Thayer Literary Services ~ Book Editing

Quotes for writers

“There are a thousand thoughts lying within a man that he does not know till he takes up a pen to write.”   — William Makepeace Thackeray, novelist (1811-1863)


The greatest part of a writer's time is spent in reading, in order to

write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book.   — Samuel

Johnson, lexicographer (1709-1784)


Good books don't give up all their secrets at once.   — Stephen King, novelist (1947- )


"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read."  — Groucho Marx


Never mistake talking about writing for actual writing.  — Jack Kerouac


It is as easy to dream a book as it is hard to write one.   —Honore de

Balzac, novelist (1799-1850)


The world of books is the most remarkable creation of man. Nothing else that he builds ever lasts. Monuments fall; nations perish; civilizations grow old and die out; and, after an era of darkness, new races build others.    —Clarence Day, writer, (1874-1935)


"Writing a novel is a long distance run of the imagination. Writers need all the help they can get, wherever they can get it."     —  George C. Chesbro


Writing the last page of the first draft is the most enjoyable moment in

writing. It's one of the most enjoyable moments in life, period.  —Nicholas

Sparks, author (1965- )


A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left

to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.   —Antoine de

Saint-Exupery, author and aviator (1900-1945)


"Is it true that you can write only what you know?" And he said, "Yes it is. But you don't know what you know until you write it. Writing is a process of discovery of what you really do know. You can't limit yourself in advance to what you know, because you don't know everything you know." — W.H. Auden


However great a man’s natural talent may be, the act of writing cannot be learned all at once.    — Jean Jacques Rousseau


Nothing leads so straight to futility as literary ambitions without systematic knowledge.

— H.G. Wells


Beginning writers must appreciate the prerequisites if they hope to become writers. You pay your dues—which takes years.    — Alex Haley


Start early and work hard. A writer’s apprenticeship usually involves writing a million words (which are then discarded) before he’s almost ready to begin. That takes a while.   — David Eddings

You must want to [write] enough. Enough to take all the rejections, enough to pay the price of disappointment and discouragement while you are learning. Like any other artist you must learn your craft—then you can add all the genius you like.   — Phyllis A. Whitney


You become a writer by writing. It is a yoga.    — R.K. Narayan, novelist (1906-2001)


Great ability develops and reveals itself increasingly with every new assignment.   — Baltasar Gracian


He who would leap high must take a long run.   — Danish Proverb


I met, not long ago, a young man who aspired to become a novelist. Knowing that I was in the profession, he asked me to tell him how he should set to work to realize his ambition. I did my best to explain. 'The first thing,' I said, 'is to buy quite a lot of paper, a bottle of ink, and a pen. After that you merely have to write.'    — Aldous Huxley, novelist (1894-1963)


He who checks his own copy has a fool for an editor.    — Anonymous


You ask for the distinction between ‘Editor’ and ‘Publisher’: an editor selects manuscripts; a publisher selects editors.   — Max Schuster


Close the door. Write with no one looking over your shoulder. Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer.   — Barbara Kingsolver


Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.   — Mark Twain


Experience is one thing you can’t get for nothing.   — Oscar Wilde


Imagination grows by exercise, and contrary to common belief, is more powerful in the mature than in the young.   — W. Somerset Maugham


I think of an author as somebody who goes into the marketplace and puts down his rug and says, “I will tell you a story,” and then he passes the hat.    — Robertson Davies


There are times when quantity is at least as important as quality in learning an art.   — Lawrence Watt-Evans


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


Work is love made visible. And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy.   — Kahlil Gibran


There is an old saying:  In history nothing is true but the names and dates.  In fiction everything is true but the names and dates. The difference between reality and fiction? Fiction has to  make sense.   — Tom Clancy


He is able who thinks he is able.   — Buddha


The task of a writer consists of being able to make something out of an idea.   — Thomas Mann


A man who uses a great many words to express his meaning is like a bad marksman who, instead of aiming a single stone at an object, takes up a handful and throws at it in hopes he may hit.    — Samuel Johnson, lexicographer (1709-1784)


Words are like leaves; and where they most abound/Much fruit of sense beneath is rarely found.   — Alexander Pope


It is with words as with sunbeams, the more they are condensed, the deeper they burn.    — Robert Southey (1774-1843)


Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader—not the fact it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.   — E.L. Doctorow


Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.   — Anton Chekhov


No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.   — Robert Frost


A novel should be an experience and convey an emotional truth rather than arguments.   — Joyce Cary


People read fiction for emotion, not information.   — Sinclair Lewis


No, it’s not a very good story—its author was too busy listening to other voices to listen as closely as he should have to the one coming from inside.   — Stephen King


To imagine yourself inside another person . . . is what a story writer does in every piece of work; it is his first step, and his last, too, I suppose.   — Eudora Welty


A poem begins with a lump in the throat.   — Robert Frost, poet (1874-1963)


Each man carries within him the soul of a poet who died young.   — Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve, literary critic (1804-1869)


Easy reading is damned hard writing.   — Nathaniel Hawthorne, writer



No two persons ever read the same book.    — Edmund Wilson, critic (1895-1972)


If you would be a writer, first be a reader. Only through the assimilation of ideas, thoughts and philosophies can one begin to focus his own ideas, thoughts and philosophies.   — Allan W. Eckert


I cannot find any patience for those people who believe that you start writing when you sit down at your desk and pick up your pen and finish writing when you put down your pen again; a writer is always writing, seeing everything through a thin mist of words, fitting swift little descriptions to everything he sees, always noticing. Just as I believe that a painter cannot sit down to his morning coffee without noticing what color it is, so a writer cannot see an odd little gesture without putting a verbal description to it, and ought never to let a moment go by undescribed.  — Shirley Jackson


Becoming the reader is the essence of becoming a writer.   — John O’Hara


Reading is seeing by proxy.   — Herbert Spencer, philosopher (1820-1903)


Read a lot, finding out what kind of writing turns you on, in order to develop a criterion for your own writing. And then trust it—and yourself.   — Rosemary Daniell


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 most. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out the window.   — William Faulkner


I took a number of stories by popular writers as well as others by Maupassant, O. Henry, Stevenson, etc., and studied them carefully. Modifying what I learned over the next few years, I began to sell.   — Louis L’Amour


Write what you care about and understand. Writers should never try to outguess the marketplace in search of a salable idea; the simple truth is that all good books will eventually find a publisher if the writer tries hard enough, and a central secret to writing a good book is to write one that people like you will enjoy.   — Richard North Patterson


Never save anything for your next book, because that possible creation may not be properly shaped to hold the thoughts you’re working with today. In fiction especially, anything that could happen, should happen.   — Tam Mossman


The skill of writing is to create a context in which other people can think.    — Edwin Schlossberg, designer (1945- )


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


What is art? Nature concentrated.    — Honore de Balzac, novelist (1799-1850)


There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.   — Alfred Hitchcock, filmmaker (1899-1980)


I write as straight as I can, just as I walk as straight as I can, because that is the best way to get there.   — H.G. Wells


Only write from your own passion, your own truth. That’s the only thing you really know about, and anything else leads you away from the pulse.   — Marianne Williamson


There are no laws for the novel. There never have been, nor can there ever be.   — Doris Lessing


The first thing you have to consider when writing a novel is your story, and then your story—and then your story!   — Ford Madox Ford


For a creative writer possession of the ‘truth’ is less important than emotional sincerity.   — George Orwell


Good writers are those who keep the language efficient. That is to say, keep it accurate, keep it clear.   — Ezra Pound


If a book is not alive in the writer’s mind, it is as dead as year-old horse-shit.   — Stephen King


The best crime novels are not about how a detective works on a case; they are about how a case works on a detective.   — Michael Connelly


At least half the mystery novels published violate the law that the solution, once revealed, must seem to be inevitable.    —Raymond Chandler (1888-1959)


Works of imagination should be written in very plain language; the more purely imaginative they are the more necessary it is to be plain.   — Samuel Taylor Coleridge, poet and philosopher (1772-1834)


Every reader finds himself. The writer's work is merely a kind of optical instrument that makes it possible for the reader to discern what, without this book, he would perhaps never have seen in himself.   — Marcel Proust, novelist (1871-1922)


A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.  —Thomas Mann, novelist, Nobel laureate (1875-1955)


No man can be called friendless when he has God and the companionship of good books.    —Elizabeth Barret Browning, poet (1806-1861)


You have to hold your audience in writing to the very end—much more than in talking, when people have to be polite and listen to you.   —Brenda Ueland, writer (1891-1985)


But words are things, a small drop of ink, / Falling like dew upon a thought, produces /

That which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think.   —Lord Byron, poet (1788-1824)


One glance at a book and you hear the voice of another person, perhaps someone dead for 1,000 years. To read is to voyage through time.   —Carl Sagan, astronomer and writer (1934-1996)


Words are the only things that last forever; they are more durable than the eternal hills.    —William Hazlitt, essayist (1778-1830)


Books are like imprisoned souls till someone takes them down from a shelf and frees them.    —Samuel Butler, writer (1835-1902)


The world of books is the most remarkable creation of man. Nothing else that he builds ever lasts. Monuments fall; nations perish; civilizations grow old and die out; and, after an era of darkness, new races build others.    —Clarence Day, writer, (1874-1935)


Books are the bees which carry the quickening pollen from one to another mind.  —James Russell Lowell, poet, editor, and diplomat (1819-1891)


If writers were good businessmen, they'd have too much sense to be writers.

—Irwin S. Cobb, author and journalist (1876-1944)


Sit down and put down everything that comes into your head and then you're

a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff's worth, without

pity, and destroy most of it.   —Colette, writer (1873-1954)


Every word has its fragrance: there is a harmony and a disharmony of fragrances, and hence of words.   —Friedrich Nietzsche


The secret to getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex, overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.   —Mark Twain




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