Notes & Quotes

“The novel is not the author’s confession; it is an investigation of human life in the trap the world has become.”
–Milan Kundera

MozartSculpture-dreamstime_xs_29020364A novel is a sculpture. It is the recycled clay of the human condition crafted with unique detail.

“There are people who think that things that happen in fiction do not really happen. These people are wrong.”
–Neil Gaiman

“The two most engaging powers of an author are to make new things familiar and familiar things new.”
–Samuel Johnson

“Art is the stored honey of the human soul, gathered on wings of misery and travail.” –Theodore Dreiser

“Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb we are bound to others. And by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.”
–David Mitchell

“Nothing that happens to a writer–however happy, however tragic–is ever wasted.”
–P.D. James

“It’s only with the heart that one can see clearly. What’s essential, is invisible to the eye.”
–The Fox in The Little Prince (Le Petit Prince)

“Story structure is about plight, not plot.”
–Michael Dellert

“Write the book you want to read, the one you cannot find.”
–Carol Shields

Write without fear. No one can see your work without your permission.

“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.”
–Jack Kerouac

It is simple to write elaborately. It is complicated to simplify.

“It takes longer to write short.”
–Les Edgerton

“Easy reading is damn hard writing.”
–Nathaniel Hawthorne

“A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”
–Thomas Mann

“You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.”
-Saul Bellow

“Implication entrusts the reader’s imagination to do the writing for the author.”
–J.J. Azar

“Books are like mirrors: if a fool looks in, you cannot expect a genius to look out.
–J.K. Rowling

“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.”
–Bertrand Russell

“If you wrote from experience, you’d get maybe one book, maybe three poems. Writers write from empathy.”
–Nikki Giovanni

Writers absorb many lives in order to write.

“If I could sum it up in 50 words, I wouldn’t have needed to write a whole novel about it.”
–Patrick Rothfuss

People read universal human condition stories because they need confirmation for their own experiences, their own hell. They need to relate, to not feel alone. They follow the protagonist to see how (s)he deals with the blows that life has wielded.

“A writer never has a vacation. For a writer, life consists of either writing or thinking about writing.”
–Eugene Ionesco

“Fellow writers, describe all of the blood and guts you want, but don’t treat the details as fireworks intended to please the eye. Instead, treat them as casualties to rattle the mind. Your work will be better for it. After all, channeling reality often makes for better fiction.”
–J.J. Azar

“We don’t want to feel less when we have finished a book; we want to feel that new possibilities of being have been opened to us. We don’t want to close a book with a sense that life is totally unfair and that there is no light in the darkness; we want to feel that we have been given illumination.”
–Madeleine L. Engle


“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything.”

“Did you know J.K. Rowling listened to Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto while she was writing Harry Potter?”
–Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra

“I actually didn’t choose music. Music chose me.”
–Michael Hope, assistant principal bassoon for the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra

“Music is the shorthand of emotion.”
–Leo Tolstoy

People have a need to express, belong, or forget. If one has an affinity for music and an ability to write, one does not need other drugs. This combination helps us to express our reality, change our reality, or forget our reality—which, in the end, keeps us sane.

Frodo: “I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.”
Gandalf: “So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
–J.R.R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings

Adversity writes a better novel.

Galadriel: “May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out.”
–J.R.R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings

When in darkness, be your own light.

ViolinPlayer-dreamstime_xs_55996800“Sometimes writing feels like playing to an empty house.”
–Doug Wallace

“I am irritated by my own writing. I am like a violinist whose ear is true, but whose fingers refuse to reproduce precisely the sound heard.”
–Michael Dellert

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

“Story structure is about evolution. It’s a way to trace the beats of the character’s growth through the sequence of unfortunate events to the evolution in his perception that allows him to resolve the plight of his story. It’s about finding one’s way to that ‘Eureka!’ moment when the character comes to terms with the false belief he has doggedly held onto, and embraces instead that new world-view in which his plight simply doesn’t exist anymore.”
–Michael Dellert

“When speaking aloud, you punctuate constantly–with body language. Your listener hears commas, dashes, question marks, exclamation points, quotation marks as you shout, whisper, pause, wave your arms, roll your eyes, wrinkle your brow. In writing, punctuation plays the roll of body language. It helps readers hear the way you want to be heard.”
–Russell Baker

Teaching students is like tuning an instrument: you have to be on the right wavelength.

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