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By: Tiffany Luckey,
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With Halloween just one week away, we’re getting into the spirit of the season with these 13 quotes on the writing life from famous authors of horror, thriller and suspense:
1. “So where do the ideas—the salable ideas—come from? They come from my nightmares. Not the night-time variety, as a rule, but the ones that hide just beyond the doorway that separates the conscious from the unconscious.”
—Stephen King, “The Horror Writer Market and the Ten Bears,” November 1973, WD
2. “The first thing you have to know about writing is that it is something you must do everyday. There are two reasons for this rule: Getting the work done and connecting with your unconscious mind.”
3. “I hope people are reading my work in the future. I hope I have done more than frightened a couple of generations. I hope I’ve inspired a few people one way or another.”
4. “When one is writing a novel in the first person, one must be that person.”
—Daphne du Maurier
5. “When I write, I try to think back to what I was afraid of or what was scary to me, and try to put those feelings into books.”
6. “[Horror fiction] shows us that the control we believe we have is purely illusory, and that every moment we teeter on chaos and oblivion.”
7. “Beauty is the sole legitimate province of the poem.”
—Edgar Allan Poe
8. “I have always loved to use fear, to take it and comprehend it and make it work and consolidate a situation where I was afraid and take it whole and work from there.”
9. “Writing is writing, and stories are stories. Perhaps the only true genres are fiction and nonfiction. And even there, who can be sure?”
10. “I always wanted to be in the world of entertainment. I just love the idea of an audience being happy with what I am doing. Writing is showbusiness for shy people. That’s how I see it.”
11. “I don’t think there is enough respect in general for the time it takes to write consistently good fiction. Too many people think they will master writing overnight, or that they are as good as they will ever be.”
12. “What I love about the thriller form is that it makes you write a story. You can’t get lost in your own genius, which is a dangerous place for writers. You don’t want to ever get complacent. If a book starts going too well, I usually know there’s a problem. I need to struggle. I need that self-doubt. I need to think it’s not the best thing ever.”
—Harlan Coben, WD Interview, January 2011
13. “My reason for writing stories is to give myself the satisfaction of visualising more clearly and detailedly and stably the vague, elusive, fragmentary impressions of wonder, beauty, and adventurous expectancy which are conveyed to me by certain sights (scenic, architectural, atmospheric, etc.), ideas, occurrences, and images encountered in art and literature.”
Want to write your own horror, thriller or suspense novel? Then learn from a master with The Writer’s Digest Annotated Classic: Dracula.
Tiffany Luckey is the associate editor of Writer’s Digest. She also writes about TV and pop culture at AnotherTVBlog.com. Follow Tiffany on Twitter @TiffanyElle.
Writers are notorious procrastinators, and the trend is not limited to hobbyists or young, aspiring authors. We talk a lot about procrastination indirectly—setting personal deadlines, how to schedule writing time around life and family, how to write a draft—and fast!, how to write an outline for anything.
We also discuss wasting time rather frankly in our forum, and occasionally offer assistance to writers who don’t want to work, necessarily, but in a productive way. Sometimes we give direct examples of how to not procrastinate.
Famous time-wasters tend to fall into two camps: There’s the hedonistic band of enthusiastic lollygaggers, and there’s the anti-dillydallying brigade of outputters. The logic follows that non-famous writers follow the same pattern. For both sides, here are some thoughts and advice from the greats on the art and craft of wasting time—or not.
Mark Twain: “Never put off till tomorrow what may be done day after tomorrow just as well.”
Marthe Troly-Curtain: “Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.”
Rita Mae Brown: “If it weren’t for the last minute, nothing would get done.”
Herodotus: “Some men give up their designs when they have almost reached the goal, while others, on the contrary, obtain a victory by exerting, at the last moment, more vigorous efforts than ever before.”
Douglas Adams: “I love deadlines. Especially the whooshing sound they make as they pass by.”
Ellen Degeneres: “Procrastination isn’t the problem. It’s the solution. It’s the universe’s way of saying stop, slow down, you move too fast.”
Dorothy Parker: “Live, drink, be merry, love the reeling midnight through, For tomorrow ye may die, but alas we never do.”
Jerome K. Jerome: “Why, some of the work that I have by me now has been in my possession for years and years, and there isn’t a finger-mark on it. I take great pride in my work; I take it down now and then and dust it. No man keeps his work in a better state of preservation than I do.”
Susan Orlean: I think of myself as something of a connoisseur of procrastination, creative and dogged in my approach to not getting things done.”
Auguste Rodin: “Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely.”
The Writer’s Digest Retreat on the Water is your chance to escape the demands of everyday life and immerse yourself in your craft for a few purposeful and peaceful days. Enrollment at this Retreat is limited—you’ll enjoy the close mentorship of the instructors and the attention to your individual manuscript that only an event this small and exclusive can provide.
Pablo Picasso: “Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.”
Benjamin Franklin: “You may delay, but time will not.”
Charles Dickens: “Procrastination is the thief of time; collar him.”
Abraham Lincoln: “You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”
George Bernard Shaw: “If you take too long in deciding what to do with your life, you’ll find you’ve done it.”
Oscar Wilde: “Hesitation of any kind is a sign of mental decay in the young, of physical weakness in the old.”
Victor Hugo: “Short as life is, we make it still shorter by the careless waste of time.”
J.R.R. Tolkien: “It’s a job that’s never started that takes the longest to finish.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.: “How soon ‘not now’ become ‘never.’”
Henry Ford: “It has been my observation that most people get ahead during the time that others waste.”
Which camp do you fall into? For myself, I’ll only say that this post was supposed to run yesterday.
Adrienne Crezo is the managing editor of Writer’s Digest magazine. Follow her on Twitter @a_crezo.
Poet, playwright and novelist Oscar Wilde was born October 16, 1854 in Dublin. While his most famous works, The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Importance of Being Earnest, live on, Wilde is most frequently remembered for his wit. Here are 15 of his best quotes for writers, readers and artists in honor of his 160th birthday.
1. All bad poetry springs from genuine feeling.
2. I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.
3. If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.
4. There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written.
5. The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means.
6. An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all.
7. The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.
8. I put all my genius into my life; I put only my talent into my works.
9. A poet can survive everything but a misprint.
10. Actions are the first tragedy in life, words are the second. Words are perhaps the worst. Words are merciless.
11. In old days books were written by men of letters and read by the public. Nowadays books are written by the public and read by nobody.
12. I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.
13. With freedom, books, flowers, and the moon, who could not be happy?
14. The imagination imitates. It is the critical spirit that creates.
15. A writer is someone who has taught his mind to misbehave.
If yours isn’t listed, share your favorite Wilde bon mot in the comments!
Adrienne Crezo is the managing editor of Writer’s Digest magazine. Follow her on Twitter @a_crezo.
I love you,’ Buttercup said. ‘I know this must come as something of a surprise to you, since all I’ve ever done is scorn you and degrade you and taunt you, but I have loved you for several hours now, and every second, more. I thought an hour ago that I loved you more than any woman has ever loved a man, but a half hour after that I knew that what I felt before was nothing compared to what I felt then. But ten minutes after that, I understood that my previous love was a puddle compared to the high seas before a storm. Your eyes are like that, did you know? Well they are. How many minutes ago was I? Twenty? Had I brought my feelings up to then? It doesn’t matter.’ Buttercup still could not look at him. The sun was rising behind her now; she could feel the heat on her back, and it gave her courage. ‘I love you so much more now than twenty minutes ago that there cannot be comparison. I love you so much more now then when you opened your hovel door, there cannot be comparison. There is no room in my body for anything but you. My arms love you, my ears adore you, my knees shake with blind affection. My mind begs you to ask it something so it can obey. Do you want me to follow you for the rest of your days? I will do that. Do you want me to crawl? I will crawl. I will be quiet for you or sing for you, or if you are hungry, let me bring you food, or if you have thirst and nothing will quench it but Arabian wine, I will go to Araby, even though it is across the world, and bring a bottle back for your lunch. Anything there is that I can do for you, I will do for you; anything there is that I cannot do, I will learn to do. I know I cannot compete with the Countess in skills or wisdom or appeal, and I saw the way she looked at you. And I saw the way you looked at her. But remember, please, that she is old and has other interests, while I am seventeen and for me there is only you. Dearest Westley–I’ve never called you that before, have I?–Westley, Westley, Westley, Westley, Westley,–darling Westley, adored Westley, sweet perfect Westley, whisper that I have a chance to win your love.’ And with that, she dared the bravest thing she’d ever done; she looked right into his eyes.
-William Goldman, The Princess Bride
Writers are always anxious, always on the run — from the telephone, from responsibilities, from the distractions of the world.
Whatever You Are, Be a Good One: 100 Inspirational Quotations Hand-Lettered by Lisa Congdon
Chronicle Books, 2014
Why am I just learning about this artist? Why have I not been following a blog entitled, "Today is going to be awesome
I love this little book because I love quotes and I love calligraphy and I love giving myself crazy challenges (like writing a poem a day, or taking 30 pictures every month and then making a mosaic).
That's pretty much how this book was born (minus the poetry and photos). Lisa Congdon noticed that she gravitated toward art that included lettering, decided she wanted to get better at calligraphy, and then started a project where she published something hand lettered on her blog every day for a year in 2012: 365 Days of Hand Lettering
. I could get lost in her archives. It's pretty amazing that she started by just doing single letters that look clunky and forced, but within a month, her own unique style began to emerge. And then she started doing quotes. They are beautiful...unique...a perfect marriage of text and art.
Last year, instead of posting any class rules, I challenged each student to choose their very own "Words to Live By." Instead of one set of generic rules for 20+ individual students, we had 20+ individual rules to represent the fact that each person is the boss of his/her own self.
This year I want to help my students think about the graphic design of their Words to Live By posters that will hang around the classroom all year long. This will be our mentor text.
By: Vicky L. Lorencen,
Photo by Vicky Lorencen
If you’ve ever visited Frog on a Dime
, you know I’m a sucker for a crackerjack quote. (I include one with every post to make sure my blog is inspiration-fortified.)
Now through Friday, August 15, visit Frog on a Dime and leave your favorite quote as a comment. You’ll automatically be entered into a drawing for a keen package of fun, schlock-free writing supplies, hand-picked to inspire you. Trust me. You’ll like it–I’ll have a hard time parting with it.
Now, hop to it!
Hold fast to dreams/For if dreams die/Life is a broken-winged bird/That cannot fly. ~ Langston Hughes
I've never seen the life of the writer Raymond Roussel
condensed so marvelously as in David Macey's The Lives of Michel Foucault
(Foucault wrote a book on Roussel
), where it becomes a kind of perfect literary life: a life of weirdness, alienation, mental illness, addiction, and suffering, all capped with a mysterious death:
Enormously rich, [Roussel] travelled the world but rarely left his hotel room or his cabin. He financed the publication of his own writings and the staging of his own plays, which were invariably expensive failures accompanied by riots among the audience. His writings excited little interest in his lifetime, though some of the surrealists — notably Breton in his Anthologie de l'humour noir — appreciated them. For much of his life Roussel suffered from serious neurotic illnesses provoked (or at least triggered), it is thought, by the spectacular failure of La Doublure (1897), a long verse-novel, written in alexandrines, about a stand-in actor. He was treated by Pierre Janet, who failed to see any literary talent in him and described him as un pauvre petit malade; Roussel is the "Martial" whose case is discussed in the first volume of De l'Angoisse à l'extase (1926). Roussel was a homosexual, though little is known about his sexual tastes and activities, and became totally dependent on barbituates in his later years. He died in Palermo, where his body was found in his hotel room, lying on a mattress which he had — presumably with great difficulty, given his physical state — pushed up against the door connecting his room to that of his travelling companion. The door, habitually left unlocked, was locked. Whether Roussel was murdered or committed suicide has never been determined. (125)
You have succeeded as a writer if someone can describe your work as "invariably expensive failures accompanied by riots among the audience".
Alfred Hitchcock in conversation with Francois Truffaut:
To insist that a storyteller stick to the facts is just as ridiculous as to demand of a representative painter that he show objects accurately. What's the ultimate in representative painting? Color photography. Don't you agree? There's quite a difference, you see, between the creation of a film and the making of a documentary. In the documentary the basic material has been created by God, whereas in the fiction film the director is the god; he must create life. And in the process of that creation, there are lots of feelings, forms of expression, and viewpoints that have to be juxtaposed. We should have total freedom to do as we like, just so long as it's not dull. A critic who talks to me about plausibility is a dull fellow.
Two passages from Milton: Poet, Pamphleteer, and Patriot by Anna Beer
, concerning the early 1640s:
As with the Internet in this century, people expressed real fears about the sheer number of new works appearing. Others condemned the whole notion of publication, particularly for money. Publication was imagined as "epidemical contagion", and "Pamphlet-mongers" were castigated for writing for "a little mercenary gain, and profit", as "poetical Needy-brains, who for a sordid gain or desire to have the style of a witty railer, will thus empoison your pen". The proliferation of new pamphlets was also resented by more (allegedly) serious writers, who complained that "such a book as that of thirty or forty sheets of paper is not likely to sell in this age were the matter never so good, but if it had been a lying and scandalous pamphlet of a sheet of paper ... to hold up Anarchy" then the printers would print it, knowing it would sell, be "vendable ware". (128-129)
Print proliferated because almost every opinion generated a response, which in turn necessitated a counter-response from the maligned author. When the Smectymnuans, for example, attacked Bishop Hall, he replied, condemning their views, to which their response was a 219-page answer. The speed of these exchanges was often remarkable. Milton's own first pamphlet on Church reform received a reply within days of its publication. Vicious abuse of one's opponents characterised much of the debate. When in May 1642, around the time of his marital expedition to Oxfordshire, Milton wrote An Apology against a Pamphlet (in itself a response), he claimed to be furious at the way he had been personally attacked. Immersed as he was in this world of cheap print, he cannot have been genuinely surprised. Colourful, personal, and at times obscene invective was the order of the day, the religious and political pamphlets picking up the techniques of the earlier forms of popular writing, whether ballads or jestbooks, almanacs, or tales. (139-140)
Corey Robin, from The Reactionary Mind:
One of the reasons the subordinate’s exercise of agency so agitates the conservative imagination is that it takes place in an intimate setting. Every great political blast—the storming of the Bastille, the taking of the Winter Palace, the March on Washington—is set off by a private fuse: the contest for rights and standing in the family, the factory, and the field. Politicians and parties talk of constitution and amendment, natural rights and inherited privileges. But the real subject of their deliberations is the private life of power. “Here is the secret of the opposition to woman’s equality in the state,” Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote. “Men are not ready to recognize it in the home.” Behind the riot in the street or debate in Parliament is the maid talking back to her mistress, the worker disobeying her boss. That is why our political arguments—not only about the family but also the welfare state, civil rights, and much else—can be so explosive: they touch upon the most personal relations of power.
Some photos from the filming of How to Steal a Dog in South Korea:
Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action.
|Guy Davenport, illustration from Apples & Pears|
I've just begun reading Andre Furlani's Guy Davenport: Postmodern and After
, a magnificent book (so far), and went to track down one of the items cited there, a 2002 interview by B. Renner for the website Elimae
. Alas, the site seems to have died, but god bless the Wayback Machine: here it is, cached.
The interview is not as meaty as some others, for instance Davenport's Paris Review interview
, but it's always interesting, and I was particularly struck by this:
DAVENPORT: At Duke I took Prof Blackburn's Creative Writing course (Bill Styron and Mac Hyman were in the class) and got the wrong impression that writing is an effusion of genius and talent. Also, that writing fiction is Expression of significant and deep inner emotion. It took me years to shake off all this. Writing is making a construct, and what's in the story is what's important. And style: in what words and phrases the story is told. (William Blackburn, the full name. His guiding us all toward autobiographical, confessional, "emotional" writing is -- in reaction -- why I write about concrete objectivities that are fairly remote from my own experiences. I like to imagine how other people feel in a world different from my own.)
ELIMAE: Almost none of your stories take place in the U.S. or involve American characters. Is there a particular reason for this? Are Americans and the U.S. less noteworthy than other peoples and places, especially Europeans and Europe, or is it as simple as a matter of going to subject matter that hasn't already been done to death by other American writers?
DAVENPORT: A clever critic might note that they are all set in the USA. "Tatlin!" is a fable about totalitarian governments strangling creativity, not always blatantly and openly. At the time I was lecturing on Hermann Broch's The Death of Virgil, the classic study in our time of Government and The Poet. Vladimir Tatlin's genius suffocated by Stalin seemed to me to be paradigmatic and timely. I learned from Kafka's Amerika that you don't have to have a realistic knowledge of a place, and from Nabokov that "realism" is simply a fashionable mode.
We are still immigrants. Culture imports and exports. There was a great anxiety that European culture would be obliterated twice in the 20th century. I became interested in "Europe" through Whistler's etchings.
And then there's a Davenport desert island list!
ELIMAE: Here's my version of the "desert island" question: if you could select any six books (besides your own) originally written in your lifetime, and be the author of those books, which six would they be?
DAVENPORT: Your 6 books question is diabolical! I couldn't have written any of 'em.
Eudora Welty, The Golden Apples
P. Fitzgerald, The Blue Flower
Michel Tournier, Les Meteores
Isak Dinesen, Anecdotes of Destiny
Mann, Doktor Faustus
Finally, I also found an interesting mention of Davenport in this interview with John Jeremiah Sullivan
, whose whole response about the connection of writing and reading is great, but here's the Davenport part:
That said, how do you get to be a better reader? I asked Guy Davenport this question one time, because talking to him could really make a person despair; he just knew so much, he’d read so much in many languages, but not in a pedantic or scholastic way, in a really passionate way. He gave me what I thought was very solid advice, which was: first of all, start reading and don’t stop. The other thing is to follow your interest. He said there ought to be a phrase, “falling into interest,” to go with falling in love.
Follow your interest; follow the writers who energize you, not the ones who exert a sense of obligation on you. The books that do the one or the other will change, as time gone on. The landscape shifts. Don’t adhere to systems unless that feels good.
The late David Markson
did not have a computer. In March 2004, Laura Sims told him that there were things written about him on blogs. He replied:
NO, I've no idea what a Blog is. BLOG?
Sims sent him print-outs:
Hey, thank you for all that blog stuff but forgive me if after a nine-minute glance I have torn it all up. I bless your furry little heart, but please don't send any more. In spite of the lost conveniences, I am all the more glad I don't have a computer.
HOW CAN PEOPLE LIVE IN THAT FIRST-DRAFT WORLD?
They make a statement about my background, there's an error in it. They quote from a book, and they leave out a key line. They repudiate a statement of fact I've made, without checking, ergo announcing I'm a fake when the statement is 100% correct. Etc., etc., etc. Gawd.
I have just taken the sheets out of the trash basket & torn them into even smaller pieces.
From the wonderful little book Fare Forward: Letters from David Markson
, edited by Laura Sims.
From a Q&A in the New York Times with Teju Cole:
What books are you embarrassed not to have read yet?
I have not read most of the big 19th-century novels that people consider “essential,” nor most of the 20th-century ones for that matter. But this does not embarrass me. There are many films to see, many friends to visit, many walks to take, many playlists to assemble and many favorite books to reread. Life’s too short for anxious score-keeping. Also, my grandmother is illiterate, and she’s one of the best people I know. Reading is a deep personal consolation for me, but other things console, too.
I am so looking forward to going to one of my MOST favorite schools tomorrow. And how can I not love seeing this as the students prepare?
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.
The construction is the most important goddamned thing. It’s like building a house–you have to build the outside properly before you put the bits and pieces inside afterward.
Get your story, get your architecture right, and you can always add your dialogue afterwards. A story starts at the beginning, it develops, it works itself out, and it works up to its finale.
The great essence of construction is to know your end before your beginning; to know exactly what you’re working up to; and then to work up to that end. To just start off and wander on the way isn’t any good whatever… because you’re wallowing.
Some days I fear writing dreadfully, but I do it anyway. I've discovered that sometimes writing badly can eventually lead to something better. Not writing at all leads to nothing.
Came across this from School Library Journal during a recent office cleanup. I made a gazillion Yoohoo boats for this.
View Next 25 Posts
Are you a writer who will work on songs on a daily basis, regardless of whether you’re feeling inspired?
Yes. I still think you have to wait for the inspiration, but unless you’re there, waiting at the bus stop, you ain’t gonna get on the bus. If you’re doing other things all day, a song ain’t gonna get on the bus.
[So get on up there to the bus stop, y'all.]