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Famous Writing Quotes That Nobody Knows About

March 6, 2017

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is…” Aw, you probably know this one already. (image via wikimedia)

There are a few quotes about writing that almost everybody knows about.  Stephen King (“The scariest moment is always just before you start.”), Mark Twain (“Write what you know.”), and Ernest Hemingway (“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”) all are given credit for famous quotes about writing that even non-writers know about.

But what about the famous writing quotes that nobody has heard of?  There are plenty of useful quotes that should get more attention too.  For example:

 “Writing is easy.  All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.”  Mark Twain

Just like Ernest Hemingway’s more famous quote, this one sarcastically suggests that writing is easy.  If you’re going to come up with a famous quote about writing, start off by implying it’s easy.  And be a famous writer already.

“There’s no such thing as writer’s block. That was invented by people in California who couldn’t write.”– Terry Pratchett

Everybody hates writers block, but hardly anybody knows about this quote, maybe because a lot of people live in California and the quote implies they’re bad writers.  If the author had made fun of Texas, then all the writers in California would have loved this quote.

“All the information you need can be given in dialogue.”- Elmore Leonard

That may be true, but some readers don’t like people (or characters) who talk too much.  Plus, too much exposition through dialogue can be painful to read.

“The adjective is the enemy of the noun.”– Francois Marie Arouet de Voltaire

Authors always complain about the overuse of something, but it’s usually adverbs or exclamation points.  I don’t get it.  What’s the point of having a part of speech and then not use it again and again?

“Literature is all, or mostly, about sex.” – Anthony Burgess

This is why the public thinks writers are a bunch of perverts.

Literature is about relationships. Sex is merely one part of a relationship. And even if literature is mostly about sex, authors should never admit it.

“If you write one story, it may be bad; if you write a hundred, you have the odds in your favor.” – Edgar Rice Burroughs

This sounds like something James Patterson might say.

Putting potential readers through 100 bad stories just to get to one good one seems wrong, but I see a lot of writers try it. Edgar Rice Burroughs managed to get a bunches and bunches of stories published in the days before Amazon.  Today, anybody can self-publish a bunch of bad stories if they want and hope one becomes popular, but I wouldn’t try it.

“Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now.”—Annie Dillard

This quote was probably written  before the age of the sequel, trilogy, and series.

“Write garbage… as long as you edit brilliantly.”- C.J. Cherryh

This is an awesome quote!  When we write a piece of junk, we can just claim we haven’t finished editing yet.  In fact, I don’t think I have finished editing anything yet… ever.

“Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very’; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”- Mark Twain

Applying this advice to a writing assignment is a good way to get kicked out of school, but at least you can sound like Holden Caulfield.

“Easy reading is damned hard writing”- Nathaniel Hawthorne

The original quote was “Easy reading is very hard writing” until Hawthorne read Mark Twain.


These are a few famous quotes, but there are definitely more out there.  What famous writing quotes do you think don’t get enough credit?

  1. Write drunk, edit sober – Ernest Hemingway.
    Sounds almost sensible if you write from home, but from the office? Well, that’s a different story altogether.

  2. This is really interesting! I’ve not come across most of these quotes!

  3. Great job on collecting these quotes together and bringing a smile to my face this evening. Excellent job!

  4. Haha, that Mark Twain quote about “very” was a good one. A damn good one.

  5. “Writing needs either a sympathetic nature or a madman, the former being impressionable and the latter inspired.”
    – Aristotle

  6. That Mark Twain quote about ‘very’ made me laugh. It’s true. It’s unavoidably true. I did not know Twain came up with the ‘write what you know’ idea. I disagree with that one, simply because when I do write about what I know, it never turns out quite so well as when I write about what I don’t. But that is purely objective. Lovely lovely post.

  7. Love this. And must agree Mark Twain. The same can be said about the word “that” (in most cases), and brand as in new. Brand new. Yugh. It’s new.

  8. Melissa Presser (still Esquire) permalink

    Love this, made my day

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