Suspend Your Disbelief

Posts Tagged ‘Quotes and Notes’

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"Rules" of Writing

Inspired by Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing, the Guardian recently asked several contemporary authors for their own rules of writing. Writers such as Margaret Atwood, Annie Proulx, Jonathan Franzen, Philip Pullman, Zadie Smith, and many others answered the call ((Here’s Part One; and here’s Part Two). You may have noticed that at Fiction Writers Review, we take our rules with a pinch of skepticism. (Steven Wingate’s Quotes & Notes series has investigated some of the “rules” embodied in writing-related quotes.) But writing is a hard job, and we all long for the magic formula that will help us get […]


Essays |

Quotes & Notes: Gotta Serve Somebody: Writers and Academic Homes

“Everywhere I go, I’m asked if the universities stifle writers. My opinion is that they don’t stifle enough of them.” — Flannery O’Connor

It’s hard to argue with your heroes, though it’s significantly easier after they’ve died. Flannery O’Connor—the first writer I wanted to be—refers in this quote to creative writing workshops, which were just becoming the new standard for writerly apprenticeship when she launched her career. But I don’t have the same issues as she had with the workshop paradigm as it’s now practiced, or with the proliferation of creative writing programs.


Essays |

Quotes & Notes: Best Shots and Shortcuts

“Always give your characters their best shot.” — Stuart M. Kaminsky

As writers, we can add on (and on) to the external details of a character, trying to make that person real in the way that Pinocchio hopes to become so. Theoretically, we might be able to acquire enough details in a personality inventory for our readers to accept our characters as convincing. But ultimately, as Stuart Kaminsky knew, this way of creating character doesn’t work because it’s the subtext of our characters’ lives that make them real. Using the “inventory” process to get to know them is fundamentally flawed because it makes us lazy.


Essays |

Quotes & Notes: In Praise of Perpetual Self-Reinvention

“Every book I publish is an opportunity for me to reinvent myself as a writer.” — Steve Katz

The easy thing to do when we finish one writing project, the default thing, is to simply think about what we’re going to write next. Katz’s words, however, call us to engage in a deeper kind of reconsideration of ourselves, because what we write and who we are as writers are two crucially different things.


Essays |

Quotes & Notes: Writing What's Yours, When It's Yours to Write

“You take up the pen when you are told, and write what is commanded.”
— Zora Neale Hurston

Consider Hurston’s words in the context of note-taking and revision, which we normally don’t think of as particularly inspired phases of the fiction process. Preparing the canvas can be a long and dreadful bore; we learn about our characters in slow motion, wanting to write the work itself but knowing that we aren’t yet ready. We synopsize, sometimes outline, sometimes take copious notes that we then ignore completely.


Essays |

Quotes & Notes: Peering and Leaping into the Author/Character Vortex, Part II

“Do not imagine you can exorcise what oppresses you in life by giving vent to it in art.”
–Gustave Flaubert

Practitioners of fiction may find this Flaubert quote hard to embrace, because if we’re honest with ourselves we’ll probably have to make some difficult admissions. Many of us—especially those who fell in love with the craft early, perhaps under the spell of Austen or Kerouac or Salinger—embarked on the fiction endeavor with an eye toward self-discovery. Most writers started writing because we found ourselves immersed in the character-self vortex as readers, identifying with fictional characters so intensely (as we searched for ourselves in them) that it became second nature to live in their worlds. From there it’s a small but decisive step to the other side of the formula: entering into the vortex as a writer and deciding to participate in literature as a transmitter of emotional signals rather than as a receiver alone…




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