(Part 1 of this blog was posted on Wednesday - regarding NaNoWriMo) by Nancy Swanson, Editor
"If one gets used to translating into a novel one's experiences, one's ideas, what one has to say becomes a novel; one is left with no raw materials for another form of literary expression. ...when I was 28 and not at all sure that I was going to carry on writing, I began doing what came most naturally to me. Instead of making myself write the book I ought to write, the novel that was expected of me, I conjured up the book I myself would have liked to read, the sort by an unknown writer, from another age and another country, discovered in an attic." ~Italian writer Italo Calvino
P. G. Wodehouse "was writing a story [...] about two young men [...] getting into a lot of trouble, and neither of them had brains enough to get out of the trouble. I thought: Well, how can I get them out? And I thought: Suppose one of them had an omniscient valet? I wrote a short story about him, then another short story, then several more short stories and novels. That's how a character grows."
About writing, he said: "Always get to the dialogue as soon as possible. I always feel the thing to go for is speed. Nothing puts the reader off more than a great slab of prose at the start. I think the success of every novel — if it's a novel of action — depends on the high spots. The thing to do is to say to yourself, 'Which are my big scenes?' and then get every drop of juice out of them. The principle I always go on in writing a novel is to think of the characters in terms of actors in a play. I say to myself, if a big name were playing this part, and if he found that after a strong first act he had practically nothing to do in the second act, he would walk out. Now, then, can I twist the story so as to give him plenty to do all the way through? I believe the only way a writer can keep himself up to the mark is by examining each story quite coldly before he starts writing it and asking himself if it is all right as a story. I mean, once you go saying to yourself, 'This is a pretty weak plot as it stands, but I'm such a hell of a writer that my magic touch will make it okay,' you're sunk. If they aren't in interesting situations, characters can't be major characters, not even if you have the rest of the troop talk their heads off about them."
François Mauriac, considered one of France’s great novelists, said: "Every novelist ought to invent his own technique, that is the fact of the matter. Every novel worthy of the name is like another planet, whether large or small, which has its own laws just as it has its own flora and fauna."
And, "If you would tell me the heart of a man, tell me not what he reads, but what he rereads."
Novelist R. K. Narayan, born in India in 1906, said: "Everyone thinks he's a writer with a mission. Myself, absolutely not. I write only because I'm interested in a type of character and I'm amused mostly by the seriousness with which each man takes himself."
Perhaps not in total agreement with the above advice is the work of Belva Plain, whose critics were not always kind — one called her books "easy, consoling works of generous spirit, fat with plot and sentiment, thin in nearly every other way and almost invisible in character development." But her readers loved her books, all best-sellers. Her first book, Evergreen, was published in 1978, by which time she was a grandmother in her 60s. She wrote longhand in spiral notebooks, and produced a novel about every year or so. ~from The Writer’s Almanac of October 9, 2011
George Mackay Brown, a Scotsman who wrote poetry, essays, fiction, and travel books, told Contemporary Authors: "I believe in dedicated work rather than in 'inspiration' [...] I believe writing to be a craft like carpentry, plumbing, or baking [...] In 'culture circles,' there is a tendency to look upon artists as the new priesthood of some esoteric religion. Nonsense — and dangerous nonsense moreover — we are all hewers of wood and drawers of water; only let us do it as thoroughly and joyously as we can."