op – The Idealistic Outsider

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