Tag Archives: story

Doris Lessing (b. October 22): “We’re always just a step away from lunacy” & other quotes on writing

22 Oct


Doris Lessing (born 22 October 1919, died 17 November 2013) was a British novelist, poet, playwright, biographer and short story writer. She was born in Persia and spent her childhood and early adulthood in South Africa before settling in London. She wrote more than 40 books of fiction and non-fiction, including science-fiction novels and two autobiographical books. She was awarded the 2007 Nobel Prize in Literature, the 11th woman and the oldest person ever to receive the prize. 

Quotes on writing:

  1. In the writing process, the more a story cooks, the better. 
  2. Words. Words. I play with words, hoping that some combination, even a chance combination, will say what I want.
  3. I don’t know much about creative writing programs. But they’re not telling the truth if they don’t teach that writing is hard work, and that you have to give up a great deal of your personal life to be a writer. 
  4. You should write, first of all, to please yourself. You shouldn’t care a damn about anybody else at all. But writing can’t be a way of life – the important part of writing is living. You have to live in such a way that your writing emerges from it.
  5. Ask any modern storyteller and they’ll say there’s always a moment when they’re touched with fire, with what we like to call inspiration, and this goes back to the beginning of our race, to fire and ice and the great winds that shaped us and our world.
  6. As you start to write, the questions begin: Why do you remember this and not that? Why remember in every detail a whole week, month, a long ago year, but then a complete blank? How do you know that what you remember is more important than what you don’t?
  7. I’m very unhappy when I’m not writing. I need to write. I think it’s possibly some kind of psychological balancing mechanism – but that’s not only true for writers … anybody. I think that we’re always … just a step away from lunacy anyway, and we need something to keep us balanced.

Ursula K. Le Guin (b. October 21): “If you have to die, commit suicide” & other quotes on writing

21 Oct

Ursula K. Le Guin, born 21 October 1929, is an American author first published in the 1960s. Her work often depicts futuristic or imaginary worlds different from ours in politics, natural environment, gender, religion, sexuality and ethnography. She’s won the Hugo Award, Nebula Award, Locus Award, and World Fantasy Award several times.

Quotes on reading and writing:

  1. Write. Revise. If possible, publish.
  2. When I’m writing I don’t dream much; it’s like the dreaming gets used in the writing.
  3. Writing is my craft. I honour it deeply. To have a craft, to be able to work at it, is to be honoured by it. 
  4. The unread story is not a story; it’s little black marks on wood pulp. The reader, reading it, makes it live: a live thing, a story. 
  5. If you want your writing to be taken seriously, don’t marry and have kids, and above all, don’t die. But if you have to die, commit suicide. They approve of that.
  6. The idea that you need an ivory tower to write in, that if you have babies you can’t have books, that artists are somehow exempt from the dirty work of life – rubbish.
  7. While we read a novel, we’re insane – bonkers. We believe in the existence of people who aren’t there, we hear their voices… Sanity returns (in most cases) when the book is closed.
  8. We read books to find out who we are. What other people, real or imaginary, do and think and feel… is an essential guide to our understanding of what we ourselves are and may become.
  9. Rewriting is as hard as composition is – that is, very hard work. But revising – fiddling and polishing – that’s gravy – I love it. I could do it forever. And the computer has made it such a breeze.
  10. The book itself is a curious artefact, not showy in its technology but complex and extremely efficient: a really neat little device, compact, often very pleasant to look at and handle, that can last decades, even centuries. It doesn’t have to be plugged in, activated, or performed by a machine; all it needs is light, a human eye, and a human mind. It is not one of a kind, and it is not ephemeral. It lasts. It is reliable. If a book told you something when you were fifteen, it will tell it to you again when you’re fifty, though you may understand it so differently that it seems you’re reading a whole new book.


Marina Lewycka (b. October 12): “Comedy can expose the soul” & other quotes on writing

12 Oct

Marina Lewycka, born 12 October 1946, is a British novelist of Ukrainian origin. Her debut novel A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian was long-listed for the 2005 Man Booker Prize and short-listed for the 2005 Orange Prize for Fiction.

Six quotes on writing:

  1. One of the nice things about being a writer is that no one recognizes you. 
  2. I’m a huge fan of Chaucer, he has the most wonderful characters, and I drew on him a lot for Two Caravans.
  3. My preferred place to write is in bed propped up with lots of cushions, and a nice pot of tea on a tray – but it can be hard on the back.
  4. I like to learn something as I write. I often start out with a subject I don’t know very much about and finding out more makes the process more interesting. 
  5. You think comedy isn’t serious, but with comedy you can say such a lot that serious can’t. Comedy can expose the depths of the soul; funny is what we are when we least intend to be.
  6. You must have a good story and find the right voice to tell it. Another useful tip is show, don’t tell. In other words, don’t write that a character behaved badly, show us their bad behavior instead.

James Patterson (b.March 22): “If you want to write commercial fiction, it’s story, story, story…”

22 Mar


“If it’s commercial fiction that you want to write, it’s story, story, story. You’ve got to get a story where if you tell it to somebody in a paragraph, they’ll go, “Tell me more.” And then when you start to write it, they continue to want to read more. And if you don’t, it won’t work.”

~ James Patterson, b. 22 March 1947


For Patterson’s interview with the Telegraph:


Isaac Bashevis Singer (b. November 21): “The waste-paper basket is the writer’s best friend.”

21 Nov

SingerIsaac Bashevis Singer (born 21 November 1902, died 24 July 1991) was a Polish-born Jewish-American author. He was a leading figure in the Yiddish literary movement who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1978.

Quotes on writing:

  1. The waste-paper basket is the writer’s best friend.
  2. When a writer tries to explain too much, he’s out of time before he begins.
  3. When I was a little boy, they called me a liar, but now that I am grown up, they call me a writer. 
  4. A story to me means a plot where there is some surprise. Because that is how life is – full of surprises.
  5. Originality is not seen in single words or even in sentences. Originality is the sum total of a man’s thinking or his writing.
  6. Actually, the true story of a person’s life can never be written. It is beyond the power of literature. The full tale of any life would be both utterly boring and utterly unbelievable.
  7. Every creator painfully experiences the chasm between his inner vision and its ultimate expression. The chasm is never completely bridged. We all have the conviction, perhaps illusory, that we have much more to say than appears on the paper.
  8. The very essence of literature is the war between emotion and intellect, between life and death. When literature becomes too intellectual – when it begins to ignore the passions, the emotions – it becomes sterile, silly, and actually without substance.
  9. The storyteller and poet of our time, as in any other time, must be an entertainer of the spirit in the full sense of the word, not just a preacher of social or political ideals. There is no paradise for bored readers and no excuse for tedious literature that does not intrigue the reader, uplift him, give him the joy and the escape that true art always grants. 

Evelyn Waugh (b. October 28): “An artist must be a reactionary” & other quotes on writing

28 Oct

waughEvelyn Waugh (born 28 October 1903, died 10 April 1966) was an English author, born into a family of publishers and writers. Waugh’s first book, A Life of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, was published in 1928. Soon afterwards his first novel, Decline and Fall, appeared and his career was sensationally launched. Evelyn Waugh wrote 15 novels and several acclaimed travel books, two additional biographies, and an autobiography, A Little Learning

Quotes on writing:

  1. I put words down and push them around a bit.
  2. There are no poetic ideas, only poetic utterances.
  3. Some people think in pictures, some in ideas. I think entirely in words. 
  4. One forgets words as one forgets names. One’s vocabulary needs constant fertilizing or it will die.
  5. An artist must be a reactionary. He has to stand out against the tenor of the age and not go flopping along.
  6. Only when one has lost all curiosity about the future has one reached the age to write an autobiography.
  7. Sometimes, I feel the past and the future pressing so hard on either side that there’s no room for the present at all.
  8. I should like to bury something precious in every place where I’ve been happy and then, when I’m old and ugly and miserable, I could come back and dig it up and remember.
  9. I used to have a rule when I reviewed books as a young man: never to give an unfavorable notice to a book I hadn’t read. I find even this simple rule is flagrantly broken now. 
  10. Don’t analyse yourself. Give the relevant facts and let your readers make their own judgments. Stick to your story. It is not the most important subject in history but it is one about which you are uniquely qualified to speak.

Jonathan Stroud (b. October 27): “Try different kinds of writing” & other quotes

27 Oct

Jonathan Stroud, born 27 October 1970, is an author of fantasy books, mainly for children and young adults. He is best known for the Bartimaeus Trilogy.

Quotes on writing:

  1. Practise: Write as much and as often as possible.
  2. Read: As above, as much and as widely as you can.
  3. Experiment: Try as many different kinds of writing as you can.
  4. When I write something that would have made me laugh as a 10-year-old, or would have scared me or would have excited me, I know I’m onto something.
  5. When I was young, I kept a diary for about 10 years and I had to write in it every day. Even on days when nothing seemed to happen, I made myself think of something to put in it.
  6. The important thing about any book is that you have to have a good story and that it has to be exciting. Then it’s nice to add other levels underneath that people can pick up on.
  7. As an author, you need to keep talking to your audience to remind yourself what they like and what they don’t like. You spend most of your life locked in a room, and you need to be social occasionally.
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