compiled by Carrie Chapter, PTC dramaturg

“The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress.”
—Philip Roth

“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”
—Stephen King

“Cheat your landlord if you can and must, but do not try to shortchange the Muse. It cannot be done. You can’t fake quality any more than you can fake a good meal.”
—William S. Burroughs

“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”
—George Orwell

“It ain’t whatcha write, it’s the way atcha write it.”
—Jack Kerouac

“I don’t care if a reader hates one of my stories, just as long as he finishes the book.”
—Roald Dahl

“The freelance writer is a man who is paid per piece or per word or perhaps.”
—Robert Benchley

“If I had not existed, someone else would have written me, Hemingway, Dostoyevsky, all of us.”
—William Faulkner

“Each writer is born with a repertory company in his head. Shakespeare has perhaps 20 players. … I have 10 or so, and that’s a lot. As you get older, you become more skillful at casting them.”
—Gore Vidal

“We’re past the age of heroes and hero kings. … Most of our lives are basically mundane and dull, and it’s up to the writer to find ways to make them interesting.”
—John Updike

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

“I do not over-intellectualize the production process. I try to keep it simple: Tell the damned story.”
—Tom Clancy

“When your story is ready for rewrite, cut it to the bone. Get rid of every ounce of excess fat. This is going to hurt; revising a story down to the bare essentials is always a little like murdering children, but it must be done.”
—Stephen King

“Beware of advice—even this.”
—Carl Sandburg

“I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide.”
—Harper Lee

“It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way.”
—Ernest Hemingway

“Writers are always selling somebody out.”
—Joan Didion

“Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.”
—Robert A. Heinlein

“Keep a small can of WD-40 on your desk—away from any open flames—to remind yourself that if you don’t write daily, you will get rusty.”
—George Singleton

“Literature is strewn with the wreckage of men who have minded beyond reason the opinions of others.”
—Virginia Woolf

“If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”
—Elmore Leonard

“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is … the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”
—Mark Twain

“I always start writing with a clean piece of paper and a dirty mind.”
—Patrick Dennis

“I almost always urge people to write in the first person. … Writing is an act of ego and you might as well admit it.”
—William Zinsser

“Never be sincere — sincerity is the death of writing. “— Gordon Lish

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” – Samuel Beckett

“Henry James was one of the nicest old ladies I ever met.”
–William Faulkner

“I can’t bear another minute of Noël’s inane chatter. Who’s interested in a bunch of old English actresses he’s picked up from the gutter? Not me. If he wags that silly finger once more I may hit him.”
— Ernest Hemingway, on Noel Coward

“Nobody can be more clownish, more clumsy and sententiously in bad taste, than Herman Melville, even in a great book like ‘Moby Dick’….One wearies of the grand serieux. There’s something false about it. And that’s Melville. Oh dear, when the solemn ass brays! brays! brays! ” – D.H. Lawrence

“Why do you like Miss Austen so very much? I am puzzled on that point. What induced you to say that you would rather have written ‘Pride and Prejudice’…than any of the Waverly novels? I should hardly like to live with her ladies and gentlemen, in their elegant but confined houses. “- Charlotte Bronte

“I have read several fragments of ‘Ulysses’ in its serial form. It is a revolting record of a disgusting phase of civilisation; but it is a truthful one; and I should like to put a cordon around Dublin; round up every male person in it between the ages of 15 and 30; force them to read it; and ask them whether on reflection they could see anything amusing in all that foul mouthed, foul minded derision and obscenity. “- George Bernard Shaw

” How to read ‘Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone’? Why, very quickly, to begin with, and perhaps also to make an end. Why read it? Presumably, if you cannot be persuaded to read anything better, Rowling will have to do. “-Harold Bloom

“As to Hemingway, I read him for the first time in the early ‘forties, something about bells, balls and bulls, and loathed it. ” -Vladimir Nabokov

“An unmanly sort of man whose love-life seems to have been largely confined to crying in laps and playing mouse.”
― W. H. Auden, on Edgar Allan Poe

“Reading the work can even be said to resemble the act of making love to a 300lb woman. Once she gets on top, it’s over. Fall in love, or be asphyxiated.”
– Norman Mailer, on Tom Wolfe

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