contributed by Nancy Swanson, Editor
NaNoWriMo http://www.nanowrimo.org/ is coming up, and some of you are going to try again to put together the requisite number of words per day and by the end of the month. Well, good luck to you, and here are some quotations to help and encourage you, mostly from and about famous writers..
Elmore Leonard has written more than 40 novels — as soon as he finishes one, he starts on another. He's famous for his advice for writers. In 2001, he published a piece in The New York Times called "Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle." He gave 10 rules, things like "Never open a book with weather"; "Never use a verb other than 'said' to carry dialogue"; "Avoid detailed descriptions of characters"; and "Try to leave out the parts that readers tend to skip." He wrote: "Think of what you skip reading a novel: thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them. What the writer is doing, he's writing, perpetrating hooptedoodle, perhaps taking another shot at the weather, or has gone into the character's head, and the reader either knows what the guy's thinking or doesn't care. I'll bet you don't skip dialogue. My most important rule is one that sums up the 10. If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it."
He said: "I feel that I learned to write Westerns by reading and rereading For Whom the Bells Tolls. [...] But I was not influenced by his attitude, thank God. My attitude is much less serious. I see absurdities in serious situations, influenced in this regard by Vonnegut, Richard Bissell, and Mark Harris, and this shows in my writing. It's your attitude that determines your sound, not style."
When Leonard started writing, he was also working as a copy-editor for an advertising agency. He woke up every morning at five to start writing — he wouldn't let himself turn on the coffee pot until he started to write. At work, he would stick his hand in his desk drawer and write in a blank notebook. He wrote five books and 30 short stories that way, before he quit to be a full-time writer. ~from Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac for October 11, 2011
"I would encourage you all to read, read, read. Just keep reading. And writing is another skill. It's practice. It's practice. The more you write, the better you get. Drafts--our kids are learning the first draft means nothing. You're going to do seven, ten drafts. That's writing, it's not failure, it's not the teacher not liking you because it's all marked up in red. When you get to be a good writer, you mark your own stuff in red, and you rewrite, and you rewrite, and you rewrite. That's what writing is." ~Michelle Obama in a speech on May 25, 2011
"Keep on writing, no matter what! That's the most important thing. As long as you have a job on hand that absorbs all your mental energy, you haven't much worry to spare over other things. It serves as a suit of armor." ~Playwright Eugene O’Neill