Sunday, May 15, 2011

Post of Quotes

Here are some of my favorite quotes about writing in no particular order:

‎"Whatever I think is radical and interventionist and different about my work in terms of American literature...a book has to work as a book for someone who just isn't going to pick up on all these clever things you think you're doing." - Toni Morrison

‎"Every writer should have tattooed backwards on his (or her) forehead, like on ambulances, the words 'everybody needs an editor'." - Michael Chichton

I don’t think it’s the poet’s job to witness only tragedy. I think it’s a poet’s job to witness joy in the world, no matter how much tragedy also exists. - Ilya Kaminsky

A scream is but a scream unless you shape it with feelings and put names to the meanings. - Donald Hall

Tell me what you want and I’ll tell you who you are. - Anton Chekhov

Perhaps then one reason why we have no great poet, novelist or critic writing today is that we refuse to allow words their liberty. We pin them down to one meaning, their useful meaning. A meaning which makes us catch the train, the meaning which makes us pass the examination. - Virginia Woolf

To be able to grasp something of value, sometimes you have to perform seemingly inefficient acts. - Haruki Murakami

The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources. - Albert Einstein

If you don’t tell the truth about yourself, you cannot tell it about other people. -
Virginia Woolf

Teach yourself to work in uncertainty. - Bernard Malamud

When you're stuck, close your eyes and make a mark - it's not the object, it's the process, the exploration. - Sara Cole

Talk that does not end in any kind of action is better suppressed altogether. - Thomas Carlyle

If you are a poet, you will see that there is a cloud in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow; and without trees, we cannot make paper. - Thich Nhat Hanh

The thing about performance, even if it’s only an illusion, is that it is a celebration of the fact that we do contain within ourselves infinite possibilities. -
Daniel Day-Lewis

Originality does not consist in saying what no one has ever said before, but in saying exactly what you think yourself. - James Stephens

I don’t trust my abilities as a writer nearly as much as I trust my instincts as a person. - Jonathan Safran Foer

We do not write in order to be understood; we write in order to understand. - Cecil Day-Lewis

There are no bad words or good words, there are only words in bad or good places. -
W. Nowottny

I never write exercises, but sometimes I write poems which fail and then I call them exercises. - Robert Frost

The organized and intelligent fictional dream that will eventually fill the reader’s mind begins as a largely mysterious dream in the writer’s mind. - John Gardner

The moment we stop caring where the story will go next, the writer has failed, and we stop reading. - John Gardner

Learn your theories well, but lay them aside when you touch the reality of the living soul. - Carl Jung

We cannot think about things but only the names of things. - Hobbes

Without this playing with fantasy no creative work has ever yet come to birth. The debt we owe to the play of imagination is incalculable. - C.G. Jung

The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed. - C.G. Jung

I am a native in this world
And think in it as a native thinks.
Wallace Stevens

Nothing can come out of an artist that is not in the man. - H.L. Mencken

The main difference between an experienced writer and an inexperienced writer is the ability to work on a bad day. - Norman Mailer

Poets tell many lies.
Solon c638 – 599 B.C.

Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work. - Stephen King

A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song. – Chinese proverb

Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant. - Robert Louis Stevenson

I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by. - Douglas Adams

The pen is mightier than the sword if the sword is very short, and the pen is very sharp. - Terry Pratchett

Writing is the most fun you can have by yourself. - Terry Pratchett

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Killing Your Darlings

"In writing, you must
kill all your darlings."
— William Faulkner

Well, Bill, it's been a bloody day. The darlings are lying in tatters around my feet. I have hopes that one of them will be resurrected somewhere else in the novel, but, for now, it's been cut from this draft of the novel.

What are darlings, you may ask? Darlings are those well-crafted pieces of writing every writer adores when they're created. We cherish them, nurture them, and protect them through draft after draft, honing the words around them so that we can keep them just a little bit longer. Unfortunately, they don't fit in the work. They may be lovely sentences or finely wrought scenes. The writing may be some of the best work you've ever done. But, when it comes right down to it, they don't work. They have to go. And the only thing you can do is take out the scalpel and start cutting.

Today's been that day for a couple of scenes in my novel. As I said, one of them may find a home elsewhere in the novel. There's actually some information in it that has to show up for something else to make sense later on, but, I had to cut it from where it was.

The lesson I've been learning lately is that my editing has shifted from honing the writing to making sure that the writing fits the story. It's the difference between worrying about the quality of the writing and realizing the quality is no longer the issue, it's a matter of whether the writing is doing the work it needs to in the scene or if the scene fits. Something may be written very well, but, if it's in the wrong place, it will be as jarring as playing the wrong note in a piano recital.

So the darlings fell today. One by one. And it wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be.