Soup to Nuts

Writers on Writing


"Fiction is reality under different circumstances."
― Sherri H. Hoffman

"In a life properly lived, you’re a river. You touch things lightly or deeply; you move along because life herself moves, and you can’t stop it; you can’t figure out a banal game plan applicable to all situations; you just have to go with the 'beingness' of life, as Rilke would have it."
― Jim Harrison, Interview, "The Art of Fiction No. 104", Paris Review, Summer 1988 No. 107.

"Plot, Aristotle argued, is the life and soul of tragedy. And plot is concerned not with mere event, not with one thing happening after another. But with human action. So to tell a good story, or to enjoy one in the audience, you need to be sensitive to what makes an action significant in the setting of a human life. You need to be a student of human nature and experience."
― Alva Noë, "'Rosemary's Baby' Thrills with Unfathomable Mystery," NPR

"My sister had died in June, and it was September, and the seasons changed. It was such a big thing that she wasn't there for the fall. I just was so lost, because I'm second, and we were collaborators as well as sisters. She bossed me around from the day I was born; she was thrilled to get me. I just was so confused, and I started to write. Because I'm a writer, and that's what we do. We write to get to another place."
― Delia Ephron, NPR interview "Delia Ephron: Tag Line, You're It!"

"It takes so little, so infinitely little, for a person to cross the border beyond which everything loses meaning: love, convictions, faith, history. Human life—and herein lies its secret—takes place in the immediate proximity of that border, even in direct contact with it; it is not miles away, but a fraction of an inch."
― Milan Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting

"Aim for that bull's-eye of pure, urgent desire, but don't get stuck there."
— Ellis Avery, on character motivation
"Digging up the Depth of Desire." Wall Street Journal, February 25, 2012.

"What is to give light must endure burning."
— Viktor Frankl

"Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing."
— Benjamin Franklin

"All true artists, whether they know it or not, create from a place of no-mind, from inner stillness."
— Eckhart Tolle

“The very impulse to write springs from an inner chaos crying for order - for meaning.”
― Arthur Miller

"We need great artists who are willing to accept restrictions, and who love their environments with such vitality that they can produce an epic out of the Protestant ethic." He concludes, "Whatever the many failings of my work, let it stand as a manifesto of my love for the time in which I was born."
— John Updike, in a letter to his parents
John Updike's Archive: A Great Writer at Work

"It is energy that will see you through--to get your work done, to survive rejection. Never use 'submit' as a verb for sending work to magazine or book publishers; say 'offer,' and never, ever submit. Keep your knees unbent. Be brave."
— Frederick Busch
Boldtype: An Interview with Frederick Busch

"Substitute 'damn' every time you are inclined to write 'very;' your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be."
— Mark Twain

"As if no one had ever tried before, try to say what you see and feel and love and lose."
— Rainer Maria Rilke

"A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom."
— Roald Dahl

"My own approach to literary problems is very like the one Dr. Johnson’s blind housekeeper used when she poured tea–she put her finger inside the cup."
— Flannery O'Connor - Some Aspects of the Grotesque in Southern Fiction

"Forget your personal tragedy. We are all bitched from the start and you especially have to be hurt like hell before you can write seriously. But when you get the damned hurt, use it - don't cheat with it."
— Ernest Hemingway

"Writers are not just people who sit down and write. They hazard themselves. Every time you compose a book, your composition of yourself is at stake."
— E. L. Doctorow

"Good writing leaves a mark."
― Sherri H. Hoffman



Best Lines

"All this is a show. And when the music stops, the rest is silence."
Merrick, Buffy the Vampire Slayer (film, 1992)

"—Here they are again—the bent boys, baked and buzzed boys, wasted, red-eyed, dry-mouth high boys, coursing narrow bright aisles hunting food as fried as they are, twitchy hands wadding bills they spill on the counter, so pleased and so proud, as if they're the very inventors of stoned—"
The Financial Lives of the Poets, Jess Walter

"A fairy tale starts out 'Once Upon A Time.' A fisherman's tale starts out 'This Ain't No Bullshit.'"
Deadliest Catch, Capt. Phil Harris, F/V Cornelia Marie

"Turn toward it like you’ll die if you don’t."
Best Advice, Tina Nettesheim, Narrative Magazine

"The essence of faith is the knowledge that all flows and that everything must change."
You Can't Go Home Again, Thomas Wolfe

"The life that produces writing can't be written about. It is a life carried on without the knowledge even of the writer, below the mind's business and noise, in deep unlit shafts where phantom messengers struggle toward us, killing one another along the way..."
Old School, Tobias Wolff