Tag Archives: style

Vladimir Nabokov (b. April 22): “I think like a genius, speak like a child.”

22 Apr

Vladimir Nabokov, born 22 April 1899 and died 2 July 1977, was a Russian-American novelist who was praised for his use of complex and original plots, and clever alliteration and wordplay. Nabokov’s Lolita is his most famous novel. He was a finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction seven times, but never won it. He also made serious contributions as a lepidopterist and chess composer.

Quotes on writing:

  1. I don’t think in any language. I think in images.
  2. The more you love a memory, the stronger and stranger it is.
  3. Literature and butterflies are the two sweetest passions known to man.
  4. Style and structure are the essence of a book; great ideas are hogwash.
  5. I think like a genius, I write like a distinguished author, I speak like a child.
  6. A writer should have the precision of a poet and the imagination of a scientist.
  7. Nothing revives the past so completely as a smell that was once associated with it.
  8. Knowing you have something good to read before bed is among the most pleasurable of sensations.
  9. Lolita is famous, not me. I am an obscure, doubly obscure, novelist with an unpronounceable name.
  10. The writer’s job is to get the main character up a tree, and then once they are up there, throw rocks at them.
  11. Turning one’s novel into a movie script is rather like making a series of sketches for a painting that has long ago been finished and framed.
  12. The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible.
  13. My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music. My pleasures are the most intense known to man: writing and butterfly hunting.
  14. There is nothing in the world that I loathe more than group activity, that communal bath where the hairy and slippery mix in a multiplication of mediocrity.


John Irving (b. March 2nd): “You’ve got to get obsessed and stay obsessed.”

2 Mar


John Irving, born 2 March 1942, is an American novelist and Academy Award-winning screenwriter. His novels include The World According to GarpA Widow for One YearThe Cider House Rules, and A Prayer for Owen Meany. Five of his novels have been adapted to film. He won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Cider House Rules.

Quotes on writing

  1. Half my life is an act of revision. 
  2. You’ve got to get obsessed and stay obsessed. 
  3. I’m old-fashioned, a storyteller. I’m not an analyst and I’m not an intellectual.
  4. The building of the architecture of a novel – the craft of it – is something I never tire of.
  5. I’ve always preferred writing in longhand. I’ve always written first drafts in longhand.
  6. I write very quickly; I rewrite very slowly. It takes me nearly as long to rewrite a book as it does to get the first draft.
  7. Writing a novel is actually searching for victims. As I write I keep looking for casualties. The stories uncover the casualties. 
  8. I am compulsive about writing, I need to do it the way I need sleep and exercise and food and sex; I can go without it for a while, but then I need it.
  9. The way you define yourself as a writer is that you write every time you have a free minute. If you didn’t behave that way you would never do anything.
  10. I don’t begin a novel or a screenplay until I know the ending. And I don’t mean only that I have to know what happens. I mean that I have to hear the actual sentences. I have to know what atmosphere the words convey. 
  11. When I was still in prep school – 14, 15 – I started keeping notebooks, journals. I started writing, almost like landscape drawing or life drawing. I never kept a diary, I never wrote about my day and what happened to me, but I described things. 
  12. I am not attracted to writers by style. What style do Dickens, Grass, and Vonnegut have in common? How silly! I am attracted to what makes them angry, what makes them passionate, what outrages them, what they applaud and find sympathetic in human beings and what they detest about human beings, too. They are writers of great emotional range.
  13. You bet I write disaster fiction. We have compiled a disastrous record on this planet, a record of stupidity and absurdity and self-abuse and self-aggrandizement and self-deception and pompousness and self-righteousness and cruelty and indifference beyond what any other species has demonstrated the capacity for, which is the capacity for all the above.
  14. Along the (writing) way accidents happen, detours get taken… But these are not “divine” accidents; I don’t believe in those. I believe you have constructive accidents en route through a novel only because you have mapped a clear way. If you have confidence that you have a clear direction to take, you always have confidence to explore other ways; if they prove to be mere digressions, you’ll recognize that and make the necessary revisions. The more you know about a book, the freer you can be to fool around. The less you know, the tighter you get.

Norman Mailer (b. January 31): “Style is character.”

31 Jan


“A really good style comes only when a man has become as good as he can be. Style is character. A good style cannot come from a bad, undisciplined character… I think good style is a matter of rendering out of oneself all the cupidities, all the cripplings, all the vague desires. And then I think one has to develop one’s physical grace.”

~ Norman Mailer, b. 31 January 1923


James Jones (b. November 6): “I write to reach eternity” & other quotes on writing

6 Nov
Writer James Jones


James Jones (born 6 November 1921, died 9 May 1977) was an American author who won the 1952 National Book Award for his first published novel, From Here to Eternity, adapted for film and made into a television series a generation later.

Quotes on writing:

  1. I write to reach eternity.
  2. Old soldiers never die, they write novels.
  3. Having a little talent as a writer is like having a little talent as a brain surgeon.
  4. The quality which makes man want to write and be read is essentially a desire for self-exposure and masochism. 
  5. You have to really work at it to write. I guess there has to be talent first; but even with talent you still have to work at it.
  6. I believe it is good for an American writer to get outside his country — outside his continent — and see it from a vantage point outside its pervading emotional climate.
  7. I think that a classic style in writing tends to remove the reader one level from the immediacy of the experience. For any normal reader, I think a colloquial style makes him feel more as though he is within the action, instead of just reading about it.

Ed McBain (b. October 15): “It’s a matter of style” & other quotes on writing

15 Oct

Ed McBain (born 15 October 1926, died 6 July 2005) was an American author and screenwriter, who also wrote as Evan Hunter. He wrote for five decades, penning hundreds of novels, including The 87th Precinct Series. He also wrote screenplays such as The Birds for Alfred Hitchcock. He was the first American to receive the Diamond Dagger, the British Crime Writers Association’s highest award. He also holds the Mystery Writers of America’s prestigious Grand Master Award.

Six quotes on writing:

  1. A detective sees death in all its various forms at least five times a week. 
  2. Changing writing styles is like an actor taking on a different part.
  3. Readers are what it’s all about, aren’t they? If not, why am I writing?
  4. Depending on what I’m working on, I come to the writing desk with entirely different mindsets. When I change from one to the other, it’s as if another writer is on the scene.
  5. I wanted to be an artist. I was studying art. I wanted to be a great painter. When I went into the Navy, there wasn’t much to draw at sea. So I began writing, and I began reading a lot.
  6. I never take ideas from the headlines. I feel that if a story is good enough, a real story that is, then it’s already been covered by the media, and if it’s not good enough, why would I want to bother with it?

There are three levels of readership…

6 Sep

Image result for nabokov

There seem to be three levels of readership: at the bottom, those who go after “human interest”; in the middle, the people who want ideas, packaged thought about Life and Truth; at the top, the proper readers, who go for style.



Coco Chanel (b. August 19): “Fashion fades…”

19 Aug


“Fashion fades, only style remains the same.”

~ Coco Chanel, b. 19 August 1883



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