I write in longhand. I am accustomed to that proximity, that feel of writing. Then I sit down and type. And then I retype, correct, retype, and keep going until it’s finished. It’s been demonstrated to me many times that there is some inefficiency in this, but I find that the ease of moving a paragraph is not really what I need. I need the opportunity to write this sentence again, to say it to myself again, to look at the paragraph once more, and actually to go through the whole text, line by line, very carefully, writing it out. There may be even some kind of mimetic impulse here where I am trying to write like myself, so to speak…I hate the first inexact, inadequate expression of things. The whole joy of writing comes from the opportunity to go over it and make it good, one way or another.

James Salter
Interview in Paris Review Summer 1993

Good writing advice

June 2, 2019

Don’t write drunk

Eileen Myles
Interview in the Paris Review Fall 2015

incredibly risky

June 1, 2019

Every single one of my books has felt incredibly risky, like I’m Wile E. Coyote walking out into thin air. But when something haunts you, haunts you, haunts you — that’s when you know you’re on to something.

Donna Tartt
Interview in Vogue October 2013

My (writing) projects tend to develop over years, beginning with scattered notes; then I start puttering and tinkering with ideas, voices, descriptions, and then I progress to some serious fooling around, and in the latter stages I settle down and try to produce a couple of pages every day, with an occasional day off. I’m in the latter stages with this novel, whose title (today) is The Laughing Monsters. I’m really just living for a month at the White Castle Hotel and trying to write every day on this book. It’s due in January. I might finish on time.

Denis Johnson
Interview in Yale Literary Magazine Fall 2013

his world and no other

April 2, 2019

Every great or even every very good writer makes the world over according to his own specifications. It’s akin to style, what I’m talking about, but it isn’t style alone. It is the writer’s particular and unmistakable signature on everything he writes. It is his world and no other. This is one of the things that distinguishes one writer from another. Not talent. There’s plenty of that around. But a writer who has some special way of looking at things and who gives artistic expression to that way of looking: that writer may be around for a time.

Raymond Carver
On Writing

Poems arise. I can’t say I’m going to write a poem now. I always have four or five on the go, a phrase or a sentence with richness. Unlike with a novel, or a biography, where the story carries me along, in a poem you must be more passive. Anna Akhmatova talked about waiting for the Muse to come, but for me it’s not so grand. The poem just rises. I catch a few words and write them down in a little notebook when I travel, and on the computer, at home, but in the end I always write poems by hand. I can do it anywhere, in trains, or travelling.

How do I know a poem is alive and good? It’s like jazz – you always know.

Elaine Feinstein
Interview by Vivian Eden for Haaretz

People often ask how much of myself is in a book. Generally I say all of me and none of me. It’s dangerous to associate authors with their work. It’s fiction but the more you are engaged with your writing the more the readers are also involved. I think a reader needs the author to be invested wholly in the writing, otherwise it feels a bit like cheating, in a way.

I tend to get emotional towards the end of writing a book, because so much is coming together and the story feels as though it is going to work and do what I wanted it to do. I love endings – beginnings and endings are what I like most in fiction. The end of ‘A God In Ruins’ for me was the most meaningful and powerful of all the books I’ve written.

Kate Atkinson
Question & Answer session for 2016 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction

that interior voice

March 7, 2019

I never design a character. I write very, very slowly at the beginning of a novel and that helps to get into that interior voice. I’m inside their heads. But I don’t construct them – they simply exist. I don’t understand the neurological process, the imaginative process that helps that to occur.

Kate Atkinson
Interview with Michele Magwood for the Sunday Times

words on a face

If you’re just starting out, you need to get feedback on your work and the easiest (and cheapest) way of doing this is by attending a writers’ group where members read and comment on each other’s work. You’ll be astounded by how much you’ll develop as a writer. The feedback I’ve got from my writers’ group has improved my writing to such an extent that I can barely read my writing from before I joined

But what you also need to remember is that writing is one of the most subjective businesses there is. One person’s opinion on your work could be completely different to another’s, so getting feedback from a cross-section of fellow writers is much more useful than getting it from just one person. It’s important to remember this with rejections, too. It’s one opinion. Always try and get more before you change something fundamental about your work. You don’t want to end up deleting or changing something that might not be to that person’s tastes but is literary gold to everyone else

C R Berry
Interview 11th May 2018 for Theme of Absence

Reformed by Ed Freeman

How it works for me is best described in the opening of Devices and Desires. This book begins with the murder of a young girl, I think she was called Brenda. The murderer is a serial murderer of women who cuts off their hair, and whistles, so he is called the Whistler, and it had the opening that Brenda was the fifth victim of the Whistler and she died because she missed the bus. And the bus she missed was from the country town, which was obviously Ipswich, where she’d been to a dance, home to her village. She gets a lift with two women drivers, but they can only take her part of the way; they leave her at the end of this country road. She never reaches the bus because the murderer is there on that road. When I was writing that passage I was Brenda, feeling first of all the relief that she was going to be on the bus and then the realisation that there was this murderer, and then an increasing fear and unease. I was Brenda knowing everything that had happened at the dance, although I wasn’t going to write about it. I was Brenda knowing exactly who she would meet at home when she got there and what her relationship with her parents was, although none of that was going to be in the book; I was just Brenda.

But then with part of my mind, of course, which was detached from being Brenda, I was thinking how can I describe this journey. I think: I’ll have bushes on the left-hand side where she’s walking because that’s more frightening than the open fields, and then on the right I’m going to have some of those distorted trees you get in East Anglia, distorted by the winds – some of them look like witches, waving witches’ arms; very sinister. And then I’m going to have a car coming past, and then there’ll be this familiar, reassuring sound, and then just a blaze of light and sound as it rushes past, and that will make her feel even more lonely and isolated. So there’s this duality of actually experiencing what your character is experiencing, at the same time with part of your mind thinking of the technique of bringing this alive for the reader.

P D James
On writing: authors reveal the secrets of their craft
The Guardian, 26th March 2011