Bethany Roberts' Writing for Children Workshop: Writing Childrens Books: Writing Quotes

Famous Writing Quotes...

Writing for Children Workshop
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Famous Quotes about Writing, by Topic
writing quotes- inspirationalwriting quotes- on rejection letters & critics 
writing quotes- instructionalwriting quotes- to amuse
writing quotes- on revisionwriting quotes- on getting ideas
writing quotes- on perseverancewriting quotes- on character
writing quotes- on poetrywriting quotes- on beginnings, endings, and plot

books for children's writers

Writing Quotations inspirational quotes

"The stories of childhood leave an indelible impression, and their author always has a niche in the temple of memory from which the image is never cast out..."  Howard Pyle

"A book is a garden, an orchard, a storehouse, a party, a company by the way, a counselor, a multitude of counselors."  Henry Ward Beecher

"For a long time now I have tried simply to write the best I can.  Sometimes I have good luck and write better than I can."  Ernest Hemingway

"To me the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it's about, but the music the words make."  Truman Capote

"You see things as they are and ask 'Why?'  I dream of things as they never were and ask, 'Why not?'" George Bernard Shaw

"Imagination is more important than knowledge.  Knowledge is limited.  Imagination encircles the world."  Albert Einstein

"I write for the same reason I breathe- because if I didn't, I would die."  Isaac Asimov

"You must write for children the same way you write for adults, only better"  Maxim Gorky

"You have to write whichever book it is that wants to be written.  And then, if it's going to be too difficult for grown-ups, you write it for children."  Madeleine L'Engle

"All really good picture books are written to be read five hundred times" Rosemary Wells

"Fantasy's hardly an escape from reality.  It's a way of understanding it."  Lloyd Alexander

"You can't wait for inspiration.  You have to go after it with a club."  Jack London

"A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit."  Richard Bach

"To me the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it's about, but the music the words make." Truman Capote

"I love writing.  I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions." James Michener

"A writer lives, at best, in a state of astonishment. Beneath any feeling he has of the good or evil of the world lies a deeper one of wonder at it all."  William Sansom

"Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go."  E. L. Doctorow

"We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out." Ray Bradbury

"Love the writing, love the writing, love the writing... the rest will follow."  Jane Yolen

Biting my truant pen, beating myself for spite: "Fool!" said my muse to me, "look in thy heart, and write."
     ~Sir Philip Sidney

"In art the hand can never execute anything higher than the heart can inspire. " Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Writing. I love the swirl & swing of words as they tangle with human emotions."  James Michener


Writing Quotations- instructional quotes

"A good title should be like a good metaphor.  It should intrigue without being too baffling or too obvious."
Walker Percy

"The title to a work of writing is like a house's front porch.... It should invite you to come on in."  Angela Giles Klocke

"In conversation you can use timing, a look, an inflection.  But on the page all you have is commas, dashes, the amount of syllables in a word.  When I write, I read everything out loud to get the right rhythm." Fran Lebowitz

"Read, read, read.  Read everything- trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it.  Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master.  Read!  You'll absorb it.  Then write."  William Faulkner

"The greatest part of a writer's time is spent in reading, in order to write;  a man will turn over half a library to make one book."  Samuel Johnson

"Omit needless words. Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts."
--William Strunk, Jr.

"To produce a mighty work, you must choose a mighty theme."  Herman Melville

"Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader- not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon."  E.L. Doctorow

"Writing a novel is like driving a car at night.  You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way."  E.L. Doctorow

"The difference between fiction and reality?  Fiction has to make sense."  Tom Clancy

"A writer's voice is not character alone, it is not style alone; it is far more.  A writer's voice line the stroke of an artist's brush- is the thumbprint of her whole person- her idea, wit, humor, passions, rhythms."  Patricia Lee Gauch

"Show don't tell."  Henry James

"If you tell me, it's an essay.  If you show me, it's a story."  Barbara Greene

"Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass." Anton Chekhov

"A good style should show no sign of effort.  What is written should seem like a happy accident."  W. Somerset Maugham

"Usually, when people get to the end of a chapter, they close the book and go to sleep. I deliberately write a book so when the reader gets to the end of the chapter, he or she must turn one more page. When people tell me I've kept them up all night, I feel like I've succeeded." Sidney Sheldon

"Metaphors have a way of holding the most truth in the least space." Orson Scott Card

"No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.  No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader."  Robert Frost

"As cows need milking and sweet peas need picking, so writers must continually exercise their mental muscles by a daily stint."  Joan Aiken

"I always stopped when I knew what was going to happen next. That way I could be sure of going on the next day."  Ernest Hemingway

"The secret of good writing is to say an old thing in a new way or to say a new thing in an old way."  Richard Harding Davis

"So this is always the key: you have to write the book you love, the book that's alive in your heart.  That's the one you have to write."  Lurleen McDaniel

"If a book comes from the heart, it will continue to reach other hearts."  Thomas Carlyle

"A kid is a guy I never wrote down to.  He's interested in what I say if I make it interesting."  Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss)

"Cut out all those exclamation marks. An exclamation mark is like laughing at your own joke."
 F. Scott Fitzgerald

"An author must learn the principles of good storytelling only in order to write better from the heart."  Uri Shulevitz

"I learned to write by listening to people talk. I still feel that the best of my writing comes from having heard rather than having read." Gayl Jones

"A writer's job is to imagine everything so personally that the fiction is as vivid as memories." John Irving

"A book worth reading only in childhood is not worth reading even then." C.S. Lewis

"Most new writers think it's easy to write for children, but it's not. You have to get in a beginning, middle and end, tell a great story, write well, not be condescending--all in a few pages."  
Andrea Brown

"The best children's book writers are not people who have kids, but people who write from the child within themselves."  Andrea Brown

"I never spent less than two years on the text of one of my picture books, even though each of them is approximately 380 words long. Only when the text is finished ... do I begin the pictures."- Maurice Sendak

"I believe that good questions are more important than answers, and the best children's books ask questions, and make the readers ask questions. And every new question is going to disturb someone's universe."  Madeleine L'Engle

"Advice from this elderly practitioner is to forget publishers and just roll a sheet of copy paper into your machine and get lost in your subject. " E. B. White

"If you wish to be a writer, write."  .Epictetus

"And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it."  Roald Dahl


Writing Quotations- quotes on revision

"The beautiful part of writing is that you don't have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon. You can always do it better, find the exact word, the apt phrase, the leaping simile."  Robert Cormier

"The great thing about revision is that it's your opportunity to fake being brilliant." Will Shetterly

"Books aren't written- they're rewritten.  Including your own.  It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn't quite done it."  Michael Crichton

"Half my life is an act of revision."  John Irving

"Writing is rewriting. A writer must learn to deepen characters, trim writing, intensify scenes. To fall in love with the first draft to the point where one cannot change it is to greatly enhance the prospects of never publishing."  Richard North Patterson

"I have rewritten- often several times- every word I have ever written.  My pencils outlast their erasers." Vladimir Nabokov

"The difference between the right and the nearly right word is the same as that between lightning and the lightning bug."  Mark Twain 

"The wastebasket is the writer's best friend."  Isaac Singer

"The most valuable of talents is never using two words when one will do."  Thomas Jefferson

"Like stones, words are laborious and unforgiving, and the fitting of them together, like the fitting of stones, demands great patience and strength of purpose and particular skill."  Edmund Morrison

"What I had to face, the very bitter lesson that everyone who wants to write has got to learn, was that a thing may in itself be the finest piece of writing one has ever done, and yet have absolutely no place in the manuscript one hopes to publish."  Thomas Wolfe

"Writing is rewriting.  A writer must learn to deepen characters, trim writing, intensify scenes.  To fall in love with the first draft to the point where one cannot change it is to greatly enhance the prospects of never publishing."  Richard North Patterson

"This morning I took out a comma, and this afternoon I put it back again."  Oscar Wilde

"I went for years not finishing anything.  Because, of course, when you finish something you can be judged.  ... I had poems which were re-written so many times I suspect it was just a way of avoiding sending them out."  Erica Jong

"I can't write five words but that I can change seven."  Dorothy Parker

"Rewriting is like scrubbing the basement floor with a toothbrush."  Pete Murphy

"To be a writer is to throw away a great deal, not to be satisfied, to type again, and then again and once more, and over and over." John Hersey

"Books are never finished, they are merely abandoned."  Oscar Wilde

"It is with words as with sunbeams -- the more they are condensed, the deeper they burn." Robert Southey

"My most important piece of advice to all you would-be writers: when you write, try to leave out all the parts readers skip." Elmore Leonard

"When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don't mean utterly, but kill most of them -- then the rest will be valuable." Mark Twain

Writing Quotations-  quotes on perseverance

"You must want to enough.  Enough to take all the rejections, enough to pay the price of disappointment and discouragement while you are learning.  Like any other artist, you are learning your craft- then you can add all the genius you like."  Phyllis Whitney

"You will have to write and put away or burn a lot of material before you are comfortable in this medium.  You might as well start now and get the work done.  For I believe that eventually quantity will make for quality."  Ray Bradbury

"If you're a singer you lose your voice.  A baseball player loses his arm.  A writer gets more knowledge, and if he's good, the older he gets, the better he writes."  Mickey Spillane

"Beginning writers must appreciate the prerequisites if they hope to become writers.  You pay your dues- which takes years."  Alex Haley

"Imagination grows by exercise, and contrary to popular belief, is more powerful in the mature than in the young."  William Somerset Maugham

"Literature is like any other trade; you will never sell anything unless you go to the right shop." George Bernard Shaw

"Talent is helpful in writing, but guts are absolutely essential."  Jessamyn West

"As a younger man I wrote for eight years without ever earning a nickel which is a long apprenticeship, but in that time I learned a lot about my trade."- James Michener

"Success comes to a writer, as a rule, so gradually that it is always something of a shock to him to look back and realize the heights to which he has climbed."  P.G. Wodehouse

"The only certainty about writing and trying to be a writer is that it has to be done, not dreamed of or planned and never written, or talked about (the ego eventually falls apart like a soaked sponge), but simply written; it's a dreadful, awful fact that writing is like any other work." Janet Frame

"Being a real writer means being able to do the work on a bad day."  Norman Mailer

"The mere habit of writing, of constantly keeping at it, of never giving up, ultimately teaches you how to write."  Gabriel Fielding

"If you are a genius, you'll make your own rules, but if not -- and the odds are against it -- go to your desk, no matter what your mood, face the icy challenge of the paper -- write." J. B. Priestly

"Successful writers are not the ones who write the best sentences. They are the ones who keep writing.  They are the ones who discover what is most important and strangest and most pleasurable in themselves, and keep believing in the value of their work, despite the difficulties."
Bonnie Friedman

"Mere literary talent is common; what is rare is endurance, the continuing desire to work hard at writing." Donald Hall

Writing Quotations-  quotes on poetry

"Poetry is a deal of joy and pain and wonder, with a dash of the dictionary."  Kahlil Gibran

"A poem is never a put-up job, so to speak.  It begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong,  a homesickness, a love sickness.  It is never a thought to begin with."  Robert Frost

"Writing free verse is like playing tennis with the net down."  Robert Frost

There are three things, after all, that a poem must reach: the eye, the ear, and what we may call the heart or the mind.  It is most important of all to reach the heart of the reader."  Robert Frost 

"Like a piece of ice on a hot stove the poem must ride on its own melting."  Robert Frost

"Poetry: the best words in the best order." Samuel Taylor Coleridge

"Poetry... is the opening and closing of a door, leaving those who look through to guess about what was seen during a moment."   Carl Sandburg

"...a good poem contains both meaning and music"  Eve Merriam

"If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry." Emily Dickinson

"The sound of a word is at least as important as the meaning."  Jack Prelutsky

"Finish. The difference between being a writer and being a person of talent is the discipline it takes to apply the seat of your pants to the seat of your chair and finish. Don't talk about doing it. Do it. Finish." E. L. Konigsburg



Writing Quotations- quotes on rejection letters and critics (quotes to soothe the sting!)

"This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package.  Don't consider it rejected.  Consider that you've addressed it 'to the editor who can appreciate my work' and it has simply come back stamped 'not at this address.'  Just keep looking for the right address."  Barbara Kingsolver

"And it does no harm to repeat, as often as you can, 'Without me the literary industry would not exist: the publishers, the agents, the sub-agents, the sub-sub-agents, the accountants, the libel lawyers, the departments of literature, the professors, the theses, the books of criticism, the reviewers, the book pages- all this vast and proliferating edifice is because of this small, patronized, put-down and underpaid person."  Doris Lessing

"The public is the only critic whose opinion is worth anything at all."  Mark Twain

"Pay no attention to what the critics say; there has never been set up a statue in honor of a critic."  Jean Sibelius

"A critic is a legless man who teachers running."  anonymous

"Nature fits all her children with something to do;
He who would write and can't write, can surely review." James Russell Lowell

"Confronted by an absolutely infuriating review it is sometimes helpful for the victim to do a little personal research on the critic.  Is there any truth to the rumor that he had no formal education beyond the age of eleven?  In any event, is he able to construct a simple English sentence?  Do his participles dangle?  When moved to lyricism does he write 'I had a fun time'? Was he ever arrested for burglary?  I don't know that you will prove anything this way, but it is perfectly harmless and quite soothing."  Jean Kerr

"It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms; the great devotions; and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."  Franklin Roosevelt


Writing Quotations- quotes to amuse

"You know how it is in the kid's book world: It's just bunny eat bunny."  anonymous

"Sure, it's simple, writing for kids . . . . Just as simple as bringing them up." Ursula K. LeGuin

"The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair."  Mary Heaton Vorse

"Manuscript: something submitted in haste and returned at leisure."  Oliver Herford

"What no wife of a writer can ever understand is that a writer is working even when he's staring out the window."  Burton Rascoe

"There are three rules for writing a novel.  Unfortunately, no one knows what they are."  William Somerset Maugham

"When I was a young boy they called me a liar.  Now that I'm all grown up, they call me a writer." Isaac Singer

"The profession of book-writing makes horse racing seem like a solid, stable business."  John Steinbeck

"Almost anyone can become an author; the business is to collect money and fame from this state of being."  A.A. Milne

"Little Red Riding Hood was my first love.  I felt that if I could have married Little Red Riding Hood I should have known perfect bliss."  Charles Dickens

"I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book."  Groucho Marx

"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read."  Groucho Marx

"Proofread carefully to see if you any words out." Author Unknown

"Do not put statements in the negative form.
And don't start sentences with a conjunction.
If you reread your work, you will find on rereading that a
great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.
Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.
Unqualified superlatives are the worst of all.
If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.
Last, but not least, avoid cliches like the plague."
~William Safire, "Great Rules of Writing"

Writing Quotations- Quotes on Getting Ideas

"The best time for planning a book is when you're doing the dishes." Agatha Christie

"I put a piece of paper under my pillow, and when I could not sleep I wrote in the dark."  Henry David Thoreau"

"We don't write what we know.  We write what we wonder about."  Richard Peck

"A novel is a mirror walking along the main road." Stendhal

"Moving around is good for creativity: the next line of dialogue that you desperately need may well be waiting in the back of the refrigerator or half a mile along your favorite walk." Will Shetterly

“As I look back on what I have written, I can see that the very persons who have taken away my time are those who have given me something to say.”  Katherine Paterson

"Imagination needs moodling- long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling, and puttering" Brenda Useland

Writing Quotations- Quotes on Character

"Plot springs from character...  I've always sort of believed that these people inside me- these characters- know who they are and what they're about and what happens, and they need me to help get it down on paper because they don't type."  Anne Lamott

"I would never write about anyone who is not at the end of his rope."  Stanley Elkin

"Find out what your hero or heroine wants, and when he or she wakes up in the morning, just follow him or her all day."  Ray Bradbury

"Don't say the old lady screamed- bring her on and let her scream."  Mark Twain

"A writer should create living people; people, not characters.  A character is a caricature."
Ernest Hemingway

"When characters are really alive, before their author, the latter does nothing but follow them in their action."  Luigi Pirandello

"All characters are based on elements of a writer's personal experience." Robert Holdstock

"A child can identify with adult characters- but only if they are sympathetically drawn and simple enough."  E. W. Hildick, Children and Fiction


Writing Quotations- Quotes on Beginnings, Endings, and Plot

"The last thing one settles in writing a book is what one should put in first." Pascal

"I rewrote the ending of 'Farewell to Arms' 39 times before I was satisfied."-  Ernest Hemingway

"If I didn't know the ending of a story, I wouldn't begin.  I always write my last line, my last paragraph, my last page first."- Katherine Anne Porter

"Great is the art of beginning, but greater is the art of ending."  Longfellow

"Often I'll find clues to where the story might go by figuring out where the characters would rather not go." Doug Lawson

"A story has been thought to its conclusion when it has taken its worst possible turn." Friedrich Durrenmatt


Writing Quotes compiled by Bethany Roberts

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