Great Quotes About Writing

An earlier version of my web site had a javascript at the top that generated a random quote about writing with each new opening page. I hated to lose the quotes because I spent so much time gathering them, so here they are (in no particular order).


If you want to write fiction, the best thing you can do is take two aspirin, lie down in a dark room, and wait for the feeling to pass.

– Lawrence Block


I write a thousand words a day. At that rate you’ll write War and Peace in a year… or very near the entire output of E.M. Forster.

– Anthony Burgess


First, don’t write poetry. Second ditto; third ditto.

– Walt Whitman


Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement; then it becomes a mistress, and then it becomes a master, and then a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster, and fling him out to the public.

– Winston Churchill


No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else’s draft.

– H.G. Wells


Any reviewer who expresses rage and loathing for a novel is preposterous. He or she is like a person who has put on full armour and attacked a hot fudge sundae.

– Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.


The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.

– Mark Twain


The wastepaper basket is the writer’s best friend.

– Isaac Bashevis Singer


Writing is an occupation in which you have to keep proving your talent to those who have none.

– Jules Renard


The dubious privilege of a freelance writer is he’s given the freedom to starve anywhere.

– S.J. Perelman


A drama critic is a person who surprises a writer by informing him what he meant.

– Wilson Mizner


Why do people always expect authors to answer questions? I am an author because I want to ask questions. If I had answers I’d be a politician.

– Eugene Ionesco


Yes, I suppose some editors are failed writers – but so are most writers.

– T.S. Eliot


What we want is a story that starts with an earthquake and builds to a climax.

– Samuel Goldwyn


Writing is easy. All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead.

– Gene Fowler


Read, read, read. Read everything – trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.

– William Faulkner


The faster I write the better my output. If I’m going slow I’m in trouble. It means I’m pushing the words instead of being pulled by them.

– Raymond Chandler


I don’t want to take up literature in a money-making spirit, or be very anxious about making large profits, but selling it at a loss is another thing altogether, and an amusement I cannot well afford.

– Lewis Carroll


It took me fifteen years to discover that I had no talent for writing, but I couldn’t give it up because by that time I was too famous.

– Robert Benchley


If you can’t annoy somebody with what you write, I think there’s little point in writing.

– Kingsley Amis


They’re fancy talkers about themselves, writers. If I had to give young writers advice, I would say don’t listen to writers talking about writing or themselves.

– Lillian Hellman


Many a clever boy is flogged into a dunce and many an original composition corrected into mediocrity.

– Sir Walter Scott


I shall try to tell the truth, but the result will be fiction.

– Katherine Ann Porter


Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.

– Rudyard Kipling


A story should have a beginning, a middle, and an end… but not necessarily in that order.

– Jean Luc Godard


I think it’s a pretty good rule not to tell what a thing is about until it’s finished. If you do you always seem to lose some of it. It never quite belongs to you so much again.

– F. Scott Fitzgerald


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

– Anton Checkhov


Books want to be born: I never make them. They come to me and insist on being written, and on being such and such.

– Samuel Butler


I try to leave out the parts that people skip.

– Elmore Leonard


I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter.

– James Michener


If the doctor told me I had six minutes to live, I’d type a little faster.

– Isaac Asimov


If you want to get rich from writing, write the sort of thing that’s read by persons who move their lips when they’re reading to themselves.

– Don Marquis


A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author.

– G.K. Chesterton


An old racetrack joke reminds you that your program contains all the winners’ names. I stare at my typewriter keys with the same thought.

– Mignon McLaughlin


What no wife of a writer can ever understand is that a writer is working when he’s staring out of the window.

– Burton Rascoe


Everywhere I go I’m asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don’t stifle enough of them. There’s many a bestseller that could have been prevented by a good teacher.

– Flannery O’Connor


Easy reading is damn hard writing.

– Nathaniel Hawthorne


Metaphors have a way of holding the most truth in the least space.

– Orson Scott Card


Writing became such a process of discovery that I couldn’t wait to get to work in the morning: I wanted to know what I was going to say.

– Sharon O’Brien

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