Skip to main content

12 E.L. Doctorow Quotes for Writers and About Writing

Here are 12 E.L. Doctorow quotes for writers and about writing from the author of Ragtime, Billy Bathgate, and The March. In these quotes, Doctorow covers novel writing, the mind, retirement, and more.

Here are 12 E.L. Doctorow quotes for writers and about writing from the author of Ragtime, Billy Bathgate, and The March. In these quotes, Doctorow covers novel writing, the mind, retirement, and more.

E.L. Doctorow was the author of several novels, including Ragtime, Billy Bathgate, and The March (all of which won the National Book Critics Circle Award). Many of his books have been adapted into movies and often placed fictional characters into familiar historical contexts interacting with known historical figures.

(Writing historical fiction from fact.)

Doctorow was born January 6, 1931. In his early 20s, he was drafted into the Army and served in West Germany in 1954-55 before becoming a reader for a motion picture company. Then, he worked as a book editor at New American Library and Dial Press before pursuing a full-time writing career. Along the way, he also taught at Sarah Lawrence College, Princeton University, and other institutions. He died of lung cancer on July 21, 2015.

Here are 12 E.L. Doctorow quotes for writers and about writing that cover novel writing, retirement, and more.

12 E.L. Doctorow quotes for writers and about writing

"America never gives you anything without you having to pay for it."

Image placeholder title

"If you think about it, all novels, all stories, are set in the past."

Image placeholder title

"I've always thought that I don't have a style, that I don't want one, that each book has its own style. That's its identity."

Image placeholder title

Write Better Novels!

Image placeholder title

Push yourself beyond your comfort zone and take your writing to new heights with this Advanced Novel Writing workshop meant for novelists who are looking for book editing and specific feedback on their work. When you take this online workshop, you won't have weekly reading assignments or lectures. Instead, you'll get to focus solely on completing your novel.

While it is possible to write a novel in a month, in this workshop you'll spend 15 weeks writing yours—all the while gaining valuable feedback and getting the encouragement you need in order to finish writing your novel. You'll also learn specific tips for outlining and how not to write a novel. One thing is for certain though—by the end of this online workshop, you will have the tools and know-how to write a great novel.

Click to continue.

"I've never thought about retiring. Most writers die before they retire."

Image placeholder title

"One of the things I had to learn as a writer was to trust the act of writing."

Image placeholder title

"People know that novelists are liars. And that's why we can be trusted to tell the truth."

Image placeholder title

"The historian will tell you what happened. The novelist will tell you what it felt like.'"

Image placeholder title

(Free charts and tips for outlining and plotting a novel.)

"The nature of good fiction is that it dwells in ambiguity."

Image placeholder title

"We may never understand the way the brain becomes the mind, but if we ever do, that's the end of us."

Image placeholder title

"Writing is immensely difficult. The short forms especially."

Image placeholder title

"Writing is not a matter of inventing; it's a matter of discovering."

Image placeholder title

"You do have to learn about yourself while you're writing, and your characteristic ways of self-sabotage."

Image placeholder title
From Script

Character Studies, Writing the Immigrant Experience, and Six Adaptation Steps Before You Adapt a Book (From Script)

In this week’s round up brought to us by Script magazine, navigate different character study approaches in your writing, and tracking emotional journeys.

Lora Senf: On Trusting Children With Middle Grade Fiction

Lora Senf: On Trusting Children With Middle Grade Fiction

Author Lora Senf discusses how one chilling text message led her to writing her new middle grade horror novel, The Clackity.

Katrina Leno: On Writing Around an Idea

Katrina Leno: On Writing Around an Idea

Critically acclaimed novelist Katrina Leno discusses the process of bringing her childhood memories to magical life in her new young adult novel, Sometime in Summer.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: A New Podcast Episode, "Your Story" Prompt, and More!

This week, we're excited to announce our latest episode of "Writer's Digest Presents," the new "Your Story" prompt, and more!

Writer's Digest Best Live Streams, Podcasts, and YouTube Channels 2022

Writer's Digest Best Live Streams, Podcasts, and YouTube Channels 2022

Here are the top live streams, podcasts, and YouTube channels as identified in the 24th Annual 101 Best Websites from the May/June 2022 issue of Writer's Digest.

What Is Fan Fiction in Writing?

What Is Fan Fiction in Writing?

You might have heard the term, especially if you’re in online fandoms, but what exactly is fan fiction? Managing Editor Moriah Richard explains.

5 Ways To Use Short Stories To Grow as a Writer

5 Ways To Use Short Stories To Grow as a Writer

Short story writing can be a gateway to writing your novel—but they’re also fun and worthy stories in their own right. Here, author Dallas Woodburn shares 5 ways to use short stories to grow as a writer.

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Not Having an Online Presence

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Not Having an Online Presence

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so we started this series to help identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake is not having an online presence.

Shirlene Obuobi: On Writing From Experience

Shirlene Obuobi: On Writing From Experience

Physician, cartoonist, and author Shirlene Obuobi discusses the writerly advice that led to writing her new coming-of-age novel, On Rotation.