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Quotes

'Rejection slips, or form letters, however tactfully phrased, are lacerations of the soul, if not quite inventions of the devil - but there is no way around them.'

'"Writer's block" is just a fancy way of saying "I don't feel like doing any work today."'

'In my experience, writing doesn't get any easier the more you do it. But there is a growth of confidence, not much, but a nugget, like a pearl, like a tumour.'

'Oh it is only a novel... In short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best chosen language.'

'The best way to become a successful writer is to read good writing, remember it, and then forget where you remember it from.'

‘Books say: she did this because life says: she did this. Books are where things are explained to you; life is where things aren't. I'm not surprised some people prefer books. Books make sense of life. The only problem is that the lives they make sense of are other people's lives, never your own,'

'The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you're allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it's definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it ­honestly, and tell it as best you can. I'm not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.'

‘The three most important things are character, character, character. Climb inside every character and live them from the inside. And remember: every character, even the most minor ones, think they are the true centre of the story.'

'We find what we are looking for. If we are looking for life and love and openness and growth, we are likely to find them. If we are looking for witchcraft and evil, we'll likely find them, and we may get taken over by them.'

'An absolutely necessary part of a writer's equipment, almost as necessary as talent, is the ability to stand up under punishment, both the punishment the world hands out and the punishment he inflicts upon himself.'

'Your first book is the only one that matters. Perhaps a writer should write only that one. That is the one moment when you make the big leap; the opportunity to express yourself is offered that once, and you untie the knot within you then or never again.'

'Sometimes the ideas just come to me. Other times I have to sweat and almost bleed to make ideas come. It's a mysterious process, but I hope I never find out exactly how it works. I like a mystery, as you may have noticed.'

'And remember: you must never, under any circumstances, despair. To hope and to act, these are our duties in misfortune.'

'Only Southerners have taken horsewhips and pistols to editors about the treatment or maltreatment of their manuscript. This--the actual pistols--was in the old days, of course, we no longer succumb to the impulse. But it is still there, within us.'

‘I listen to my own books. The reason why is because you can hear everything you did right and everything you did wrong. This is the most honourable form of storytelling there is.'

'I tell writers to keep reading, reading, reading. Read widely and deeply. And I tell them not to give up even after getting rejection letters. And only write what you love.'

'You have to turn your collar around like a priest. You offer a lot of praise, you have confession and you have faith, and pretty soon they might trust you enough to know that you're not trying to make the book in your own image. It's their book.'

'To present a whole world that doesn't exist and make it seem real, we have to more or less pretend we're polymaths. That's just the act of all good writing.'

'It is only by writing, not dreaming about it, that we develop our own style.'

'Everything you invent is true: you can be sure of that. Poetry is a subject as precise as geometry.'

‘My advice to writers, whether they are inspired or repelled by my work, is to read and reread, write and rewrite, keep to the grindstone, do not be swayed by fame or adulation, the work is the absolute prize.'

'Writers are liars, my dear, surely you know that by now? And yet, things need not have happened to be true. Tales and dreams are the shadow-truths that will endure when mere facts are dust and ashes, and forgot.'

'I certainly never intended to speak for anyone other than myself. Even myself I find it difficult to speak for. My books may well fail as artistic endeavours but I don't want them to fail for failing to speak for a generation for which I never intended to speak in the first place.'

'The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense.'

'But then, that's the beauty of writing stories - each one is an exploratory journey in search of a reason and a shape. And when you find that reason and that shape, there's no feeling like it.'

'If you're going to be a writer you have to be one of the great ones... After all, there are better ways to starve to death.'

'Sometimes the ideas just come to me. Other times I have to sweat and almost bleed to make ideas come. It's a mysterious process, but I hope I never find out exactly how it works. I like a mystery, as you may have noticed.'

'If you steal from one author, it's plagiarism; if you steal from many, it's research.'

'The most damning revelation you can make about yourself is that you do not know what is interesting and what is not.'

'Coleridge was a drug addict. Poe was an alcoholic. Marlowe was killed by a man whom he was treacherously trying to stab. Pope took money to keep a woman's name out of a satire, then wrote a piece so that she could still be recognized, anyhow. Chatterton killed himself. Byron was accused of incest. Do you still want to be a writer -and if so, why?'

'You should write because you love the shape of stories and sentences and the creation of different words on a page. Writing comes from reading, and reading is the finest teacher of how to write.'

'Everything in art depends on execution: the story of a louse can be as beautiful as the story of Alexander. You must write according to your feelings, be sure those feelings are true, and let everything else go hang. When a line is good it ceases to belong to any school. A line of prose must be as immutable as a line of poetry.'

'Poetry is a communicative art and also one that has the capacity to disrupt through its relationship with grammar, music and form.'

'All the time I'm not writing I feel like a criminal. It's horrible to feel felonious every second of the day. It's much more relaxing to actually write.'

'To present a whole world that doesn't exist and make it seem real, we have to more or less pretend we're polymaths. That's just the act of all good writing.'

'It is only by writing, not dreaming about it, that we develop our own style.'

'Writers cannot choose their own mood: with them it is not always hide-tide, nor - thank Heaven! - always Storm.'

'Read, read, read everything - trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You'll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you'll find out. If it's not, throw it out the window.'

‘The first thing you must remember: An editor does not add to a book. At best he serves as a handmaiden to an author. Don't ever get to feeling important about yourself, because an editor at most releases energy. He creates nothing.'

‘If you know exactly what you are going to say in a poem, that poem will be a failure. Besides, there is no interest or fun, in saying what you already know.'

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