They Said, I Said, You Say

Writing Tips By Famous Authors

I would like to try to make this blog a more interactive experience for those of you who read my articles. My goal is to establish a relationship with you. If I could parlay some of my knowledge to you and learn from your experiences as well; that’s the perfect scenario!

Authors and Readers Interacting

In an effort to try to garner that kind of interaction, I thought that I would create this post (even title it) with the hope of inducing my readers to leave a comment.

The Game

The Game

The Game

Here is what I am going to do. I’m going to list several of my favorite quotes, by famous authors, on the craft of writing. These quotes come from world-renowned authors. We can pretty much assure ourselves that they know what they’re talking about.

But, as with everything else in this world. We all have an opinion. What works for one individual, may not work for another. So, I’ll state their quote, give my opinion on the subject discussed in that quote, and finally, I’m hoping to hear back from you, (my readers), on what your thoughts are.

I would also like to hear some of your favorite quotes and how they influenced you.

Here we go!
Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
― Oscar Wilde

This quote, by Oscar Wilde, really resonates with me. As a writer who reads a lot of work by emerging authors, I see way too much repetition, by that I mean, writers who write in a style , theme, or on a subject that is already in widespread publication. By publication, I mean books, stories, movies, and television. A good example of this in recent years would be the vampire theme. While, I do believe that imitation in art is a good training tool. I also believe that work produced this way should be retained for your own benefit, don’t attempt to publish it. Submit only work that reflects the uniqueness of you. Does that mean you can’t write a vampire story? No, it means don’t write one that reads like the many others that are already published. And just to clarify- If you change your vampire, so that he is half vampire, and half werewolf, and he works as a plumber, but your plot line is exactly like Twilight; that’s not enough.

famous author quotes

Photograph courtesy of biography.com

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining, show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
― Anton Chekhov

This one means a lot to me for several reasons. One, I am guilty of this myself. Two, I also see it in many of the stories I read seeking publication. Have you ever heard the phrase, show don’t tell? That’s what Mr. Chekhov is talking about. Authors have a hard time understanding this concept and an even harder time incorporating it into their stories. The difference between showing and telling is engaging the readers senses: sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste. One trick that I use- is to read back through my manuscript and if I come to a section that reads like this- He did that. She did that. He did that. They did this, etc. I know that I’m telling and not showing. It is important to remember that a bit of telling is necessary. It is completely acceptable to “tell” in your exposition. But that should be a small part of your story, If not, your readers will be asleep long before they get to your dramatic conclusion.

Erica Jong

Erica Jong

“You are always naked when you start writing; you are always as if you had never written anything before; you are always a beginner. Shakespeare wrote without knowing he would become Shakespeare
― Erica Jong

This is really an interesting quote. I think that we all believe that as we pump out story after story, we are no longer beginners. What I take from this, is adopting the philosophy of continued learning. If we believe that we’ve achieved the goal, then our work will become stagnant. I also think it speaks to the idea of writing because you love to write, not because you’re seeking fame and fortune.

A really good example of this mindset is Vincent van Gogh. I saw this van Gogh painting at the High Museum in Atlanta, Georgia a few years back.

Vincent van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh

I can tell you (without a doubt) that if you haven’t personally stood in front of a van Gogh painting you cannot fully appreciate the mastery of his work. This painting literally blew my socks off. I couldn’t take my eyes from it. The subtlety of color and stroke was simply amazing.

But back to my point

Vincent van Gogh never achieved fame during his lifetime. He produced the work that he did- just because he wanted to.

James J Kilpatrick

James J Kilpatrick

“Five common traits of good writers: (1) They have something to say. (2) They read widely and have done so since childhood. (3) They possess what Isaac Asimov calls a “capacity for clear thought,” able to go from point to point in an orderly sequence, an A to Z approach. (4) They’re geniuses at putting their emotions into words. (5) They possess an insatiable curiosity, constantly asking Why and How.”
― James J. Kilpatrick

I totally agree with Kilpatrick’s quote with one small exception. I think some of the best stories are told out of sequence. It does, however, take an expert level of writing skill to pull that off effectively. If some of Kilpatrick’s points don’t come naturally to you- you can train yourself with a lot of hard work.

Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

― Maya Angelou

This quote really speaks to me. I have contemplated this fact-of-life for a several years, especially as it relates to the area of social media. People will forget you (and very quickly). That is just plain fact. But if your writing alters them emotionally, you will forever remain somewhere in their mind (I’m convinced that this is THE KEY to success). I recently wrote a short story titled, The Power of Fine Furniture. It was published online and it is now available in an online anthology. This story started out from a word prompt. It’s a horror story. But, it is told in a very subtle manner. I keep the reader guessing until the last possible moment and the setting is incongruous with a horror story. This was the first story that I’ve ever had published where I received hate mail from some readers. These readers weren’t telling me that it was a lousy story, or poorly written, in fact they were saying quite the opposite. It was the subject and the tone of the piece that bothered them so deeply. I had one woman ask me, “How in the world could I write about fine furniture that way!” I also received a lot of kudos on the story, but, it was the hate mail that intrigued me. For reasons, that I still can’t quite completely quantify, this story really touched an emotional nerve in a lot of people. It’s the stirring of an emotional response that is the true power of writing.

Find that power in your own writing and you are well on your way to success here at NovelNook.com.

I am very opinionated about the craft of writing, and life in general. But… I am well-tempered with an enthusiasm for debate. Please leave comments, even the ugly ones, I dare you.

You can follow me at

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I’m also an avid reader. If you desire success in your writing career, you should be too.

I’m currently reading, 3024AD, by DES Richard and edited by Corissa Poley

All my best on a beautiful day in South Carolina.

Bellakentuky

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11 thoughts on “They Said, I Said, You Say

  1. Pingback: A Hodgepodge of Bits & Pieces for Mid-May 2013 |

  2. Pingback: A Hodgepodge of Bits & Pieces for Mid-May 2013 | KD DID IT Takes on Books

  3. The quote I enjoyed most is the one with which I was not previously familiar; Maya Angelou’s. While I can’t claim to have read a library full of books and short fiction in my lifetime, I think there are none I’ve read that I have forgotten. It could mean I’m just simple minded and easily moved, and therefore everything evokes an emotional response. Or it could just mean I’ve been lucky and the bulk of my consumed material has been of good quality.

    I will have to disagree with Ms Jung, however. While I’ve been known to write in just boxer briefs, I’ve never done naked. But I understand her meaning.

    Good article.

    Be well,
    William

  4. Exceptional blog! I could relate to all of them, especially the one from Erica Jong: “You are always naked when you start writing; you are always as if you had never written anything before; you are always a beginner. Shakespeare wrote without knowing he would become Shakespeare”
    I believe the blank page shows our nakedness, our vulnerability as writers. We must fill the pages to inspire others. Each piece is only a part of the whole, to which we must aspire to become, as great as Shakespeare or Faulkner or…as a Van Gogh, on an empty canvas.

  5. Great blog. “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken”–Oscar Wilde. That quote was new to me, but I love it!
    “Don’t tell me the moon is shining, show me the glint of light on broken glass.”–Bernard Cornwell. To me this is the quintessential explanation of show vs tell.
    You are right about Van Gogh–I was fortunate enough to visit Amsterdam and see the Van Gogh museum, where his pieces are arranged in chronological order (with a side gallery of paintings by his contemporaries). He will “blow your socks off” indeed.
    “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”–Maya Angelou
    I agree with her assessment, and that is how I approach my own writing. I loved your comments about your “fine furniture” story–I’ll have to look for that one.
    I share a favorite with commenter Tuan Ho–“Imagination is more important than knowledge.”–Albert Einstein, but I never thought of that as a writing quote.

  6. Brilliant post Bellakentuky!

    Those quotes you mentioned are seriously great. I especially love that Maya Angelou quote because it’s so damn true.

    I’ve now forgotten completely a lot of the books I’ve read, even if it was a fantastic 5-star novel. Now the ones that do stay in my mind constantly are the ones that have hit me right in the core of my being, whether it was something incredibly emotional or just a revelation that was so profound!

    My favorite writing quote is:

    “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” – Albert Einstein

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