Mincemeat: on writing
  Writers on Writing

"The first duty of the novelist is to entertain. It is a moral duty. People who read your books are sick, sad, traveling, in the hospital waiting room while someone is dying. Books are written by the alone for the alone."
Donna Tartt

"Don DeLillo told me that the first book was a gift and you don't know how you wrote it. The second book you really teach yourself to write. By the time you've finished it, you know you can write books. And I think that's true: After book two, it's like you've finally become a professional writer."
Jeffrey Eugenides

"There are no tricks I know of for getting a book deal. The proposal just has to find an editor who loves it. Given the great number of books published every year, quality is clearly not a major criterion. Getting published is a combination of determination and luck."
Mark Bowden

“The simple economics of the marketplace dictate that readers actually want to read things that have a beginning, a middle and an end. I think we're hard-wired for narrative…It seems to me that although literary fiction is returning to the notion of narrative, [literary fiction writers] are still not engaging with the society that we're living in."
Val McDermid

"Of the various attributes we fiction-writers require, one of the most important is detachment. Of course tenacity of purpose is the sine qua non, otherwise we'd never keep on with it for the year or two years or longer that it takes to finish the work."
Barry Unsworth

"People have writer's block not because they can't write, but because they despair of writing eloquently."
Anna Quindlen

"Writing for adults, you have to keep reminding them of what is going on. The poor things have given up using their brains when they read. Children you only need to tell things to once."
Diana Wynne Jones

"The writer who cares more about words than about story (characters, action, setting, atmosphere) is unlikely to create a vivid and continuous dream; he gets in his own way too much; in his poetic drunkenness, he can't tell the cart--and its cargo--from the horse."
John Gardner

"An insufficiency of pigs is one of the great faults of modern children's books."
Frederick Laws

"Sure, it's simple, writing for kids . . . . Just as simple as bringing them up."
Ursula Le Guin

"A book worth reading only in childhood is not worth reading even then."
C.S. Lewis

"Unlike politicians, storytellers know that you cannot sever reality from reality: all you are entitled to do is to re-imagine the world in order better to see and understand it."
Alberto Manguel

"You never learn how to write a novel. You just learn how to write the novel that you're writing."
Gene Wolfe, paraphrased by Neil Gaiman

"You can take for granted that people know more or less what a street, a shop, a beach, a sky, an oak tree look like. Tell them what makes this one different."
Neil Gaiman

"Douglas Coupland, the author of Generation X, once told me that selling your first book is like winning the lottery; keeping your career going in this industry is like winning the lottery over and over again...The truth is, writing a novel can be painful and horrid. It's like having a stomach virus that lasts three months: You're hunched over your desk, heaving again and again, trying to get the last bit out, but it just won't come. On the other hand, some elements of this business are incredible, fulfilling, glamorous, and life-changing. There's no better feeling in the world than seeing your work on the bookstore shelves for the first time. I may never write the Great American Novel. Likewise, I may never reach the status of John Grisham or Michael Crichton. But I will always follow the advice I got from Mr. Louisiana (a bodybuilder/model/retail broker), a fellow contestant in Fox's Sexiest Bachelor pageant. 'You've got to shake what your mamma gave you.'"
Ben Mezrich


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