Quotes for Writers

On Writing Fiction
"Though the literary dabbler may write a fine story now and then, the true writer is one for whom technique has become, as for the pianist, second nature."
J. Gardner - The Art of Fiction, p. 9

"... whatever the genre may be, fiction does its work by creating a dream in the reader's mind."
J. Gardner - The Art of Fiction, p. 31

"Thus the value of great fiction, we begin to suspect, is not just that it entertains us or distracts us from our troubles, not just that it broadens our knowledge of people and places, but also that it helps us to know what we believe, reinforces those qualities that are noblest in us, leads us to feel uneasy about our faults and limitations."
J. Gardner - The Art of Fiction, p. 31

"What the young writer needs to develop, to achieve his goal of becoming a great artist, is not a set of aesthetic laws, but artistic mastery."
J. Gardner - The Art of Fiction, p. 128

"One great inhibition and obstacle to me was the thought: Will it make money? But you find if you are thinking of that all the time, either you don't make money because the work is so empty, dry, calculated and without life in it. Or you do make money and you are ashamed of your work. Your published writing gives you the pip."
Brenda Uelland - If You Want to Write, p. 24

"It may feel more classy to imitate James Joyce... than All In the Family; but every literary imitation lacks something we expect of good writing: the writer seeing with his own eyes."
J. Gardner - On Becoming a Novelist, p.25

"Detail is the lifeblood of fiction."
J. Gardner - On Becoming a Novelist

"The study of writing, like the study of classical piano, is not practical but aristocratic. If one is born rich, one can easily afford to be an artist; if not, one has to afford one's art by sacrifice."
J. Gardner - On Becoming a Novelist

"The main purpose of art... is this, that it tell the truth about the soul, revealing and giving expression to all the secrets one cannot say in simple words. ...Art is a microscope that the artist focuses on the secrets of his own soul, and that then reveals to men the secrets common to them all."
Tolstoy - diary note

"The real rewards of writing are serious and bitter as well as sweet. And they are private, not public.
W. Sloan - The Craft of Writing

"With Schopenhauer he (Thomas Mann) holds that the epic writer's aim should be to conjure up the richest possible inner life by means of a minimum of external action: 'Art consists in the writer's affecting our inner life most strongly with the least display of outer life; for the inner is essentially the object of our interest.' Thus every detail of Aschenbach's outer life is so chosen as to illuminate the deepest recesses of his mind and to furnish the richest symbolical meaning."
Von Gronicka, in a critique of Mann's Death in Venice

"The lifelong central theme of Mann's books has been an inquiry into the function of art and the artist, of culture and the intellectual in modern society."

"And yet, we know how fatal the pursuit of liveliness may be: it may result in ...tiresome acrobatics. ... Flashy effects distract the mind. They destroy their persuasiveness; you would not believe a man was very intent on ploughing a furrow if he carried a hoop with him and jumped through it at every other step."
Katherine Anne Porter

"Sin is easier to write about than grace, I suppose, because the territory is so familiar and because, too, it is the nature of grace, when we receive it, to turn our eyes not inward, where most writers' eyes turn, but outward, where there is a whole world of needs to serve far greater than the need for another book."
F. Buechner - Then and Now, p. 48-9

"I have never produced anything good except by a long succession of slight efforts."
Andre Gide

"One should only become aware of the difficulties of a subject progressively and in the course of working at it; if one realizes them all at the outset, one loses heart."
Andre Gide "If it Die..."

"At least in conventional fiction, the moment we stop caring where the story will go next... the writer has failed, and we stop reading.
J. Gardner - The Art of Fiction, p. 55

"When the amateur writer lets a bad sentence stand in his final draft, though he knows its bad, the sin is frigidity: he has not yet learned the importance of his art..."
J. Gardner - The Art of Fiction, p. 118

"When virtuosity gets the upper hand of your theme, or is better than your idea, it is time to quit."
Katherine Anne Porter

On Memoir Writing
"The writer of any first person work must decide two obvious questions: what to put in and what to leave out."
Annie Dillard

"Deny it or not, it's there. Ego is at the heart of all reasons why anybody writes a memoir, whether it's a book or a pamphlet or a letter to our children. Memoir is how we validate our lives."
William Zinnser - Inventing the Truth, p.24

And the motive for recording these scraps from the past? It is much the same motive that has made me a novelist: a desire to reduce a chaos of experience to some sort of order, and a hungry curiosity."
Graham Green -- A Sort of Life, p. 12

Read a few stories that I have written... and tell me what you think... ennyman@cp.duluth.mn.us

Return to Ed's Home Page