Tag Archives: writing

Start without her

“If your muse doesn’t show up, start without her.”

– Kevin J. Anderson

This is a reminder to myself as I try to write more. Even if you’re a “writer” (whatever that means), it’s still hard work. It’s a discipline, and when you don’t feel like doing it, so what? In my experience, I end up loving it even when I have to make myself start. That’s how I know I’m supposed to be doing it.

Truer than if they had really happened

“All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened; and after you are finished reading one, you will feel that all that happened to you, and afterwards it all belongs to you: the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was. If you can get so that you can give that to people, then you are a writer.”

– Ernest Hemingway


This is precisely why I love to read.

The most important thing is to wonder

“At one time I thought the most important thing was talent. I think now that the young man or the young woman must possess or teach himself, training himself, in infinite patience, which is to try and to try until it comes right. He must train himself in ruthless intolerance — that is to throw away anything that is false no matter how much he might love that page or that paragraph.

“The most important thing is insight, that is curiosity — to wonder, to mull, and to muse why it is that man does what he does, and if you have that, then I don’t think talent makes much difference.”

– William Faulkner

If curiosity and a desire to understand things are the primary requirement for being a writer, I certainly qualify. Now all I have to do is actually write.

This quote comes from one of my favorite blogs: writingadvice.tumblr.com. They post great writing advice, quotes about writing, and interviews with writers. If you like to write, check it out.

I’ve read a lot of quotes on writing over the years, and a big theme that always comes up is: writing is hard work, and even professional writers have a hard time getting started every day. This is comforting to me, because that’s exactly how I feel. I never want to start writing (for some reason, even the laundry seems more interesting), but when I do, I’m so involved I completely lose track of time and wonder, “Why didn’t I want to do this?”

Kurt Vonnegut’s Rules for Writing Fiction

As as reader, I can agree that all of these are essential, except maybe #7. I love mysteries and being confused by books, as long as I know it will all make sense by the end. Thanks to the BardCast guys for telling me about them, and to Wanderings.net for posting them.

1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

4. Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action.

5. Start as close to the end as possible.

6. Be a sadist. Now matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

6. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

7. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

Vonnegut, Kurt Vonnegut, Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons 1999), 9-10.

A Process that Will Bring About New Things

“A writer is not so much someone who has something to say, as he is someone who has found a process that will bring about new things he would not have though of it he had not started to say them.” – William Stafford

I began a new writing project last night and re-discovered this truth. Sometimes, it amazes me what comes out from under my pen. I love it.

Somebody Ought to Know

“There’s a house on a hill where a lady lived that used to keep cats. Along the road the apples are little and yellow and sweet. Puddles dry in the sun, and the mud cakes, and yellow butterflies diddle in the new mud. Cow trails lead up slopes through juniper beds and thistles and gray rocks, and below you the lake hangs blue and clear, and you see the islands plain. Sometimes a farm dog barks. Yes, sir, I returned to Belgrade, and things don’t change much. I thought somebody ought to know.”

– E.B. White

{Frankly, I’m not sure what White’s purpose was in writing this; I found this passage in the highly-recommended “On Writing Well,” a book on writing non-fiction by William Zinsser. I love it because it draws a great word picture, and because he seems to be saying that sometimes we write for the same reason that some painters paint – because we saw something beautiful and feel compelled to share it. To me, that seems to be one of the best reasons to do something creative, as Kipling said, “for the joy of the working.”

{What do you think? Am I missing his point? Is it a good point? Should I read the rest of the essay this comes from?}

Vigorous writing is concise

In honor of National Grammar Day, here’s a quote from William Strunk, Jr., one author of the very influential “The Elements of Style.” You may like this book, and you may not, but it would be hard to dislike this piece of advice. It has guided me well for over a decade.

Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.

– William Strunk, Jr.