Helpful Quotes To Inspire And Guide You

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Right now, we're all in different places on the same path. Some of us are learning about how to start. Some are learning about style and craft. While some of us are further along and just looking for a little motivation.

I can't know exactly what you need at this moment, but there is a little something for everyone in this post.

I decided to share some of the best quotes on writing that I could find, covering a wider range of topics than I can usually cover in one post.

Hopefully, you can find something here to help you wherever you are on your writing journey.


"If you want to write, you can. Fear stops most people from writing, not lack of talent, whatever that is. Who am I? What right do I have to speak? Who will listen to me if I do? You're a human being, with a unique story to tell, and you have every right. If you speak with passion, many of us will listen. We need stories to live, all of us. We live by story. Yours enlarges the circle."
-Richard Rhodes

"Believe in your own identity and your own opinions. Proceed with confidence, generating it, if necessary, by pure willpower. Writing is an act of ego, and you might as well admit it. Use it's energy to keep yourself going."
-William Zinsser

"One of the few things I know about writing is this: Spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book. Give it, give it all, give it now."
-Annie Dillard

"Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Don't bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself."
-William Faulkner

"Take out another notebook, pick up another pen, and just write, just write, just write. In the middle of the world, make one positive step. In the center of the chaos, make one definitive act. Just write. Say yes, stay alive, be awake. Just write. Just write. Just write. Just write."
-Natalie Goldberg

"Learn to write by doing it. Read widely and wisely. Increase your word power. Find your own individual voice through practicing constantly. Go through the world with your eyes and ears open and learn to express that experience in words."
-P.D. James

"This is our life and it's not going to last forever. There isn't time to talk about someday writing that short story or poem or novel. Slow down now, touch what is around you, and out of care and compassion for each moment and detail, put pen to paper and begin to write."
-Natalie Goldberg

Inspiration and Ideas

"Don't think and then write it down. Think on paper."
-Henry Kemelman

"You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club."
-Jack London

"If you stuff yourself full of poems, essays, plays, stories, films, novels, comic strips, magazines, music, you automatically explode every morning like Old Faithful. I have never had a dry spell in my life, mainly because I feed myself well, to the point of bursting. I wake early and hear my morning voices leaping around in my head like jumping beans. I get out of bed quickly, to trap them before the escape."
-Ray Bradbury

"Every idea is my last. I feel sure of it. So I try to do the best with each as it comes and that's where my responsibility ends. But I just don't wait for ideas. I look for them. Constantly. If I don't use the ideas that I find, they're going to quit showing up."
-Peg Bracken

"What they pay me for is the leap of faith that says: "If I sit down and do this, everything will come out okay."
-Stephen King

Getting Started

"Beginning a novel is always hard. It feels like going nowhere. I always have to write at least 100 pages that go into the trashcan before it finally begins to work. It's discouraging, but necessary to write those pages. I try to consider them pages -100 to zero of the novel."
-Barbara Kingsolver

"I do a great deal of research. I don't want anyone to say, 'That could not have happened.' It may be fiction, but it has to be true."
-Jacquelyn Mitchard

"Don't quit. It's very easy to quit during the first ten years. Nobody cares whether you write or not, and it's very hard to write when nobody cares one way or the other. You can't get fired if you don't write, and most of the time you don't get rewarded if you do. But don't quit."
-Andre Dubus

"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 ten minutes or so; but it's more of a cry than a question.) Every novel begins with the speculative question, What if 'X' happened? That's how you start."
-Tom Clancy

Plot And Structure
"Too many writers think that all you need to do is write well, but that is only part of what a good book is. Above all, a good book tells a story. Focus on the story first. Ask yourself, 'Will other people find this story so interesting that they will tell others about it?' Remember: A best-selling book usually follows a simple rule, 'It's a wonderful story, wonderfully told'; not, 'It's a wonderfully told story."
-Nicholas Sparks

"Don't put anything into a story that does not reveal character or advance the action."
-Kurt Vonnegut

"Transitions are critically important. I want the reader to turn the page without thinking she's turning the page. It must flow seamlessly."
-Janet Evanovich

"And while dollars have little to do with it, the fiction writer should be asking the same question any capable film producer would ask: Is this scene truly necessary? It is the kind of thinking that, put into practice, results in a story with a sense of energy and direction."
-Les Standiford


"When writing a novel, a writer should create living people; people, not characters. A character is a caricature."
-Earnest Hemingway

"You can never know enough about your characters."
-W. Somerset Maugham

"A novelist's characters must be with him as he lies down to sleep, and as he wakes from his dreams. He must learn to hate them and to love them."
-Anthony Trollope

"People do not spring forth out of the blue, fully formed. They become themselves slowly, day by day, starting from babyhood. They are the result of both enviroment and heredity, and your fictional characters, in order to be believable, must be also."
-Lois Duncan

"A writer must always leave room for the characters to grow and change. If you move your characters from plot point to plot point, like painting by the numbers, they often remain stick figures. They will never take on a life of their own. The most exciting thing is when you find a character doing something surprising or unplanned. Like a character saying to me: 'Hey Richard, you may think you own me, but I don't. I'm my own person."
-Richard North Patterson

"Writers shouldn't fall in love with their characters so much that they lose sight of what they're trying to accomplish. The idea is to write a whole story, a whole book. A writer has to be able to look at that story and see whether or not a character works, whether or not a character needs further definition."
-Stephen Coonts

Rituals And Methods

"It is by sitting down to write every morning that one becomes a writer. Those who do not remain amateurs."
-Gerald Brenan

"Get up early and get going at it at once, in fact, work first, and wash afterwards."
-W. H. Auden

"Write even when you don't want to, don't much like what you are writing, and aren't writing particularly well."
-Agatha Christie

"It's a job, not a hobby. You don't write the way you build a model airplane. You have to sit down and work, to schedule your time and stick with it. Even if it's just for an hour or so each day, you have to get a babysitter and make the time. If you're going to make writing succeed, you have to approach it as a job."
-Rosellen Brown

"I try to write a certain amount each day, five days a week. A rule sometimes broken is better than no rule."
-Herman Wouk

"I like to say that there are are three things that are required for success as a writer: talent, luck, discipline. Discipline is the one that you have to ficus on controlling, and you just have to hope and trust in the other two."
-Michael Chabon

Style And Craft

"You have to follow your own voice. You have to be yourself when you write. In effect, you have to announce, 'This is me, this is what I stand for, this is what you get when you read me. I'm doing the best I can- buy me or not- but this is who I am as a writer."
-David Morell

"You should really stay true to your own style. When I first started writing, everyone said to me, 'Your style isn't right because you don't use the really flowery language that romances have.' My romances, compared to what's out there, are very strange, very odd, very different. And I think that's one of the reasons they're selling."
-Jude Deveraux

"You have to be a little patient if you're an artist. People don't always get you the first time."
-Kate Millett

"If the stuff that you're writing is not for yourself, it won't work."
-Stephen King

"Keep in mind that the person you write for is yourself. Tell the story that you most desperately want to read."
-Susan Isaacs

"The best rule for writing- as well as for speaking- is to always use the simplest words that will accurately convey your thought."
-David Lambuth

"What lasts in the reader's mind is not the phrase but the effect the phrase created: laughter, tears, pain, joy. If the phrase is not effecting the reader, what's it doing there? Make it do its job or cut it without mercy or remorse."
-Isaac Asimov

Do you have a favorite writing quote? Share it in the comments and I'd love to add it to the others.
ETA: A wonderful reader, Nani Christina, suggested two more great quotes I just had to add...

“Becoming a writer is not a “career decision” like becoming a doctor or a policeman. You don’t choose it so much as get chosen, and once you accept the fact that you’re not fit for anything else, you have to be prepared to walk a long, hard road for the rest of your days.”

- Paul Auster

"Hell man, I know very well you didn't come to me only to want to become a writer, and after all what do I know about it except you've got to stick to it with the energy of a benny addict."

- Jack Kerouac, On the Road

Thanks for the suggestions!


Different Types Of Point Of View

Monday, March 26, 2012

When you are just starting a new project, one of the first things you must decide is which point of view to use.

Last week we covered choosing the best point of view character for your story. This week, we're going to look at the various types of POV: first person, second person, third person, and omniscient.

First Person Point Of View:

First person is used when the main character is telling the story. This is the kind that uses the "I" narrator. As a reader, you can only experience the story through this person's eyes. So you won't know anything about the people or events that this character hasn't personally experienced.

First Person Peripheral: This is when the narrator is a supporting character in the story, not the main character. It still uses the "I" narrator but since the narrator is not the protagonist, there are events and scenes that will happen to the protagonist that the narrator will not have access to.

Second Person Point Of View:

Second person point of view is generally only used in instructional writing. It is told from the perspective of "you".

Third Person Point Of View:

Third person POV is used when your narrator is not a character in the story. Third person uses the "he/she/it" narrator and it is the most commonly used POV in writing.

There are 3 main types of Third Person POV:

  • Third Person Limited: Limited means that the POV is limited to only one character. Which means that the narrator only knows what that character knows. With third person limited you can choose to view the action from right inside the character's head, or from further away, where the narrator has more access to information outside the protagonist's viewpoint.
  • Third Person Multiple: This type is still in the "he/she/it" category, but now the narrator can follow multiple characters in the story. The challenge is making sure that the reader knows when you are switching from one character to another. Make the switch obvious with chapter or section breaks.
  • Third Person Omniscient: This point of view still uses the "he/she/it" narration but now the narrator knows EVERYTHING. The narrator isn't limited by what one character knows, sort of like the narrator is God. The narrator can know things that others don't, can make comments about what's happening, and can see inside the minds of other characters.
Personally I am most comfortable using Third Person Omniscient POV. It's the only one that flows naturally for me.

What about you? Which POV do you prefer to use?


Point Of View: Finding The Best For Your Story

Monday, March 19, 2012

What is Point Of View (POV)?

In The Complete Handbook Of Novel Writing, Nancy Kress helps us define POV as: "who's eyes we see the action through, who's head we're inside of, and who's feelings we experience as that character feels them."

This is why this is why it's so important to choose the right POV character for your story. It will "determine what you tell, how you tell it and, often, even what the action means."

Finding your Point of view character...

"The protagonist of your story is your "star", the person we're most interested in."

Usually, your protagonist will be your POV character, but not always. You should always consider how interesting it might be to have your POV character be someone other then the protagonist.

So, one of the first questions you should ask yourself when beginning a new story is: Will my protagonist be my POV character? If not, do I have a good reason for making the split? What will I gain? What can I lose?

Some things to consider when choosing your POV character:

  • Who will be hurt by the action? Someone who is strongly affected emotionally usually makes the best POV character.
  • Who can be present the climax? Your POV character must be present, other wise we'll have to learn about the most important event in the story though second hand information.
  • Who gets most of the good scenes? You will need someone who is present at those too.
  • Who will provide the most interesting outlook? What kind of observations do you want to make? Who would be best to make them?

How many Points Of View Can You Have?

There is no rule saying that you can't have more than one POV. But you should use as few as you can in order to tell the story you want to tell.

If one character just can't be at every important scene, you will need more than one POV. You may need three or more, depending on how complicated the plot is.

Keep in mind though that every time you switch POV, the reader has to make the adjustment. And with too many points of view, it can get confusing. Make sure that each switch between characters is clearly defined in some way, such as a beginning a new chapter.


Why You Should Keep A Writing Journal

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

One of the most valuable tools I've found since I started taking my writing seriously is my writing journal. This notebook, is where I detail every idea I have. Some I end up using, some I don't, but the journal helps me sort them out and keep them organized.

I write out my fears, my worries, my dead ends, and all the difficulties I face trying to piece a story together from beginning to end.

Usually, as I am processing, solutions will come to me. I'll inevitably have a breakthough and I know that I wouldn't have come to it if I hadn't journaled my way there.

What Goes Into A Writer's Journal And How Does It Work?

Whether you keep your journal on the computer or in a notebook, you should check in at the beginning of your writing day. You can begin with how your day started if you like, some notes about how you've been feeling.

Use the journal to get out any anxiety you may be feeling over your writing. If you're worried about an upcoming scene, or you're having trouble with pacing or plot, write about it. If you don't face those fears, that anxiety can inhibit your writing, leading to self-sabotage and writer's block.

Generally, the next thing I do is lay out exactly where I am in the story. I talk to myself about the scene that I am working on, what's happening, who is present, and the action of the moment.

And remember, this journal is for your eyes only. No one else will ever see it so don't worry about bad writing here. Use any format you like, from long paragraphs to bullet points, if that's what your comfortable with.

I use my journal to toss around ideas. I experiment with "What if..." I jot down ideas for scenes, characters, and dialogue. I explore all the story possibilities, all the pros and cons. It helps me plot my story and gives me something to look back on when I am further along and wonder, what happens next? I also make note of any questions that come to me while I'm writing a scene.

Use Your Journal As A Jump Start

The great thing about writing in your journal is that before you know it, you're sliding right into your writing for the day. My journal helps me get past any resistance I may be feeling. It helps me get focused and gets the words flowing.

If you haven't already started using a journal, you should really try one and see how it works for you. Remember, it's your journal, so you can use it any way you want. You can type it or write longhand like I do. You can use it every day or once a week. Whatever works for you.

Until next time!



Explaining "Show, don't tell"...

Monday, March 12, 2012

While this blog is so new, I am trying to stick with the absolute basics. First, I covered the fear of starting. And then the difference between the passive and active voices.

Now, I want to cover one of fiction's first rules, "show, don't tell."

There's a great quote from Anton Chekhov that explains this concept perfectly.

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

In The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing, Jack M. Bickham explains that "show, don't tell" is shorthand for this advice: "Don't lecture your reader; she won't believe you. Give her the story action, character thoughts, feelings, and sense impressions as the character would experience them in real life. Let her live the story for herself as she lives real life, by experience."

Go From Facts To Feelings

"Fiction can only involve and convince and excite readers if it let's them experience the story world in the way they experience real life: by taking in stimuli and drawing their own conclusions."

"In real life, you don't walk outside in the morning and experience the start of the day with something internal like, 'Cloud cover is thick. The temperature is 64 degrees, the humidity is 42 percent, traffic on the highway is heavy."

"What you do is walk outside and see with your eyes that it's gray and dim; you look up and see the thick gray clouds; you feel the temperature with your skin...and relax, or feel warm, or shiver. If you breathe deeply and the air feels thick to you, you may conclude it's humid. You hear the roar of cars nearby and conclude traffic is heavy on the highway."

Get Into Viewpoint And Stay There!

You must imagine all the thought and sense impressions from one character's viewpoint, and then stick with that character. Imagine the variety of impressions they may be experiencing at any given moment and then present those impressions as "vividly and briefly as possible."

Sticking with your viewpoint character is very helpful with showing and not telling because it removes the temptation to tell the readers things that are totally unknowable to that character. So you can't start telling people what's over the next hill or who is coming up behind them.

Reveal The Evidence In A Logical Order

"Usually this means a chronological presentation. If someone knocks on your character's front door, for example, you simply can't start the next paragraph with dialogue, and then only later mention that oh, by the way, it was Jim at the door, and his face was twisted in anger, and our viewpoint character was concerned and invited him in."

"Instead, you take it a step at a time, logically, as you (and your readers) would experience it in real life: the sound of the knocking at the door; viewpoint character goes to the door and opens it, sees Jim standing there, sees the angry scowl and clenched fists, asks, "Jim, what's wrong? Please come in."

Revealing Characters

"Even the presentation of your viewpoint characters emotions can often be handled more convincingly through showing. It's always tempting to get inside the character and start analyzing. "Sally was so sad and depressed," for example, or "Sally felt the anger rise up in her so sharply that it shocked her. But in such cases, it's more compelling for readers if you find a way to show, something like:

Suddenly she realized the sound in the room was her own sobbing. She felt tears on her cheeks. She raised her hand and it was trembling before her eyes. I could end it all, she thought without warning.
It's your goal to immerse readers in your story's world and make it as much like the real world as you can. Instead of just knowing simply what you are telling them, you need your readers to be able to fully visualize what you are showing them.


The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing By Writer's Digest

Powered by Blogger.