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Quotes on Writing that I like

Page history last edited by rsb 2 years, 11 months ago


Various:

 

1. “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

 

2. “If writing seems hard, it’s because it is hard. It’s one of the hardest things people do.” ~ William Zinsser

 

3. “Writing well means never having to say, ‘I guess you had to be there.’ ” ~ Jef Mallett

 

4. “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

 

5. “There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.” ~ Red Smith

 

6. “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” ~ E.L. Doctorow

 

7. “I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter.” ~ James Michener

 

8. “Easy reading is damn hard writing.” ~ Nathaniel Hawthorne

 

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

 

10. “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” ~ Stephen King

 

11. "Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print." -- George Orwell

 

12. "20 seconds of courage can change everything." - I have no idea where this came from.  My memory, I guess, but before that, unknown.

 

13. "Function rules - art without function is artifice." - same as the last one.  I think I heard this from a guy that build tiny homes.

 

14. "It seems like perfection is attained not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to subtract." - a french physicist or philosopher - via Doug Crockford

 

15. "You have to take a step back, and ask yourself: 'what idea is buried in this thing that inspired me?', There are ideas buried in the inspiration, which I will call hereafter: the ideas. Then ask what the ending of the story is, and then see how well the ideas are expressed by the ending of the story." - Heavily paraphrasing Stephen Pressfield from this Joe Rogan podcast

 

Hemmingway:

 

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


“Write drunk, edit sober.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

 

"Prose is architecture, not interior decoration, and the Baroque is over.

I learned never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it."

 

Stienbeck:

 

If there is a magic in story writing, and I am convinced there is, no one has ever been able to reduce it to a recipe that can be passed from one person to another. The formula seems to lie solely in the aching urge of the writer to convey something he feels important to the reader. If the writer has that urge, he may sometimes, but by no means always, find the way to do it. You must perceive the excellence that makes a good story good or the errors that makes a bad story. For a bad story is only an ineffective story.”

 

1) Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page for each day, it helps. Then when it gets finished, you are always surprised.

 

2) Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down. Rewrite in process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on. It also interferes with flow and rhythm which can only come from a kind of unconscious association with the material.

 

3) 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.

 

4) If a scene or a section gets the better of you and you still think you want it—bypass it and go on. When you have finished the whole you can come back to it and then you may find that the reason it gave trouble is because it didn’t belong there.

 

5) Beware of a scene that becomes too dear to you, dearer than the rest. It will usually be found that it is out of drawing.

 

6)If you are using dialogue—say it aloud as you write it. Only then will it have the sound of speech.

 

 

Vonnegut:

 

1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

4. Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.

5. Start as close to the end as possible.

6. Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

 

1. Find a subject you care about

2. Do not ramble, though

3. Keep it simple

4. Have guts to cut

5. Sound like yourself

6. Say what you mean

7. Pity the readers

 

don't use semicolons - they are unnecessary transvestite hermaphrodites and just a way of showing off.

 

Pixar:

 

Pixar story rules (one version)

SUNDAY, MAY 15, 2011 AT 03:39PM

 

Pixar story artist Emma Coats has tweeted a series of “story basics” over the past month and a half — guidelines that she learned from her more senior colleagues on how to create appealing stories:

 

#1: You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.

 

#2: You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be v. different.

 

#3: Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.

 

#4: Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.

 

#5: Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.

 

#6: What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?

 

#7: Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.

 

#8: Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.

 

#9: When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.

 

#10: Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it.

 

#11: Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.

 

#12: Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.

 

#13: Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.

 

#14: Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.

 

#15: If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.

 

#16: What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.

 

#17: No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on - it’ll come back around to be useful later.

 

#18: You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.

 

#19: Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.

 

#20: Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d’you rearrange them into what you DO like?

 

#21: You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can’t just write ‘cool’. What would make YOU act that way?

 

#22: What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.

 

Presumably she’ll have more to come. Also, watch for her personal side project, a science-fiction short called Horizon, to come to a festival near you.

 

Bradbury:

 

"Write for yourself.  from your experiences, what you find beautiful."

 

Miscategorized:

 

Thoreau (not really on writing, but I like them):

 

“If one advances confidently in the direction of one's dreams, and endeavors to live the life which one has imagined, one will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”

 

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.”

 

“Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

 

"If you would convince a man that he does wrong, do right. But do not care to convince him. Men will believe what they see. Let them see."

 

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex... It takes a touch of genius - and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.

 

True religion is real living; living with all one's soul, with all one's goodness and righteousness.

 

Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.

 

Websites and books on writing that I like:

 

Robert Sawyer On Writing

 

Stephen King On Writing

 

 

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