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Quotes

'Each writer is born with a repertory company in his head. Shakespeare has perhaps 20 players. I have 10 or so, and that's a lot. As you get older, you become more skillful at casting them.'

'Meeting writers is always so disappointing. I got over wanting to meet live writers quite a long time ago.  Read more

'The best advice on writing was given to me by my first editor, Michael Korda of Simon and Schuster, while writing my first book. 'Finish your first draft and then we'll talk,' he said. It took me a long time to realize how good the advice was. Even if you write it wrong, write and finish your first draft. Only then, when you have a flawed whole, do you know what you have to fix.'

'After all everybody, that is, everybody who writes, is interested in living inside themselves in order to tell what is inside themselves. That is why writers have to have two countries, the one where they belong and the one in which they live really. The second one is romantic, it is separate from themselves, it is not real but it is really there.'

'It's the most satisfying occupation man has discovered yet, because you never can quite do it as well as you want to, so there's always something to wake up tomorrow morning to do.'

'A problem with a piece of writing often clarifies itself if you go for a long walk.'

'If I had to give young writers advice, I would say don't listen to writers talking about writing or themselves.'

'Occasionally, there arises a writing situation where you see an alternative to what you are doing, a mad, wild gamble of a way for handling something, which may leave you looking stupid, ridiculous or brilliant - you just don't know which. You can play it safe there, too, and proceed along the route you'd mapped out for yourself.  Read more

'There was a day when I looked up and realised that I had become someone who professionally replied to email, and who wrote as a hobby. I started answering fewer emails, and was relieved to find I was writing much more.'

'Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don't feel I should be doing something else.'

'Like most novelists, I like to do exactly the opposite of what I'm told. It's in my nature as a novelist. Novelists can't trust anything they haven't seen with their own eyes or touched with their own hands.'

'Make no mistake, those who write long books have nothing to say.
Of course those who write short books have even less to say.'

'I can still remember the miraculous feeling of writing a sentence, then more sentences, telling a story. The first thing I wrote was a one-page summary of Robinson Crusoe and I am so sorry I do not have it any more; it was at that moment I became an author.'

'Rejection slips, or form letters, however tactfully phrased, are lacerations of the soul, if not quite inventions of the devil - but there is no way around them.'

'"Writer's block" is just a fancy way of saying "I don't feel like doing any work today."'

'In my experience, writing doesn't get any easier the more you do it. But there is a growth of confidence, not much, but a nugget, like a pearl, like a tumour.'

'Oh it is only a novel... In short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best chosen language.'

'The best way to become a successful writer is to read good writing, remember it, and then forget where you remember it from.'

‘Books say: she did this because life says: she did this. Books are where things are explained to you; life is where things aren't. I'm not surprised some people prefer books. Books make sense of life. The only problem is that the lives they make sense of are other people's lives, never your own,'

'The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you're allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it's definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it ­honestly, and tell it as best you can. I'm not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.'

‘The three most important things are character, character, character. Climb inside every character and live them from the inside. And remember: every character, even the most minor ones, think they are the true centre of the story.'

'We find what we are looking for. If we are looking for life and love and openness and growth, we are likely to find them. If we are looking for witchcraft and evil, we'll likely find them, and we may get taken over by them.'

'An absolutely necessary part of a writer's equipment, almost as necessary as talent, is the ability to stand up under punishment, both the punishment the world hands out and the punishment he inflicts upon himself.'

'Your first book is the only one that matters. Perhaps a writer should write only that one. That is the one moment when you make the big leap; the opportunity to express yourself is offered that once, and you untie the knot within you then or never again.'

'Sometimes the ideas just come to me. Other times I have to sweat and almost bleed to make ideas come. It's a mysterious process, but I hope I never find out exactly how it works. I like a mystery, as you may have noticed.'

'And remember: you must never, under any circumstances, despair. To hope and to act, these are our duties in misfortune.'

'Only Southerners have taken horsewhips and pistols to editors about the treatment or maltreatment of their manuscript. This--the actual pistols--was in the old days, of course, we no longer succumb to the impulse. But it is still there, within us.'

‘I listen to my own books. The reason why is because you can hear everything you did right and everything you did wrong. This is the most honourable form of storytelling there is.'

'I tell writers to keep reading, reading, reading. Read widely and deeply. And I tell them not to give up even after getting rejection letters. And only write what you love.'

'You have to turn your collar around like a priest. You offer a lot of praise, you have confession and you have faith, and pretty soon they might trust you enough to know that you're not trying to make the book in your own image. It's their book.'

'To present a whole world that doesn't exist and make it seem real, we have to more or less pretend we're polymaths. That's just the act of all good writing.'

'It is only by writing, not dreaming about it, that we develop our own style.'

'Everything you invent is true: you can be sure of that. Poetry is a subject as precise as geometry.'

‘My advice to writers, whether they are inspired or repelled by my work, is to read and reread, write and rewrite, keep to the grindstone, do not be swayed by fame or adulation, the work is the absolute prize.'

'Writers are liars, my dear, surely you know that by now? And yet, things need not have happened to be true. Tales and dreams are the shadow-truths that will endure when mere facts are dust and ashes, and forgot.'

'I certainly never intended to speak for anyone other than myself. Even myself I find it difficult to speak for. My books may well fail as artistic endeavours but I don't want them to fail for failing to speak for a generation for which I never intended to speak in the first place.'

'The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense.'

'But then, that's the beauty of writing stories - each one is an exploratory journey in search of a reason and a shape. And when you find that reason and that shape, there's no feeling like it.'

'If you're going to be a writer you have to be one of the great ones... After all, there are better ways to starve to death.'

'Sometimes the ideas just come to me. Other times I have to sweat and almost bleed to make ideas come. It's a mysterious process, but I hope I never find out exactly how it works. I like a mystery, as you may have noticed.'

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