Question: What can we learn from writers on writing?
Answer: What follows is a pot-pourri of comments by a variety of writers on writing. They were published in the book, Good Advice on Writing: Writers Past and Present on How to Write Well by William Safire and Leonard Safir in 1992. Most of these ideas might not be of interest to you. However, one or two ideas could start you thinking about your writing. I especially like Safire’s comment on organizing: “Introduce it. Lay it out. Sum it up.” That’s easy to remember. All the best. RayS.
What should I do before writing? Four questions to ask before writing: What specific point do I want to make? Is it worth making? For whom am I writing? How can I best convey my point to my readers? If you don't ask those questions, no amount of good grammar and correct spelling will save you. A definite point for definite readers. TS Kane & LI Peters.
Why write? Writing is an exploration: you learn as you go. EL Doctorow.
How can I get started writing? Start writing--anything! The ideas will soon start flowing. LS Bernstein.
What’s the purpose of brainstorming? Brainstorming is not free association: it is a goal-directed effort to discover ideas relevant to your topic. L. Flower.
Why write?If there's a book you really want to read but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it. Toni Morrison.
How can I prepare to write a piece of fiction? Recipe for beginning to write fiction: Choose a person. What does this person want? What prevents him from getting it? What does he do about this obstacle? What are the results of what he does? What showdown does all this lead to? Does he get what he wants, finally, or does he not? EJ McGraw.
What is my purpose in writing? Give the reader the most knowledge in the least time. CC Colton.
Why write? I write out of curiosity. W Trevor.
Why write? I write to understand as much as to be understood. E Wiesel.
What are some aids to creativity? Discipline is an aid to creativity. Easy writing makes hard reading. F King. [I think F. King means that if you’re required to, say, find a certain rhyme, doing so produces a surprisingly memorable phrase or sentence. When you have to abide by certain rules, you will be surprised at how those rules will help you produce something you did not know you could do. RayS.]
How can you tell if a piece of fiction is effective? If the reader feels as if it happened to himself, that's the true test of writing. Hemingway.
How prepare for writing? Before writing the first draft, put your notes away. What you remember is what should be remembered. DM Murray.
How can you tell if people are “real” writers? People who are not real writers just want to have written. RP Warren.
How do I start? I always know the ending. That's where I start. T Morrison.
How do I start? I always write the last line first. M Davenport.
How can you make your writing interesting? What you already know is usually dull. K Kesey.
Should you talk to others about what you are writing? If you talk about what you are writing, you've already used it up. N Mailer.
How do writers write? I carry my ideas about me for a long time, often a very long time before I commit them to writing. Ludwig Van Beethoven.
Why write? The task of a writer consists in being able to make something out of an idea. Thomas Mann. [I think what Mann is saying here is that you begin with an idea and explore it fully. RayS.]
How can you learn to write? Don't ever hesitate to imitate another writer--every artist learning his craft needs some models; eventually, you will find your own voice and shed the skin of the writer you imitated. William Zinsser.
Should you write as you speak? The spoken language does not have the same standards as the written language. William Safire.
Why write? When you are writing, you're trying to find out something which you don't know. James Baldwin.
How start? Write your ending first; your ending may prove a useful starting point in fine-tuning your focus. K Krull.
What are some successful titles? How to be and how to do are almost certain guarantees of a successful book or article. I Ziegler.
How catch a reader’s or theatergoer’s attention? A story and especially a play must open with a crisis. L Egri.
How start? Begin by writing a summary of the article you are going to write. RayS.
How do writers write? The best time for planning a book is while you're doing the dishes. Agatha Christie.
How do writers write? Never write about a place until you're away from it, because that gives you perspective. Hemingway.
What is style? In the very best styles you read page after page without noticing the medium. Coleridge.
Why revise and edit? When people say, 'Gosh, it runs so smoothly,' they don't realize that it's hours and hours and hours of honing each sentence.... Author unknown.
What makes a good movie? What makes a good movie is a couple of moments that the audience remembers. Rosalind Russell as quoted by William Goldman.
What should you never start a sentence with? Never start a sentence with 'It is...'; that sort of lollygagging up to a subject puts a reader to sleep. William Safire. [Note: I do it all the time. He has a point. RayS.]
How organize your writing? There has to be one point that is sharply in focus, and a clear grouping of everything else around it; once you see this clearly, your reader will see it too. Rudolf Flesch.
What is style? The greatest possible merit of style is, of course, to make the words absolutely disappear into the thought. Hawthorne.
How organize writing? Introduce it, lay it out, sum it up. William Safire.
Should you talk about your writing with others? Don't talk about it. Write it. Jackie Collins.