Mark Terry

Thursday, October 30, 2008

On Writing

October 30, 2008
I chose these largely for their humor and because they're not as common as Samuel Johnson's "Your manuscript is both good and original, but the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good."

So here we go:

"He can compress the most words into the smallest idea of any man I know." --Abraham Lincoln

"I write to discover what I think. After all, the bars aren't open that early." --Daniel J. Boorstin, Librarian of Congress, historian (1914-2004) on why he wrote at home from 6:30 to 8:30 A.M.

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

"A burro is an ass. A burrow is a hole in the ground. As a journalist you are expected to know the difference."--United Press International Stylebook, cited by Bill Walsh in "The Elephants of Style."

"The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shock-proof shit detector." --Ernest Hemingway

"Only presidents, editors and people with tapeworms have the right to use the editorial we." --Mark Twain

"Bad spellers of the world, untie!"--Graffito

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

"From the moment I picked your book up until I laid it down I was convulsed with laughter. Some day I intend reading it." --Grouch Marx

"Most writers can write books faster than publishers can write checks." --Richard Curtis

"In the same way that a woman becomes a prostitute. First I did it to please myself, then I did it to please my friends, and finally I did it for money." Ferenc Molnar (1878-1952) when asked how he became a writer.

"There are two things wrong with almost all legal writing. One is its style. The other is its content."--Fred Rodell (1907-1980)

"Coleridge was a drug addict. Poe was an alcoholic. Marlowe was killed by a man whom he was treacherously trying to stab. Pope took money to keep a woman's name out of a satire then wrote a piece so that she could still be recognized anyhow. Chatterton killed himself. Byron was accused of incest. Do you still want to be a writer--and if so, why?"--Bennett Cerf (1898-1971)

Cheers,
Mark Terry

22 Comments:

Blogger Joe Moore said...

Here's one more for you, Mark.

"I try to leave out the parts that people skip." -- Elmore Leonard

9:10 AM  
Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

"There are two things wrong with almost all legal writing. One is its style. The other is its content."--Fred Rodell (1907-1980)

I like that. Now I need to resume writing "Supplementary Proceedings in Aid of Executions on Property." In case that doesn't grab you, the style is more Bulwer-Lytton than Hemingway. Not surprising. A lot the quoted cases are from the Victorian era.

9:11 AM  
Blogger spyscribbler said...

"I write to discover what I think."

LOVE that! I think that's why I blog, half the time!

"Most writers can write books faster than publishers can write checks."

*sigh* Isn't that the truth?

9:17 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Joe,
I saw that one but decided it was too well known. Leonard's taken some flack for that, but I still think it's one of the better pieces of advice.

Eric,
I was thinking of you when I put that one in there.

Spy,
That last quote probably isn't all that amusing, but I did note that in my universe it takes hours and hours and weeks and weeks and sometimes months and years to write a novel, whereas I can write a check in about thirty seconds. Publishers, I've come to realize, live in a different universe than I do.

Hmmm, the Word Verification appears to be: CLUELESS.

Oh, wait, that's: cleguess

Never mind.

9:24 AM  
Blogger spyscribbler said...

LOL, Mark, you know, when I first wrote my response, I was thinking that I can write more books than I can find publishers to buy. But then, I realized it can also be interpreted the other way, LOL. It took me six weeks to write a 50,000 word novella. My little pub has been writing the check, oh, since... mid-September or so? What is it now, almost November?

She just put it in the mail yesterday, but there is that mysterious time warp that sometimes interferes...

11:37 AM  
Blogger Stephen Parrish said...

It took me fifteen years to discover I had no talent for writing, but I couldn't give it up, because by that time I was too famous. Robert Benchley

10:04 PM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Stephen,
Yeah, I like that one, even if for me it's like, "It took me 20 years to learn I couldn't write, but by then I was making a living at it, so what the hell."

4:32 AM  
Blogger Jude Hardin said...

I watched Titanic when I got back home from the hospital, and cried. I knew that my IQ had been damaged.
--Stephen King

Word verification is crown. I think this is the first time I've ever seen it come up a real word.

5:41 AM  
Blogger Zoe Winters said...

i love the quote about horse racing.

No one gets into publishing for the money. It's truly the goofiest business one can get into, especially fiction. Only crazy people do it.

9:33 AM  
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