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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.

Anne Lamott (b. April 10): “Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts.”

10 Apr

 

Anne Lamott, born 10 April 1954, is an American novelist and non-fiction writer. She is also a political activist, public speaker, and writing teacher. Her non-fiction works are largely autobiographical and cover alcoholism, single motherhood, depression and Christianity. She is most famous for Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life.

Quotes on Writing:

  1. My gratitude for good writing is unbounded; I’m grateful for it the way I’m grateful for the ocean.
  2. Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere.
  3. I don’t think you have time to waste not writing because you are afraid you won’t be good at it.
  4. Because this business of becoming conscious, of being a writer, is ultimately about asking yourself, How alive am I willing to be?
  5. You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.
  6. Don’t be afraid of your material or your past. Be afraid of wasting any more time obsessing about how you look and how people see you. Be afraid of not getting your writing done.
  7. We write to expose the unexposed. If there is one door in the castle you have been told not to go through, you must. The writer’s job is to turn the unspeakable into words – not just into any words, but if we can, into rhythm and blues.
  8. For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.
  9. Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. It’s like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can’t stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship.
  10. You are lucky to be one of those people who wishes to build sand castles with words, who is willing to create a place where your imagination can wander. We build this place with the sand of memories; these castles are our memories and inventiveness made tangible. So part of us believes that when the tide starts coming in, we won’t really have lost anything, because actually only a symbol of it was there in the sand. Another part of us thinks we’ll figure out a way to divert the ocean. This is what separates artists from ordinary people: the belief, deep in our hearts, that if we build our castles well enough, somehow the ocean won’t wash them away. I think this is a wonderful kind of person to be.

 

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