Sandra Neily here: In the dog-days of summer (why do they call it that? … best time to hang with wet, shedding, picnic-eating friends….) I needed some inspiration. Diving deeply into my “love-this-quote” file, I found gems to share.
Agatha Christie: “Crime is terribly revealing. Try and vary your methods as you will, your tastes, your habits, your attitude of mind, and your soul is revealed by your actions.
“Every murderer is probably somebody’s old friend.”
Virginia Woolf: “Fiction is like a spider’s web, attached ever so lightly perhaps,
but still attached to life at all four corners.”
Doris Lessing: “There is no doubt fiction makes a better job of the truth.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures.”
Mark Twain: “A successful book is not made of what is in it, but what is left out of it.”
“To get the right word in the right place is a rare achievement. To condense the diffused light of a page of thought into the luminous flash of a single sentence, is worthy to rank as a prize composition just by itself…Anybody can have ideas–the difficulty is to express them without squandering a quire of paper on an idea that ought to be reduced to one glittering paragraph.”
”Don’t say the old lady screamed. Bring her on and let her scream.”
“Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.”
Anne Lamott: “If you always dreamed of writing a novel or a memoir, and you used to love to write, and were pretty good at it, will it break your heart if it turns out you never got around to it? If you wake up one day at eighty, will you feel nonchalant that something always took precedence over a daily commitment to discovering your creative spirit? If not–if this very thought fills you with regret–then what are you waiting for?”
Stephen King: “Making people believe the unbelievable is no trick; it’s work. … Belief and reader absorption come in the details: An overturned tricycle in the gutter of an abandoned neighborhood can stand for everything.”
“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”
Ray Bradbury: “I don’t need an alarm clock. My ideas wake me.”
“Remember: Plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations.”
Elmore Leonard: “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”
Ernest Hemingway: “When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people, not characters. A character is a caricature.”
Barbara Kingsolver: “Pounding out a first draft is like hoeing a row of corn – you just keep your head down and concentrate on getting to the end. Revision is where fine art begins. It’s thrilling to take an ending and pull it backward like a shiny thread through the whole fabric of a manuscript, letting little glints shine through here and there. To plant resolution, like a seed, into chapter one. To create new scenes, investing a character with the necessary damage, the right kind of longing. To pitch out boldly and try again. To work every metaphor across the whole, back and forth, like weaving. I love that.
Elizabeth Strout: “I just want it to be real. Like when I was writing Olive Kitteridge and she would do and say these awful things, and I would say, “Ouch! Ouch!” And then I would say to myself, “Oh, come on, just let her rip, no point in being careful. You know that people say these things or you know that they think these—so just try to do this as truthfully as possible.
“Well, I think that when I start out, I don’t necessarily realize that these women are going to be difficult, and then I go deeper into their “fragile, inarticulate parts” and the frustrations they experience because they can’t articulate their own emotions. They become difficult women as I get further into them …
Nora Ephron: “I try to write parts for women that are as complicated and interesting as women actually are.”
Franz Kafka: “Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion … Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.”
Terry Tempest Williams: “While focusing on Utah prairie dogs in my book Finding Beauty in a Broken World, I learned that in every prairie dog community there are sentinel dogs whose job is to listen, to look, to watch. Their job is to create alert calls. They are on notice themselves, and they alert their community as to what is happening. Once I watched a prairie dog community from 20 feet for an hour, and the sentinel prairie dogs sent out their calls. The entire community went underground. I thought, “There is nothing here.” Suddenly, two minutes later, the shadow of a red-tail hawk crossed over. That’s paying attention. Sometimes I think that’s what writers are: sentinels. Our books, our poems, our novels are nothing more than alert calls to the community
George Orwell: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”
“Good novels are written by people who are not frightened.”
Harlan Coben: “Sometimes the loudest cries for help are silent.”
Marie de Nervaud: “You don’t actually have to write anything until you’ve thought it out. This is an enormous relief, and you can sit there searching for the point at which the story becomes a toboggan and starts to slide.”
Joyce Carol Oates: “The first sentence can’t be written until the final sentence is written.”
(ps: Identify the writers? Tough one might be Virginia Woolf.)
Sandy’s novel “Deadly Trespass, A Mystery in Maine,” was a finalist in this year’s Maine Literary Awards, a recipient of a Mystery Writers of America national award, a national finalist in the Women’s Fiction Writers Association “Rising Star” contest, and a runner- up in Maine’s Joy of the Pen competition. She lives in the Maine woods (Antler Camp) and says she’d rather be “fly fishing, skiing remote trails, paddling near loons, or just generally out there.” Find more info on the trailer and her website. Her next Mystery in Maine novel, “Deadly Turn,” will be in bookstores next year.
Lordy, Lordy, what a lot of inspiring and thought-provoking quotes. In the past few months, I’ve been working on a compilation of my crime stories, Careful What You Wish For, and though they were written over 20+ years, the themes of bad marriages, domestic abuse, women finding their voices, and resilient children consistently weave through them. And the advice from Anne Lamott is so important. When I turned 50, the question was “What matters?” At 60, it was “What are you waiting for.” And my mother wrote her first mystery in her 80’s. Great post.
thanks, Kate! OHHHH…looking forward to the compilation (the results of What Waiting For…) sn
All great quotations, great reminders. I tried to pick a favorite – no can do. Thanks for the walk down “Listen up!” lane.