Saturday, August 16, 2014

Reading to write, some quotable quotes

This is for the writers, and readers, out there.
I’m one of both, and to listen to the experts -- writers and readers themselves -- writing and reading go together like peas and carrots, words and sentences, war and eagle, even roll and tide, or whatever simile you prefer. 
If Stephen King and a bunch of other great bestselling authors are to be believed, you have to do one to succeed at the other.
In his gift to us writers, “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft,” King says: “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There's no way around these two things that I'm aware of, no shortcut.”
Thinking of the King quote -- the latest justification for my lifelong reading habit --I found a subject for today's blog post-- which is a priority as I realized it’s been a month today since my last post here.  (When I began this personal blog in my downsized haze in 2009, I posted every week. That schedule slid substantially since then, through jobs, family, assorted tasks and an iPhone with Words with Friends on it.)
Researching quotes from writers about writing and reading, I found many gems I share here. Some address my current other pressing challenge of completing revisions to my oft-written about novel, now in its sixth revision (and with a new self-imposed deadline I'll discuss in the next post). 

I start with a some other bits of wisdom from King, appropriate to me and any other writer’s reading and revising self:
“Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.” 
 “You cannot hope to sweep someone else away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you.” 

 “Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.” 

 “Books are a uniquely portable magic.” 

-- all from Stephen King, "On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft"
A blank piece of paper is God’s way of telling us how hard it to be God." - Sidney Sheldon
 "Read, read, read, and read."- Larry McMurtry 
"It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way." - Ernest Hemingway

"Most writers regard the truth as their most valuable possession, and therefore are most economical in its use." - Mark Twain

"And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name." - William Shakespeare (from A Midsummer Night’s Dream)

“If you want to write, you've got to shut yourself up in a room and write.” -- Larry Brown
"If you can tell stories, create characters, devise incidents, and have sincerity and passion, it doesn’t matter a damn how you write." - Somerset Maugham

"It is perfectly okay to write garbage—as long as you edit brilliantly." - C. J. Cherryh
"Any man who keeps working is not a failure. He may not be a great writer, but if he applies the old-fashioned virtues of hard, constant labor, he’ll eventually make some kind of career for himself as writer. - Ray Bradbury

"Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short." - Henry David Thoreau

 "I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by." - Douglas Adams

"Words are a lens to focus one’s mind." - Ayn Rand

"Half my life is an act of revision." - John Irving

"People on the outside think there’s something magical about writing, that you go up in the attic at midnight and cast the bones and come down in the morning with a story, but it isn’t like that. You sit in back of the typewriter and you work, and that’s all there is to it." - Harlan Ellison
"Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way." - E. L. Doctorow

"Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good." - William Faulkner

 "Begin with an individual, and before you know it you have created a type; begin with a type, and you find you have created – nothing." - F. Scott Fitzgerald
 "The work never matches the dream of perfection the artist has to start with." - William Faulkner

"The unread story is not a story; it is little black marks on wood pulp. The reader, reading it, makes it live: a live thing, a story." - Ursula K. Le Guin
"Everywhere I go I’m asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don’t stifle enough of them." - Flannery O’Connor
 "I can’t write five words but that I change seven." - Dorothy Parker
 "There’s no such thing as writer’s block. That was invented by people in California who couldn’t write. - Terry Pratchett
 "Omit needless words." - No. 17 “Elements of Style” by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White
"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." - Isaac Asimov

"Tell the readers a story! Because without a story, you are merely using words to prove you can string them together in logical sentences." - Anne McCaffrey

“All the information you need can be given in dialogue."- Elmore Leonard

"All the words I use in my stories can be found in the dictionary—it’s just a matter of arranging them into the right sentences." - Somerset Maugham

"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." - Jane Yolen

"If you write one story, it may be bad; if you write a hundred, you have the odds in your favor." - Edgar Rice Burroughs

"Finishing a book is just like you took a child out in the back yard and shot it." - Truman Capote

“The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress.” - Philip Roth
“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”  - Stephen King
“It wasn't that I had gotten it right . . . but that I had gotten true.”  - Rick Bragg
 “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”  - George Orwell
“Not a wasted word. This has been a main point to my literary thinking all my life.”- Hunter S. Thompson
“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.” - Ernest Hemingway
 “Making people believe the unbelievable is no trick; it’s work. … Belief and reader absorption come in the details: An overturned tricycle in the gutter of an abandoned neighborhood can stand for everything.” -Stephen King

 “For your born writer, nothing is so healing as the realization that he has come upon the right word.”  - Catherine Drinker Bowen
 “The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book.” - Samuel Johnson
“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.” - Elmore Leonard
“Write. Rewrite. When not writing or rewriting, read. I know of no shortcuts.” - Larry L. King
“I do not over-intellectualize the production process. I try to keep it simple: Tell the damned story.”- Tom Clancy
 “When your story is ready for rewrite, cut it to the bone. Get rid of every ounce of excess fat. This is going to hurt; revising a story down to the bare essentials is always a little like murdering children, but it must be done.”  - Stephen King
 “Beware of advice—even this.” - Carl Sandburg
“I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide.” - Harper Lee
 “Just write every day of your life. Read intensely. Then see what happens. Most of my friends who are put on that diet have very pleasant careers.”- Ray Bradbury
And finally, another of my hero authors speaks of printed books versus digital (a subject for yet another post):
“Weeping for Anna Karenina and being terrified by Hannibal Lecter, entering the heart of darkness with Mistah Kurtz, having Holden Caulfield ring you up — some things should happen on soft pages, not cold metal.” – Harper Lee

Picture of the day:
Post-it note with King's advice is still stuck to my computer monitor,
several years later.  King also says open the door for revisions;
my door is open, but the post-it note stays put.

Song of the day:

"Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book?
It took me years to write. Will you take a look?"
-- "Paperback Writer," The Beatles

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