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'For me, writing [was] a question of survival...I could not trust anyone, even my family. The atmosphere was so poisoned. People even in your own family could turn you in.'

'When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, ‘I am going to produce a work of art.' I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing.'

‘If you're going to write a good erotic scene, you have to go into details. I don't believe in thunder and lightning and fireworks exploding. I think people want to know what's happening.'

'It is my contention that a really great novel is made with a knife and not a pen. A novelist must have the intestinal fortitude to cut out even the most brilliant passage so long as it doesn't advance the story.'

'If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.'

'Talented writing makes things happen in the reader's mind - vividly, forcefully - that good writing, which stops with clarity and logic, doesn't.'

'Talent is insignificant. I know a lot of talented ruins. Beyond talent lie all the usual words: discipline, love, luck, but most of all, enduranceTalent is insignificant. I know a lot of talented ruins. Beyond talent lie all the usual words: discipline, love, luck, but most of all, endurance.'

'Actually, writers have no business writing about their own works. They either wax conceited, saying things like: 'My brilliance is possibly most apparent in my dazzling short story, "The Cookiepants Hypotenuse."' Or else they get unbearably cutesy: 'My cat Ootsywootums has given me all my best ideas, hasn't oo, squeezums?"'

'Looking back I imagine I was always writing. Twaddle it was too. But better far write twaddle or anything, anything, than nothing at all.'

'Just set one day's work in front of the last day's work. That's the way it comes out. And that's the only way it does.'

'It's a feeling of happiness that knocks me clean out of adjectives. I think sometimes that the best reason for writing novels is to experience those four and a half hours after you write the final word.'

'I knew nothing about writing and have merely tried to tell an interesting story entertainingly.'

'You don't start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it's good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That's why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.'

'Anyone who writes down to children is simply wasting his time. You have to write up, not down.'

'We have such a young culture that there is an opportunity to contribute wonderful new myths to it, which will be accepted.'

'Writers write to influence their readers, their preachers, their auditors, but always, at bottom, to be more themselves.'

‘I've always liked journeys, journeys where people meet sea monsters, or human monsters. There's something about people leaving everything they know and going into what they don't know where you actually learn a lot about people.'

'I have done, this year, what I said I would: overcome my fear of facing a blank page day after day, acknowledging myself, in my deepest emotions, a writer, come what may.'

'Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere.'

'If you wish to be a writer, write.'

'I believe that reading and writing are the most nourishing forms of meditation anyone has so far found. By reading the writings of the most interesting minds in history, we meditate with our own minds and theirs as well. This to me is a miracle.'

'You see, in my view a writer is a writer not because she writes well and easily, because she has amazing talent, because everything she does is golden. In my view a writer is a writer because even when there is no hope, even when nothing you do shows any sign of promise, you keep writing anyway.'

'You know how writers are... they create themselves as they create their work. Or perhaps they create their work in order to create themselves.'

'There's an epigram tacked to my office bulletin board, pinched from a magazine -- "Wanting to meet an author because you like his work is like wanting to meet a duck because you like pâté.'

'No one says a novel has to be one thing. It can be anything it wants to be, a vaudeville show, the six o'clock news, the mumblings of wild men saddled by demons.'

'Which of us has not felt that the character we are reading in the printed page is more real than the person standing beside us?'

'No one was going to stop me from writing and no one had to really guide me towards science fiction. It was natural, really, that I would take that interest.'

'The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. 'tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.'

'Hitler's original title for Mein Kampf was Four and a Half Years of Struggle Against Lies, Stupidity and Cowardice. Everyone needs an editor.'

'Short stories demand a certain awareness of one's own intentions, a certain narrowing of the focus.'

'I never want to see anyone, and I never want to go anywhere or do anything. I just want to write.'

'One of my standard - and fairly true - responses to the question as to how story ideas come to me is that story ideas only come to me for short stories. With longer fiction, it is a character (or characters) coming to visit, and I am then obliged to collaborate with him/her/it/them in creating the story.'

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

‘A writer who waits for the ideal conditions under which to write will die without putting a word on paper.'

'It is my contention that a really great novel is made with a knife and not a pen. A novelist must have the intestinal fortitude to cut out even the most brilliant passage so long as it doesn't advance the story.'

'Exercise the writing muscle every day, even if it is only a letter, notes, a title list, a character sketch, a journal entry. Writers are like dancers, like athletes. Without that exercise, the muscles seize up.'

'Don't romanticise your ‘vocation.' You can either write good sentences or you can't. There is no ‘writer's lifestyle.' All that matters is what you leave on the page.'

'I think I am starving for publication: I love to get published; it maddens me not to get published. I feel at times like getting every publisher in the world by the scruff of the neck, forcing his jaws open, and cramming the Mss down his throat -- 'God-damn you, here it is - I will and must be published...  Read more

'Long books, when read, are usually overpraised, because the reader wishes to convince others and himself that he has not wasted his time.'

Aspects of the Novel

'No black woman writer in this culture can write "too much". Indeed, no woman writer can write "too much"... No woman has ever written enough.'

Remembered rapture: the writer at work

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