‘A story needs rhythm. Read it aloud to yourself. If it doesn’t spin a bit of magic, it’s missing something.’ Esther Freud
‘Always carry a notebook. And I mean always. The short-term memory only retains information for three minutes; unless it is committed to paper you can lose an idea for ever.’ Will Self
‘I always have to know my characters in a lot of depth–what clothes they’d choose, what they were like at school, etc . . . And I know what happened before and what will happen after the part of their lives I’m dealing with.’ Alice Munro
‘Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print. This sounds easy, but in practice is incredibly difficult… Common phrases have become so comfortable that they create no emotional response. Take the time to invent fresh, powerful images.’ George Orwell
‘Protect the time and space in which you write. Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you.’ Zadie Smith
‘Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. If you have the knack of playing with exclaimers the way Tom Wolfe does, you can throw them in by the handful.’ Elmore Leonard
‘Don’t say it was delightful; make us say delightful when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers Please will you do the job for me.’ CS Lewis
‘Be daring, take on anything. Don’t labor over little cameo works in which every word is to be perfect. Technique holds a reader from sentence to sentence, but only content will stay in his mind.’ Joyce Carol Oates
‘My own experience is that once a story has been written, one has to cross out the beginning and the end. It is there that we authors do most of our lying.’ Anton Chekhov
‘Don’t sit down in the middle of the woods. If you’re lost in the plot or blocked, retrace your steps to where you went wrong. Then take the other road. And/or change the person. Change the tense. Change the opening page.’ Margaret Atwood
‘Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion.’ Franz Kafka
‘Open your mind to new experiences, particularly to the study of other people. Nothing that happens to a writer – however happy, however tragic – is ever wasted.’ PD James
I was at the Camp Mighty retreat a few weeks back, and one of the best talks was given by Ben Silbermann, co-founder and CEO of Pinterest.
He talked about a journey that I think would be extremely familiar to any novelist. He embarked on many false starts as after he quit his job at Google and built several semi-successful sites before finally arriving at one of the most influential designs in the last five years: Pinterest.
In his talk, he mentioned something that really felt familiar to me as a writer, which was that even after all the success he has had with Pinterest he lives at the intersection of terror and joy.
This struck a chord with me because it gets back to how you have to live as a writer. You have to be strong enough to put yourself out there, brave and confident as you share a part of yourself with the world. You do it because you love it so much you’re willing to risk everything negative that can possibly come your way.
But you also have to be self-critical enough to edit your work and fear failure and be worried that your best might not be good enough, which pushes you just that much further. You have to be scared of what will happen if you don’t do your best. You can’t ever get comfortable.
Terror and joy. Confidence and self-doubt. The best artists live right in that uncomfortable middle.
Reblogged from nathanbransford.com