More writing quotes

I’ve said before that I collect quotes, and I’ve  posted writing quotes on Choices many times. Well, I just came across a list of seventy-two more that I have saved in my Documents Folder for the last couple of years. I’ll share some with you now and more later in the year. I don’t want to bore you if you’re not into this as much as I am. By the way, some of these authors are unknown to me. I think it might be a good idea to get to know about them, so I’ve marked those with an asterisk (*). I’d love to know what you know about them.

The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress. Philip Roth

Stephen King

Stephen King

The road to hell is paved with adverbs. Stephen King

Who wants to become a writer? And why? Because it’s the answer to everything. ¦ It’s the streaming reason for living. To note, to pin down, to build up, to create, to be astonished at nothing, to cherish the oddities, to let nothing go down the drain, to make something, to make a great flower out of life, even if it’s a cactus. Enid Bagnold*

To gain your own voice, you have to forget about having it heard. Allen Ginsberg

Cheat your landlord if you can and must, but do not try to shortchange the Muse. It cannot be done. You can’t fake quality any more than you can fake a good meal. William S. Burroughs

All readers come to fiction as willing accomplices to your lies. Such is the basic goodwill contract made the moment we pick up a work of fiction. Steve Almond*

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

It ain’t whatcha write, it’s the way atcha write it. Jack Kerouac

Not a wasted word. This has been a main point to my literary thinking all my life. Hunter S. Thompson

George Orwell

George Orwell

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. George Orwell

I don’t care if a reader hates one of my stories, just as long as he finishes the book. Roald Dahl

The freelance writer is a man who is paid per piece or per word or perhaps. Robert Benchley

We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master. Ernest Hemingway

Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works. Virginia Woolf

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

If a nation loses its storytellers, it loses its childhood. Peter Handke*

To defend what you’ve written is a sign that you are alive. William Zinsser*

William Faulkner

William Faulkner

If I had not existed, someone else would have written me, Hemingway, Dostoyevsky, all of us. William Faulkner

For your born writer, nothing is so healing as the realization that he has come upon the right word. Catherine Drinker Bowen*

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. Gore Vidal

We’re past the age of heroes and hero kings. ¦ Most of our lives are basically mundane and dull, and it’s up to the writer to find ways to make them interesting. John Updike

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

Elmore Leonard

Elmore Leonard

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

Know your literary tradition, savor it, steal from it, but when you sit down to write, forget about worshiping greatness and fetishizing masterpieces. Allegra Goodman

I’m out there to clean the plate. Once they’ve read what I’ve written on a subject, I want them to think, ˜That’s it!’ I think the highest aspiration people in our trade can have is that once they’ve written a story, nobody will ever try it again. Richard Ben Cramer*

There are no laws for the novel. There never have been, nor can there ever be. Doris Lessing

Style means the right word. The rest matters little. Jules Renard*

Style is to forget all styles. Jules Renard*

I do not over-intellectualize the production process. I try to keep it simple: Tell the damned story. Tom Clancy

Eudora Welty

Eudora Welty

The writing of a novel is taking life as it already exists, not to report it but to make an object, toward the end that the finished work might contain this life inside it and offer it to the reader. The essence will not be, of course, the same thing as the raw material; it is not even of the same family of things. The novel is something that never was before and will not be again. Eudora Welty

One thing that helps is to give myself permission to write badly. I tell myself that I’m going to do my five or 10 pages no matter what, and that I can always tear them up the following morning if I want. I’ll have lost nothing writing and tearing up five pages would leave me no further behind than if I took the day off. Lawrence Block*


  1. Thank you for this fantastic collection of quotes. I think my favorite is definitely the George Orwell ones. I write because I have to and like to have written, not because I like writing. I will have the guest post to you within a few days. : D

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