Thursday, September 5, 2013

TOP SECRETS OF BESTSELLING AUTHORS shared from Jessica Strawser

On November 19, 2011, Jessica Strawser shared the 90 top secrets of bestselling authors and I decided to share the top 19.  You may see the complete list in the archives of the Writer's Digest magazine.
Writing advice: It can be all at once inspiring and contradictory, uplifting and off-putting, insightful and superficial. There are successful writers who impart wisdom freely and willingly, and then there are literary icons who claim to have none to dispense at all. As for the rest of us, we just can’t seem to help but look to our fellow writers who’ve achieved so much and wonder: What’s their secret?
Here, some of the most successful writers in recent (and not-so-recent) memory share their take on everything from how they get ideas (or go find them), to the best way to start a manuscript (or why the only important thing is that you start at all), to their most methodical writing habits (and quirkiest rituals), to writing with the readers in mind (or ignoring them entirely). The quotes were pulled from 90 years’ worth of Writer’s Digest magazines (as fascinating as it is to observe what’s changed since 1920, it’s equally refreshing to realize how much good, sound writing wisdom remains the same).
We trust you’ll find some quotes to be admirably succinct, others to be charmingly old-fashioned but timeless all the same. Above all, we hope you’ll find them all useful as you embark on another year of your own writing life.
INSPIRATION & IDEAS
—No. 1—
“Every idea is my last. I feel sure of it. So, I try to do the best with each as it comes and that’s where my responsibility ends. But I just don’t wait for ideas. I look for them. Constantly. And if I don’t use the ideas that I find, they’re going to quit showing up.”
—Peg Bracken
—No. 2—
“If you stuff yourself full of poems, essays, plays, stories, novels, films, comic strips, magazines, music, you automatically explode every morning like Old Faithful. I have never had a dry spell in my life, mainly because I feed myself well, to the point of bursting. I wake early and hear my morning voices leaping around in my head like jumping beans. I get out of bed quickly, to trap them before they escape.”
—Ray Bradbury
—No. 3—
“Good writing is remembering detail. Most people want to forget. Don’t forget things that were painful or embarrassing or silly. Turn them into a story that tells the truth.”
—Paula Danziger
—No. 4—
“I have never felt like I was creating anything. For me, writing is like walking through a desert and all at once, poking up through the hardpan, I see the top of a chimney. I know there’s a house under there, and I’m pretty sure that I can dig it up if I want. That’s how I feel. It’s like the stories are already there. What they pay me for is the leap of faith that says: ‘If I sit down and do this, everything will come out OK.’”
—Stephen King
—No. 5—
“A writer need not devour a whole sheep in order to know what mutton tastes like, but he must at least eat a chop. Unless he gets his facts right, his imagination will lead him into all kinds of nonsense, and the facts he is most likely to get right are the facts of his own experience.”
—W. Somerset Maugham
—No. 6—
“Don’t put down too many roots in terms of a domicile. I have lived in four countries and I think my life as a writer and our family’s life have been enriched by this. I think a writer has to experience new environments. There is that adage: No man can really succeed if he doesn’t move away from where he was born. I believe it is particularly true for the writer.”
—Arthur Hailey
—No. 7—
“Sit and quiet yourself. Luxuriate in a certain memory and the details will come. Let the images flow. You’ll be amazed at what will come out on paper. I’m still learning what it is about the past that I want to write. I don’t worry about it. It will emerge. It will insist on being told.”
—Frank McCourt
—No. 8—
“My advice is not to wait to be struck by an idea. If you’re a writer, you sit down and damn well decide to have an idea. That’s the way to get an idea.”
—Andy Rooney
—No. 9—
“As writers we live life twice, like a cow that eats its food once and then regurgitates it to chew and digest it again. We have a second chance at biting into our experience and examining it. … This is our life and it’s not going to last forever. There isn’t time to talk about someday writing that short story or poem or novel. Slow down now, touch what is around you, and out of care and compassion for each moment and detail, put pen to paper and begin to write.”
—Natalie Goldberg
GETTING STARTED
—No. 10—
“I have a self-starter—published 20 million words—and have never received, needed or wanted a kick in the pants.”
—Isaac Asimov
—No. 11—
“Two questions form the foundation of all novels: ‘What if?’ and ‘What next?’ (A third question, ‘What now?’, is one the author asks himself every 10 minutes or so; but it’s more a cry than a question.) Every novel begins with the speculative question, What if ‘X’ happened? That’s how you start.”
—Tom Clancy
—No. 12—
“I think my stuff succeeds, in part, because of what it’s about—a diagnosis by attempting the adventures oneself of universal American daydreams. Now, I’m not saying that any writer who decided to select that device or notion could have written a bestseller; you have to add ingredients that are very special, I agree, but I think I started out with a good pot to make the stew in.”
—George Plimpton
—No. 13—
“Beginning a novel is always hard. It feels like going nowhere. I always have to write at least 100 pages that go into the trashcan before it finally begins to work. It’s discouraging, but necessary to write those pages. I try to consider them pages -100 to zero of the novel.”
—Barbara Kingsolver
—No. 14—
“When I start on a book, I have been thinking about it and making occasional notes for some time—20 years in the case of Imperial Earth, and 10 years in the case of the novel I’m presently working on. So I have lots of theme, locale, subjects and technical ideas. It’s amazing how the subconscious self works on these things. I don’t worry about long periods of not doing anything. I know my subconscious is busy.”
—Arthur C. Clarke
—No. 15—
“An outline is crucial. It saves so much time. When you write suspense, you have to know where you’re going because you have to drop little hints along the way. With the outline, I always know where the story is going. So before I ever write, I prepare an outline of 40 or 50 pages.”
—John Grisham
—No. 16—
“I do a great deal of research. I don’t want anyone to say, ‘That could not have happened.’ It may be fiction, but it has to be true.”
—Jacquelyn Mitchard
—No. 17—
“Being goal-oriented instead of self-oriented is crucial. I know so many people who want to be writers. But let me tell you, they really don’t want to be writers. They want to have been writers. They wish they had a book in print. They don’t want to go through the work of getting the damn book out. There is a huge difference.”
—James Michener
—No. 18—
“Don’t quit. It’s very easy to quit during the first 10 years. Nobody cares whether you write or not, and it’s very hard to write when nobody cares one way or the other. You can’t get fired if you don’t write, and most of the time you don’t get rewarded if you do. But don’t quit.”
—Andre Dubus

—No. 19—
“Writing is like being in love. You never get better at it or learn more about it. The day you think you do is the day you lose it. Robert Frost called his work a lover’s quarrel with the world. It’s ongoing. It has neither a beginning nor an end. You don’t have to worry about learning things. The fire of one’s art burns all the impurities from the vessel that contains it.”
—James Lee Burke

2 comments:

Denise Covey said...

This is great!

Rita Karnopp said...

Thanks, Denise ... glad you enjoyed it. They're fun to read, aren't they! :) Rita

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