“Facts and fictions are different truths.”
– in The Facts and Fictions of Minna Pratt by Patricia MacLachlan.

“We all know that art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth.” – Pablo Picasso

“Fiction is fact’s elder sister.” – Kipling

“Fancy with fact is just one fact the more.” – Browning

“The writer writes about the writer.” -Unidentified

“Being creative is nothing more than being human.” – Barbara Berger

“The quality of emotion is what stays with the reader long after the storyline is gone.” – Ellen Howard

“You need a theme in a picture book just as much or maybe even more than you need it in a novel.” – Eve Bunting

“Writing is the clumsy attempt to find symbols for wordlessness.” – Ernest Hemingway

“The three greatest skills of dramatic writing are conflict, conflict, and conflict.” – James Frye

“Your manuscript is both good and original; but the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good.” — Samuel Johnson

“There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.” — Red Smith

“Remember: MDQ. Your Major Dramatic Question is the question that’s formed in the reader’s mind at the very beginning of the book in the first chapter, and this question is answered yes or no in your climax.” – Pam Conrad

“Why do you never find anything written about that idiosyncratic thought you avert to, about your fascination with something no one else understands? Because it is up to you. There is something you find interesting, for a reason hard to explain. It is hard to explain because you have never read it on any page; there you begin. You were made and set here to give voice to this, your own astonishment.” – Anne Dillard

“The world that is in me is the only world I have by which to grasp the world outside and as I write fiction, it is the chart by which I must steer.” – Katherine Paterson

“He could remember her so well, he thought, and yet when he tried to write about her and being with her, it would come out wrong. Not wrong, exactly, but just not complete. The words worked, but they didn’t work right because he didn’t know enough about how to use them… The images that came to him were so clear, but when he tried to describe them–no, explain them… and there it was, there was the trouble with it. He wasn’t writing about his grandmother. He was explaining her. And that, he thought, was not a way to learn about her, about what she had been to him.”
“…The painting is the same [as the writing] because I am trying to paint the wrong thing. I am trying to paint–what? Paint a picture of her, and that is not what I want–I could use a camera if that is all I wanted. No. I do not want a picture of her; I want a picture that is her.”- Gary Paulsen (The Island)

“…in a real sense, I am constantly writing autobiography, but I have to turn it into fiction in order to give it credibility… What we applaud is not simply survival but the ability to step back, or beyond survival, to organizing the experience – to imaging – to telling the tale.” – Katharine Patterson (The Spying Heart)

“No passion is greater than the passion to alter someone else’s draft.” – H.G. Wells

“Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” –E.L. Doctorow

“The profession of book writing makes horse racing seem like a solid, stable business.” –John Steinbeck

“Novelists are people who have discovered that they can dampen their neuroses by writing make-believe. We will keep on doing that no matter what, while offering loftier explanations.” –Kurt Vonnegut

“A novel works its magic by putting a reader inside another person’s life. The pace is as slow as life. It’s as detailed as life. It requires you, the reader, to fill in an outline of words with vivid pictures drawn subconsciously from your own life, so that the story feels more personal than the sets designed by someone else and handed over via TV or movies. Literature duplicates the experience of living in a way that nothing else can, drawing you so fully into another life that you temporarily forget you have one of your own. That is why you read it, and might even sit up in bed till early dawn, throwing your whole tomorrow out of whack, simply to find out what happens to some people who, you know perfectly well, are made up. It’s why you might find yourself crying, even if you aren’t the crying kind.

The power of fiction is to create empathy. It lifts you away from your chair and stuffs you gently down inside someone else’s own perspective. A newspaper could tell you that one hundred people, say, in an airplane, or in Israel, or in Iraq, have died today. And you can think to yourself, “How very sad,” then turn the page and see how the Wildcats fared. But a novel could take just one of those hundred lives and show you exactly how it felt to be that person rising from bed in the morning, watching the desert light on the tile of her doorway and on the curve of her daughter’s cheek. You would taste that person’s breakfast, and love her family, and sort through her worries as your own, and know that a death in that household will be the end of the only life that someone will ever have. As important as yours. As important as mine.”

From an essay titled “Jabberwocky” by Barbara Kingsolver in High Tide in Tucson.

“The hardest thing in the world is being a critic of your own work. For me time has always been the best critic. If I can put something away and then come back, it’s like taking a painting you’re working on, turning it upside down, squinting at it, or walking away to get a new view. Time helps you know whether it’s worth saving or whether it should be dumped.” –Karla Kuskin

“For me writing is a long, hard, painful process, but it is addictive, a pleasure that I seek out actively. My advice to young writers is this: Read a lot. Read to find out what past writers have done. Then write about what you know. Write about your school, your class, about your teachers, your family. That’s what I did. Each writer must find his or her own kind of voice. Finally, you have to keep on writing.” –Lawrence Yep

“I advise those who want to become writers to study veterinary medicine, which is easier. You don’t want to be a writer unless you have no choice–and if you have no choice, good luck to you. You read as much as you can and write as much as you can. You don’t have to be very organized about it unless you are an organized sort of person. But you do have to do it compulsively, convulsively, constantly–and you have to love it, to not be able to live without it. Neither the reading nor the writing is more important than the other. You read to feed your own story-telling faculty; you write to learn how, so that when the story you must get down on paper presents itself to you, you’ll be ready. Well, you’ll never be ready–the story in your head will always be better than what you write, which is one of the brutal facts about being a writer–but you can make yourself as ready as you can be.” –Robin McKinley

“For young people who want to write, I advise them to stick with it. Perseverance is everything. Don’t be discouraged by rejections. I wrote forty stories before I sold one. If you like to write, if you’ve got writing in your blood, you will stay with it no matter what. It may not be easy. But it will be very gratifying.” –Matt Christopher

“When I visit schools and talk to students about writing, I give them one word of advice and I give it to them quickly and loudly–FINISH! Starting something is easier than finishing it. You must have discipline to go from a few sentences, to a few paragraphs, to a piece of writing that has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Finishing something bridges the difference between someone who has talent and one who does not. My best advice? Apply the seat of your pants to the seat of your chair–and finish. FINISH! –E. L. Konigsburg

“I believe that if a child has a feel for writing and wants to write, there is an audience. Children should just dive in and go at it. I would encourage children to write about themselves and things that are happening to them. It is a lot easier and they know the subject better if they use something out of their everyday lives as an inspiration. Read stories, listen to stories, to develop an understanding of what stories are all about.” –Jean Craighead George

“My books are based on the “what if” principle. “What if you became invisible?” or “What if you did change into your mother for one day?” I then take it from there. Each book takes several months in the long process of writing, rewriting, writing, rewriting, and each has its own set of problems. The one thing I dislike about the writing process is the sometimes-loneliness of it all. Readers only get to see the glamour part of a bound book, not some of the agonizing moments one has while constructing it.” –Mary Rodgers

“To me, one of the greatest triumphs in doing a book is to tell the story as simply as possible. My aim is to imply rather than to overstate. Whenever the reader participates with his own interpretation, I feel that the book is much more successful. I write with the premise that less is more. Writing is not difficult to me. I read into a tape recorder, constantly dropping a word here and there from my manuscript until I get a minimum amount of words to say exactly what I want to say. Each time I drop a word or two, it brings me a sense of victory!” –Ezra Jack Keats

“Some of my poems just spring up–full bloom! Others can take days, weeks, months. Usually ideas come first, then the poetry takes hold. It is a matter of thought, sound, imagery–all working together in balance to create the effect that I want to convey. Then there are times I know I am going in a wrong direction, and I have to pull back–pull back strongly and start all over. My aim is to focus clearly on a subject, pare down words so there can be nothing extraneous in any of my poems. “Water Lily,” a verse containing ten lines with a total of twenty words, was one such poem that just wouldn’t work. After almost one hundred versions everything fitted into place.

I would tell children who want to write poetry to write poetry for the fun of it, for the joy of it, for the love of it. And especially for the love of the things you write about, whatever they may be–whether beautiful or ugly, grand or humble, birds of paradise or mosquitoes, stars or mud puddles: All are worthy of being written about if you feel a deep affection for them–or, indeed, if you feel strongly about them in any way at all. But never forget that the subject is as important as your feeling: The mud puddle itself is as important as your pleasure in looking at it or splashing through it. Never let the mud puddle get lost in the poetry–because, in many ways, the mud puddle is the poetry.” –Valerie Worth

“Writing is making sense of life.” — Nadine Gordimer

“Writers write to influence their readers…but always, at bottom, to be more themselves.” — Aldous Huxley

“There are many reasons why novelists write, but they all have one thing in common: a need to create an alternative world.” – John Fowles

“Fiction reveals truths that reality obscures.” — Jessamyn West

“Words are all we have.” — Samuel Beckett

“I know very dimly when I start what’s going to happen. I just have a very general idea, and then the thing develops as I write.” — Aldous Huxley

“I try to know as much as I can about a book before the beginning, but I never know exactly where it’s going to end.” — Scott Spencer

“I always know the ending; that’s where I start.” –Toni Morrison

“I start at the beginning, go on to the end, then stop.”— Anthony Burgess

“I don’t see how anybody starts a novel without knowing how it’s going to end. I usually make detailed outlines: how many chapters it will be and so forth.” — John Barth

“I always begin with a character or characters, and then try to think up as much action for them as possible.” — John Irving

“If a writer is true to his characters they will give him his plot.” –Phyllis Bottome

“You can never know enough about your characters.” — W. Somerset Maugham

“The main plot line is simple: Getting your character to the foot of the tree, getting him up the tree, and then figuring out how to get him down again.” — Jane Yolen

“Someone the reader likes overcomes increasingly difficult obstacles to reach an important goal.” — Unknown

“Somebody wants something, and it’s hard for them to get it.” –Todd Strasser

“Everything has been thought of before, but the problem is to think of it again.” — Goethe

“Originality does not consist in saying what no one has ever said before, but in saying exactly what you think yourself.” — J.F. Stephen

“The secret of good writing is to say an old thing in a new way or to say a new thing an old way.” — Richard Harding Davis

“The last paragraph in which you tell what the story is about is almost always best left out.”– Irwin Shaw

“The first draft of anything is shit.” –Ernest Hemingway

“Nothing you write, if you hope to be any good, will ever come out as you first hoped.” — Lillian Hellman

“I never reread a text until I have finished the first draft. Otherwise it’s too discouraging.” — Gore Vidal

“The first draft of a story is the writer’s clay.” — Bruce Coville

“Few of us express ourselves well in a first draft. When we revise that early confusion into something clearer, we understand our ideas better. And when we understand our ideas better, we express them more clearly, and when we express them more clearly, we understand them better…and so it goes until we run out of energy, interest, or time.” –Joseph M. Williams (1994)

“I have rewritten – often several times – every word I have ever published. My pencils outlast their erasers.” — Vladimir Nabokov

“I don’t write easily or rapidly. My first draft usually has only a few elements worth keeping. I have to find what those are and build from them and throw out what doesn’t work, or what simply is not alive.” — Susan Sontag

“It takes me six months to do a story. I think it out and then write it sentence by sentence – no first draft. I can’t write five words but that I change seven.” — Dorothy Parker

“The first draft is the down draft. You just get it down. The second draft is the up draft–you fix it up. The third draft is the dental draft, where you check every tooth, to see it it’s loose or cramped or decayed, or…healthy.” –Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

“Here’s the way I write a book:

    I start on the word processor and write as much as I can. Then I print it.
    I take what I’ve printed, go sit somewhere else–like the porch–read it, say, “This is terrible,” and start working on it.
    I go back to the word processor, put in the changes, and print it.
    I take what I’ve printed, go sit somewhere else, say, “Oh, this is still terrible,” and rewrite it.
    I keep doing this until I say, “This is not as terrible as it used to be,” then, “This is getting better,” and finally (hopefully), “This is not bad at all.”

That’s how I do my writing, no matter what kind it is–short stories, essays, novels. And it’s worked for thirty years.” –Betsy Byars, The Moon and I

“Producing writing is not so much like filling a basin or pool once, but rather getting water to keep flowing through till finally it runs clear.” –Peter Elbow, Writing Without Teachers

“The difference between the right and the not-so-right word is like the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.” — Mark Twain

“I love criticism just so long as it’s unqualified praise.” — Noel Coward

“A critic is a necessary evil, and criticism is an evil necessity.” — Carolyn Wells

“A good critic is the sorcerer that makes some hidden spring gush forth unexpectedly under our feet.” –Francois Mauriac

“In composing, as a general rule, run your pen through every other word you have written; you have no idea what vigor it will give to your style.” –Sydney Smith

“As to the adjective: when in doubt, strike it out.” — Mark Twain

“I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil.” — Truman Capote

“If it is possible to cut out a word, always cut it out.” –George Orwell

“Unless one is a genius, it is best to aim at being intelligible.” –Anthony Hawkins

“Technique alone is never enough. You have to have passion. Technique alone is just an embroidered potholder.” — Raymond Chandler

“The quality of emotion is what stays with the reader long after the storyline is gone.” — Ellen Howard

“Word-carpentry is like any other kind of carpentry: you must join your sentences smoothly.” — Anatole France

“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 is good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out the window.” –Williams Faulkner

“My advice to would-be young authors is to read a lot, write a lot, and not worry about creating a finished product. Keeping a journal is not a bad idea either.” –Kevin Henkes

“If you’re not a reader you can forget about becoming a writer. If reading is not in place first, the writing will not come. The most effective training for writing is reading. If kids read more they would write better.” –Avi

“Usage is the only test. I prefer a phrase that is easy and unaffected to a phrase that is grammatical.” — W. Somerset Maugham
“Word has somehow got around that the split infinitive is always wrong. That is a piece with the outworn notion that it is always wrong to strike a lady.” — James Thurber

“Every creator painfully experiences the chasm between his inner vision and its ultimate expression. The chasm is never completely bridged. We all have the conviction, perhaps illusory, that we have much more to say than appears on the paper.” — Isaac Singer
“It’s a very excruciating life facing that blank piece of paper every day and having to reach up somewhere into the clouds and bring something down out of them.” — Truman Capote

“I went for years not finishing anything. Because, of course, when you finish something you can be judged… I had poems which were rewritten so many time I suspect it was just a way of avoiding sending them out.” — Erica Jong

“Readers are like sheep. If there’s an open gate to the right or the left they will surely go through it.”–an unknown writer

Don’t write merely to be understood. Write so that you cannot possibly be misunderstood. –Robert Louis Stevenson

“We need to resist the urge to “fix.” The drafts children produce, especially early in the year, will probably be like misshapen, gluey valentines, and we need to respond to them with the same warmth and trust.

Early drafts require teachers and fellow writers who have the eyes to see what is not yet there…

When a young writer deliberately tries to create an effect, the result is often a little self-conscious and overdone. But why is it so hard for us to glory in what the writer has tried to do, or even in the very fact that the writer has deliberately tried to do something?” –Lucy Calkins

“G.K. Chesterton once said: ‘If something is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.’ I live by this philosophy when I teach writing. It seems to me vastly more important that a student try a new technique in her writing, and use it imperfectly, than never try the technique at all.” –Ralph Fletcher

“Our job is to ask questions of children so that children internalize these questions and ask them of themselves and their own emerging drafts.” —Lucy Calkins

“Writing well has everything to do with being able to read one’s own work with an eye toward the unmet possibilities that are there.” –Lucy Calkins

“Producing writing is not so much like filling a basin or pool once as it is like getting water to keep flowing through until it finally runs clear.” –Peter Elbow

“Writing becomes beautiful when it becomes specific, concrete.” –Ralph Fletcher

“The bigger the issue, the smaller you write.” –Richard Price

“When I used to teach creative writing, I would tell the students to make their characters want something right away – even if it’s only a glass of water. Characters paralyzed by the meaninglessness of modern life still have to drink water from time to time.” — Kurt Vonnegut

“Write about just one thing, I have said, and there is wisdom in this advice…And yet, there is wisdom also in William Sloane’s contrary observation: ‘Almost all effective writing above the level of the soup can turns out to be about quite a lot of things fused or laced or linked together.’” –Lucy Calkins

“My writing comes from ideas that make a sound in my heart.” –Katherine Paterson

“Writing with voice is writing into which someone has breathed. It has that fluency, rhythm, and liveliness that exist naturally in the speech of most people when they are enjoying a conversation…Writing with real voice has the power to make you pay attention and understand –the words go deep.” –Peter Elbow

“Voice in writing has much to do with an intimacy between the writer and subject: a close distance between author and what is being written about.” –Suzanne Gardiner


From the Writing Curriculum Files of Children’s Author, Suzanne Williams www.suzanne-williams.com