Writers talking about writing

Agatha Christie at work.

Agatha Christie at work.

There is no magic formula to writing a good book. Every writer has his or her own view on how you do this and what makes a writer. Here are the thoughts of a few successful writers.


“When you write, don’t say, ‘I’m going to write a poem.’ That attitude will freeze you right away. Sit down with the least expectation of yourself and say, ‘I am free to write the worst junk in the world.’ You have to give yourself a space to write without a destination.”


– Natalie Goldberg


“The best time for planning a book is when you are doing the dishes.”


– Agatha Christie


“There are many reasons why novelists write – but they all have one thing in common: the need to create an alternative world.”


– John Fowles


“If there’s one rule about writing, it’s that there are no rules. Any time someone tells me about a rule, I set out immediately to break it. There is one rule I do live by in my writing, however, and since I invented this rule, it’s fine by me to obey it: I always plan before I write, which means I always know the end in advance. I do blithely not set off on some big literary adventure, ever hopeful that my characters are going to elucidate matters for me as we travel toward who-knows-where.”


– Elizabeth George


“I need to tell a story. It’s an obsession. Each story is a seed inside of me that starts to grow and grow, like a tumour, and I have to deal with it sooner or later. Why a particular story? I don’t know when I begin. That I learn much later.”


– Isabel Allende


“I’ve never read any books on how to write. It’s like reading books about how to play golf. There’s only one way to play golf. You swing the club and clop the ball. The only way to learn to write is to write, and keep going until you get the damn thing write.”


– Tom Clancy


“One thing I love about writing is that in that moment, I am most completely myself, and yet totally relived of myself. I don’t really like spending that much time with myself when I’m not writing, but when I’m in that strange paradox of being most and least myself, I can be transcendently happy, rapturous. These moments are rare – I’m doing really well if it’s two per cent of the time – but memorable, like a drug high you have to get back on.”


– Kathryn Harrison


“Description begins with the visualization of what it is you want the reader to experience. It ends with your translating what you see in your mind into words on the page.”


– Stephen King


“When the sentences and the story are flowing, writing is better than any drug. It doesn’t just make you feel good about yourself. It makes you feel good about everything.”


– David Baldacci


“The very first thing I tell my new students on the first day of a workshop is that good writing is about telling the truth. We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are.”


– Anne Lamott


“To write a novel is to remember. You must learn to be quiet, to compose yourself and let the memories enter.”


– John Braine

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