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Quotes

'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

'I discovered that if I trusted my subconscious, or imagination, whatever you want to call it, and if I made the characters as real and honest as I could, then no matter how complex the pattern being woven, my subconscious would find ways to tie it together - often doing things far more complicated and sophisticated than I could with brute conscious effort.  Read more

‘To be a writer you have to be out in the world, you have to risk yourself in the world, you have to be immersed in the world, you have to go out looking for it. This becomes harder as you get older because there's less energy, the days are shorter for older people and it's not so easy to go out and immerse oneself in the world outside.‘

'A poet can survive everything but a misprint.'

'People say, ‘What advice do you have for people who want to be writers?' I say, they don't really need advice, they know they want to be writers, and they're gonna do it. Those people who know that they really want to do this and are cut out for it, they know it.'

'An essential element for good writing is a good ear: One must listen to the sound of one's own prose.'

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

'Inside every fat book is a thin book trying to get out.'

'Literature is strewn with the wreckage of men who have minded beyond reason the opinions of others.'

'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.'

'Each writer is born with a repertory company in his head. Shakespeare has perhaps 20 players. ... I have 10 or so, and that's a lot. As you get older, you become more skillful at casting them.'

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