“And that is what the best writing is—a witness to the human experience, a companion that lets readers know you’re not in this alone. You’re not the only one. Love, hate, rage, failure, success, disappointment, despair, elation, fear—we’ve all been there. And sometimes, for me at least, the way forward through writing is to let all that unfold without worrying about beats and steps and aha moments, but through recording—as a witness, as a companion—the story I need to tell.
I’m not saying that writers can write and rules and advice be damned; of course not. All great books are based on a solid foundation of structure and craft even when they appear seamless. But I am saying that sometimes relying too much on advice and how-tos can distract from the main purpose of writing fiction: To tell a story that says something about human experience.”
– novelist Kathleen McCleary, Writer Unboxed, 8/16/17
Mixed media by Leslie
“A writer — and, I believe, generally all persons — must think that whatever happens to him or her is a resource. All things have been given to us for a purpose, and an artist must feel this more intensely. All that happens to us, including our humiliations, our misfortunes, our embarrassments, all is given to us as raw material, as clay, so that we may shape our art.”
— Jorge Luis Borges, Argentinean writer (1899-1986)
(hat-tip to PJ Coldren)
“Q: How does writing help an individual cope with life’s setbacks?
A. I’s been my experience that as writers we tend to process life events (positive and negative) through story. It’s often on a subconscious level, hovering below the surface of our thoughts and then woven into the fabric of our stories. And it helps This is how our brains are wired to process life. By creating story we can deal with the unexpected curve balls life hurls our way.”
– Debbie Macomber, The Writer, June 2014
“I love revision. To me that feels like art[,] pulling the thread of your ending all the way back to the beginning, to work on the grace and fluidity and architecture of a story, that is your real art. Slogging through a first draft is like hoeing a row of corn. You’re just happy when you get to the end.”
– Barbara Kingsolver, quoted in the Missoulian 11/22/09, in an article reprinted from the Minneapolis Star Tribune
“No thinking – that comes later. You write your first draft with your heart. You rewrite with your head. The first key to writing is… to write, not to think!”
— William Forrester, as played by Sean Connery in Finding Forrester
Revision often does require a scalpel, but I do love this contrast!
“The beautiful part of writing is that you don’t have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon.”
─ Robert Cormier
The quotes on just keep coming.
“Books aren’t written – they’re rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it.”
─ Michael Crichton
In writing world, November is known as NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. Participants pledge to write 50,000 words in a month — that’s about 2/3 of a typical cozy mystery, maybe half of a typical thriller. It takes determination, a comfy chair, and 1,667 words a day. I didn’t participate, but for those of you who did, I offer a month of quotes on revision!
“Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything good.”
– William Faulkner
“Studies have shown that reading novels increases our ability to empathize, but not by choice, but by rewiring our brain. … Story isn’t something we humans created for “entertainment” nor is story about something as ephemeral, vague and – honestly unhelpful – as the concept of “art.” In fact, we didn’t create story at all; story created us. Or at least our perception of the world we live in. Story is built into the architecture of the brain, it’s the framework that allows us to process all the raw info that life throws at us 24/7.”
– Lisa Cron, Writer Unboxed blog, 10/8/15
“Fiction allows our brains to practice reacting to the kinds of challenges that are, and always were, most crucial to our success as a species. … [S]tories make societies work better, by encouraging us to behave ethically. As with sacred myths, ordinary stories—from TV shoes to fairy tales—steep us all in the same powerful norms and values. They relentlessly stigmatize antisocial character and just as relentlessly celebrate prosocial behiavor.”
Jonathan Gottschall, in The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human, reviewed in The Writer, June 2012