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Joseph Heller (b. May 1st): “A writer is only discovered once in a lifetime.”

1 May

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“I don’t think it’s good to achieve too much at too early an age. What else can the future give you if you’ve already got all that your imagination has dreamed up for you? A writer is only discovered once in a lifetime, and if it happens very early the impossibility of matching that moment again can have a somewhat corrosive effect on his personality and indeed on the work itself.”

~ Joseph Heller, b. 1 May 1923

Annie Dillard (b. April 30): “Many writers do little but sit in small rooms recalling the real world.”

30 Apr

Annie Dillard, born 30 April 1945, is an American poet, essayist, and novelist known for her intensely poetic and precise prose. She won the Pulitzer Prize in 1975 for her collection of narrative essays, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.

Quotes on writing:

  1. I worked so hard all my life, and all I want to do now is read.
  2. All my books started out as extravagant, and ended up pure and plain.
  3. Many writers do little else but sit in small rooms recalling the real world.
  4. If you’re going to publish a book, you’re probably going to make a fool of yourself.
  5. Society places the writer so far beyond the pale that society does not regard the writer at all.
  6. I do not so much write a book as sit up with it, like a dying friend. I hold its hand and hope it will get better.
  7. Every book has an intrinsic impossibility, which its writer discovers as soon as his first excitement dwindles.
  8. At its best, the sensation of writing is that of any unmerited grace. It is handed to you, but only if you look for it.
  9. It is no less difficult to write a sentence in a recipe than sentences in Moby Dick. So you might as well write Moby Dick.
  10. One of the things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now.

 

Ian Rankin (b. April 28): “Most writers are just kids who refuse to grow up.”

28 Apr

Ian Rankin, born 28 April 1960, is a Scottish crime writer. His Rebus books have been translated into 22 languages and are bestsellers on several continents. He has won four Crime Writers’ Association Dagger Awards, an Edgar Award, and many others. Rankin is also the recipient of honorary degrees from the universities of Abertay, St Andrews, and Edinburgh.

Quotes:

  1. I still think most writers are just kids who refuse to grow up. We’re still playing imaginary games, with our imaginary friends.
  2. I don’t have many friends. It’s not because I’m a misanthrope. It’s because I’m reserved. I’m self-contained. I get all my adventures in my head when I’m writing my books.
  3. I think writers have to be proactive: they’ve got to use new technology and social media. Yes, it’s hard to get noticed by traditional publishers, but there’s a great deal of opportunity out there if you’ve got the right story.
  4. I’ve always written. At the age of six or seven, I would get sheets of A4 paper and fold them in half, cut the edges to make a little eight-page booklet, break it up into squares and put in little stick men with little speech bubbles, and I’d have a spy story, a space story and a football story.
  5. A lot of writers, especially crime writers, have an image that we think we’re trying to keep up with. You’ve got to be seen as dark and slightly dangerous. But I’m not like that and I’ve realised that I don’t need to put that on. People will buy the books whether they see a photo of you dressed in black or not.

On Writing:

I can’t write a novel when I’m travelling, but I can revise or edit, send emails and resolve plot problems. I’m envious of writers who can work on their books when they’re travelling, but I need my home comforts and certitudes – coffee, music, biscuits. I need to be in my office. It’s where I get to play God.

I’ll start with coffee and the papers, then maybe move on to emails. But eventually I’ll knuckle down. I have an office of sorts in my house. There will be music on the hi-fi, and I’ll sit on the sofa (if mulling), or at one desk (if writing longhand notes) or the other (if typing on to my laptop). My writing computer isn’t exactly state of the art – it can’t even access the internet – but I’ve written my last seven or eight novels on it, and it seems to work fine. 

10 Rules:

  1. Read lots.
  2. Write lots.
  3. Learn to be self-critical.
  4. Learn what criticism to accept.
  5. Be persistent.
  6. Have a story worth telling.
  7. Don’t give up.
  8. Know the market.
  9. Get lucky.
  10. Stay lucky.

 

Mary Wollstonecraft (b. April 27): “It is vain to expect virtue from women until they are independent of men.”

27 Apr

Five Quotes: 

  1. The beginning is always today.
  2. Simplicity and sincerity generally go hand in hand, as both proceed from a love of truth.
  3. It is vain to expect virtue from women till they are in some degree independent of men.
  4. My own sex, I hope, will excuse me, if I treat them like rational creatures, instead of flattering their fascinating graces, and viewing them as if they were in a state of perpetual childhood, unable to stand alone.
  5. It appears to me impossible that I should cease to exist, or that this active, restless spirit, equally alive to joy and sorrow, should only be organised dust – ready to fly abroad the moment the spring snaps, or the spark goes out, which kept it together. Surely something resides in this heart that is not perishable – and life is more than a dream.

 

Anita Loos (b. April 26): “I love high style in low company.”

26 Apr

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Anita Loos (born 26 April 1889, died 18 August 1981) was an American screenwriter, playwright and author, best known for her blockbuster comic novel, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

Nine Quotes:

  1. Fate keeps on happening.
  2. Memory is more indelible than ink.
  3. I’ve always loved high style in low company.
  4. It isn’t that gentlemen really prefer blondes, it’s just that we look dumber.
  5. A kiss on the hand may feel very, very good, but a diamond and sapphire bracelet lasts forever.
  6. On a plane you can pick up more and better people than on any other public conveyance since the stagecoach.
  7. The rarest of all things in American life is charm. We spend billions every year manufacturing fake charm that goes under the heading of public relations. Without it, America would be grim indeed.
  8. There is a serious defect in the thinking of someone who wants – more than anything else – to become rich. As long as they don’t have the money, it’ll seem like a worthwhile goal. Once they do, they’ll understand how important other things are – and have always been.
  9. I can never take for granted the euphoria produced by a cup of coffee. I’m grateful every day that it isn’t banned as a drug, that I don’t have to buy it from a pusher, that its cost is minimal and there’s no need to increase the intake. I can count on its stimulation 365 mornings every year. And thanks to the magic in a cup of coffee, I’m able to plunge into a whole day’s cheerful thinking.

Sue Grafton (b. April 24): “Ideas are easy. It’s their execution that separates the sheep from the goats.”

24 Apr

Sue Grafton, born 24th April 1940, is an American crime writer. She is best known as the author of the ‘alphabet series’, starting with “A” Is for Alibi. The books feature private investigator Kinsey Millhone in the fictional city of Santa Teresa, California. Grafton is the daughter of detective novelist C. W. Grafton. She wrote screenplays for television movies before she became a novelist.

Quotes on writing:

  1. Ideas are easy. It’s the execution of ideas that really separates the sheep from the goats.
  2. I focus on the writing and let the rest of the process take care of itself. I’ve learned to trust my own instincts and I’ve also learned to take risks.
  3. I write letters to my right brain all the time. They’re just little notes. And right brain, who likes to get little notes from me, will often come through within a day or two.
  4. We all need to look into the dark side of our nature – that’s where the energy is, the passion. People are afraid of that because it holds pieces of us we’re busy denying.
  5. I started writing seriously when I was 18, wrote my first novel when I was 22, and I’ve never stopped writing since. Of the first seven novels I wrote, numbers four and five were published. Numbers one, two, three, six, and seven, have never seen the light of day…and rightly so. The eighth novel I wrote was ‘A’ IS FOR ALIBI.
  6. I’m a writer by default. I think it is in my blood and in my bones. As I was growing up, women could be secretaries, nurses, ballerinas or airline stewardesses and I’m squeamish so there went my nursing career. I started writing early in my life as a way of surviving and my way of processing rage, grief and confusion. Now it is just what I do because I love it.
  7. I think with the mystery novel you have to know where you’re going, but not in any great detailed sense. I generally know whodunit, who died, and what the motive for the crime was. Then I have to figure out what I call the angle of attack. In other words, how do you cut into the story? Where does the story begin? What’s relevant in that first line or paragraph from the reader’s point of view? And I have to figure out who hires Kinsey Millhone, and what she’s hired to do.
  8. For one thing the mystery novel is a very elegant, delicate, highly structured form. You need to know how to plot, how to structure a story, you need to understand how to make a character work. People who start writing and think they can start with the mystery novel are often defeated before they put that first word on the page. So my advice is to learn your craft with mainstream fiction, where you’re not as stringently challenged and then come to the mystery when you’ve acquired some of the proficiencies that you need.
  9. I’m usually at my desk by 8:30 or 9:00. I like a tidy office because I find messes distracting. Being disorganized wastes time. I keep journals for every novel I write, and I start my workday by logging in, talking to myself about where I am in a novel and how I feel. I focus on the scene or story moves coming up. I worry about pacing and suspense. I revise. I stop sometimes and consult my research library, which is packed with books about crime and law enforcement. If I’m stuck, I call on the small army of experts who assist with each book. I break for a brief lunch and then work another couple of hours. Most days, I walk three to five miles when I’ve finished writing. I need the stress relief and fresh air.

Alistair MacLean (b. April 21): “I’m not a born writer, and I don’t enjoy writing.”

21 Apr

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Alistair MacLean (born 21 April 1922, died 2 February 1987) was a Scottish novelist who wrote popular thrillers and adventure stories, including The Guns of Navarone, Force 10 from Navone, and Where Eagles Dare.

Five Quotes:

  1. I am not a novelist, I’m a storyteller. 
  2. I’m not a born writer, and I don’t enjoy writing.
  3. I wrote each book in thirty-five days flat – just to get the darned thing finished.
  4. We are all brave men and we are all afraid, and what the world calls a brave man, he too is brave and afraid like the all rest of us. Only he is brave for five minutes longer.
  5. The point I make is simply that cruelty and hate and intolerance are the monopoly of no particular race or creed or time. They have been with us since the world began and are still with us, in every country in the world.
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