10 Solid Writing Quotes From the Past 10 Years: Margaret Atwood, Tom Clancy, Chuck Palahniuk and more

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WD just released a compilation DVD featuring 100 complete issues of the magazine from the past decade. After snagging one and browsing the disc on this WD Mag Wednesday, here are 10 of my favorite quotable bits of writing wisdom from 10 cover stories. (To find out more about the CD, click here.)

A prompt follows. Happy Wednesday!

“If I’m known forever as a children’s writer, I will never consider that ‘second best’—I don’t feel I need to write for adults before I’m a ‘serious’ writer. For me, the idea always comes before I consider an audience. In truth, I never consider the audience for whom I’m writing. I just write what I want to write.”
—J.K. Rowling, February 2000

“The way I tell my stories largely results from a 90-minute show I once saw on PBS about Hitchcock and his films. Suspense is achieved by information control: What you know. What the reader knows. What the characters know.”
—Tom Clancy, January 2001

“I like to say there are three things that are required for success as a writer: talent, luck, discipline. It can be in any combination, but there’s nothing you do to influence the first two. Discipline is the one element of those three things that you can control, and so that is the one that you have to focus on controlling, and you just have to hope and trust in the other two.”
—Michael Chabon, April 2002

“I never have [suffered writer’s block], although I’ve had books that didn’t work out. I had to stop writing them. I just abandoned them. It was depressing, but it wasn’t the end of the world. When it really isn’t working, and you’ve been bashing yourself against the wall, it’s kind of a relief. I mean, sometimes you bash yourself against the wall and you get through it. But sometimes the wall is just a wall. There’s nothing to be done but go somewhere else.”
—Margaret Atwood, April 2004

“When I’m working on a deadline, I put in eight or nine hours at a time. But I don’t get writer’s block. I think writer’s block is really just an excuse. It’s anxiety. The best way to get through this is to sit down and write about your writer’s block. This works like Drano. It will unclog you immediately.”
—Augusten Burroughs, April 2005

“It’s just as hard, if not harder, to write a really brilliant short story as it is to write a really brilliant novel, but the fact of the matter is, because it’s short, you have something quicker and feel like you’ve accomplished something. You’re in it, and you can stay in it.”
—Alice Hoffman, March 2006

“I often need physical gesture to balance dialogue. If I write in public, every time I need to know what a character is doing with his hand or foot, I can look up and study people and find compelling gestures that I can harvest. Writing in public gives you that access to a junkyard of details all around you.”
—Chuck Palahniuk, October 2007

“The one thing I’ve developed over these years is a pretty finely tuned sense for when something is working and when it’s not. And when it’s not, something has to be changed. Often I’ll just jump ahead. As Elmore Leonard says, ‘skip the boring parts.’ I don’t try and write through if it feels dead on the page.”
—Tom Perrotta, December 2007

“There’s basically an element of fiction in everything you remember. Imagination and memory are almost the same brain processes. When I write fiction, I know that I’m using a bunch of lies that I’ve made up to create some form of truth. When I write a memoir, I’m using true elements to create something that will always be somehow fictionalized.”
—Isabel Allende, October 2008

“I’ve learned that it is best not to think about readers while I’m writing. I just try to sink into the world I’m describing. But at the very end, of course, I have to think about readers. I read my final draft pretending I’m someone else, just to make sure that what I’ve written makes sense from outside. At that point, I seem to picture my readers as brand-new to me. They have the neuter, faceless quality of people in dreams.”
—Anne Tyler, July/August 2009

And, as a bonus kicker, here's Clancy again:

"I do not over-intellectualize the production process. I try to keep it simple: Tell the damned story.”

* * *

WRITING PROMPT: Boxing Day

Feel
free to take the following prompt home or post your
response (500
words or fewer, funny, sad or stirring) in the Comments section below.
By posting, you’ll be automatically entered in our occasional
around-the-office swag drawings. If you’re having trouble with the
captcha code sticking, e-mail your story to me at
writersdigest@fwmedia.com, with “Promptly” in the subject line, and I’ll
make sure it gets up.


You arrive at work to find all the items in your office packed up in a box. There's no note and you have no idea what’s going on. Write this scene.

(Courtesy of WD Online Community Editor Brian A. Klems)

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Your Story #113

Write a short story of 650 words or fewer based on the photo prompt. You can be poignant, funny, witty, etc.; it is, after all, your story.