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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

maclean

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.

Sebastien Faulks (b. April 20): “Everything I know about structure I learned from classical music.”

20 Apr

faulks

Sebastian Faulks, born 20 April 1953, is a British novelist, journalist, and broadcaster. He is best known for his historical novels including The Girl at the Lion d’Or, Birdsong, and Charlotte Gray. He has also published a James Bond sequel, Devil May Care. He is a team captain on BBC Radio 4 literary quiz The Write Stuff.

Seven quotes on writing:

  1. I start with the theme and setting, then a rough narrative arc including half a dozen big moments, like the supports in a river over which the bridge spans. Then the people are given to you because they’re the ones capable of acting out what’s required of the action to exemplify the theme.
  2. In the period of composition you have to be exceptionally open. Anything might feed in. The trick is in knowing the difference between a disposable thought and a robust idea. You have to live in a rather vulnerable, open state, while at the same time making hard decisions.
  3. The words themselves are the beginning and end. Too many adverbs is a bad sign. Even when the style is apparently plain it is so for a reason. And within plainness there are a hundred choices for each sentence in rhythm and syntax and of course within each word. Think of Hemingway.
  4. Almost everything I know about structure I learned from classical music. Most of what I know about narrative I took from cinema. I also think of oil painting quite a lot, particularly when I am trying to add layers, to thicken the texture.
  5. Real emotion comes from inside the reader. You’re unaware that the author has been trying to make you feel something; in fact, you wonder whether the author is really aware of how sad, funny or inspiring this passage is. Artificial is when you feel your arm being twisted.
  6. When I’m writing a book I work from ten till six every day in a small office near my house. I never write less than a thousand words a day. Writer’s block is God’s way of telling you to shut up. More people should have it…
  7. Write about what you don’t know. Research, invent. Write about people of other ages, sexes, nationalities and periods in history. Then find a book you think is similar to yours. Write to the author care of the publisher and find out who their agent is. Good luck.

 

Thornton Wilder (b. April 17): “An incinerator is a writer’s best friend.”

17 Apr

Thornton Wilder, born 17 April 1897 and died 7 December 1975, was an American playwright and novelist. He won three Pulitzer Prizes—for the novel The Bridge of San Luis Rey and for the two plays Our Town and The Skin of Our Teeth and a U.S. National Book Award for the novel The Eighth Day.

Quotes on writing:

  1. An incinerator is a writer’s best friend.
  2. Literature is the orchestration of platitudes.
  3. If you write to impress it will always be bad, but if you write to express it will be good.
  4. It would be a very wonderful thing if we could see more and more works that close that gulf between highbrows and lowbrows.
  5. There’s nothing like eavesdropping to show you that the world outside your head is different from the world inside your head.
  6. I write in order to discover on my shelf a new book that I would enjoy reading, or to see a new play that would engross me.
  7. The future author is one who discovers that language, the exploration and manipulation of the resources of language, will serve him in winning through to his way.

Bruce Sterling (b. April 14): “Embrace your nerditude.”

14 Apr

sterling

Bruce Sterling, born 14 April 1954, is an American science fiction author who is best known for his novels and his work on the Mirrorshades anthology. This work helped to define the cyberpunk genre.

Quotes:

  1. Forget trying to pass for normal. Follow your geekdom. Embrace your nerditude.
  2. In a world so redolent with wonder, how can we allow ourselves to conduct our daily lives with so little insight, such absence of dignity?
  3. We’re so intelligent now that we’re too smart to survive. We’re so well informed that we lost all sense of meaning. We know the price of everything, but we’ve lost all sense of value. We have everyone under surveillance, but we’ve lost all sense of shame.
  4. If poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world, science fiction writers are its court jesters. We are Wise Fools who can leap, caper, utter prophecies, and scratch ourselves in public. We can play with Big Ideas because the garish motley of our pulp origins make us seem harmless.
  5. The future is unwritten. There are best-case scenarios. There are worst-case scenarios. Both of them are great fun to write about if you’ re a science fiction novelist, but neither of them ever happens in the real world. What happens in the real world is always a sideways-case scenario. World-changing marvels to us, are only wallpaper to our children.

Tom Clancy (b. April 12): “The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense.”

12 Apr

Clancy1

Tom Clancy (born 12 April 1947, died 1 October 2013) was an American author known for his espionage, military and techno thrillers. Clancy’s breakthrough novel was The Hunt for Red October. Ten of Clancy’s books reached #1 on the New York Times best-seller list. More than 50 million copies of his books have been sold, and three made into films.

Quotes on writing: 

  1. Collaboration on a book is the ultimate unnatural act.
  2. The only way to do all the things you’d like to do is to read.
  3. The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense.
  4. Books and movies are different art forms with different rules. And because of that, they never translate exactly.
  5. Success is a finished book, a stack of pages each filled with words. If you reach that point, you have won a victory over yourself no less impressive than sailing single-handed around the world.
  6. Nothing is as real as a dream. The world can change around you, but your dream will not. Responsibilities need not erase it. Duties need not obscure it. Because the dream is within you, no one can take it away.
  7. I think about the characters I’ve created and then I sit down and start typing and see what they will do. There’s a lot of subconscious thought that goes on. It amazes me to find out, a few chapters later, why I put someone in a certain place when I did. It’s spooky.
  8. Two questions form the foundation of all novels: “What if?” and “What next?” (A third question, “What now?”, is one the author asks himself every 10 minutes or so; but it’s more a cry than a question.) Every novel begins with the speculative question, What if “X” happened? That’s how you start.

 

Thomas Harris (b. April 11): “Fear comes with imagination…”

11 Apr

Thomas Harris, born 11 April 1940, is an American author and screenwriter. All of his works have been made into films, the most notable being the multi-Oscar winning The Silence of the Lambs.

Quotes on writing:

  1. Fear comes with imagination, it’s a penalty, it’s the price of imagination.
  2. Problem solving is hunting. It is savage pleasure and we are born to it.
  3. Writing novels is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, including digging irrigation ditches.
  4. You must understand that when you are writing a novel you are not making anything up. It’s all there and you just have to find it.
  5. The intimacy of the detail – why The Silence of the Lambs is quite possibly the Thriller Writer’s bible.
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