Writing is a form of personal freedom. It frees us from the mass identity we see all around us. In the end, writers will write not to be outlaw heroes of some underculture but mainly to save themselves, to survive as individuals.- Don Delillo
"Craft," says Norman Mailer, in The Spooky Art: Some Thoughts on Writing, "is a grab bag of procedures, tricks, lore, formal gymnastics, symbolic superstructures—methodology, in short." Craft is not in the same league as "a vision of experience," which is what the great writers all have, and can't be borrowed, mimicked, or faked. Craft is more like "a Saint Bernard with that little bottle of brandy under his neck. Whenever you get into trouble, craft can keep you warm long enough to be rescued."
"I have stood a story on its head and started at the end. Galliano is shown putting a leather biker jacket on a pale blond Ukrainian bride. I have dressed a delicate subject in hard, tough prose. And the reverse: described in lyrical language something ugly, something bad. Used a genteel voice to describe violence, an angry voice to take on the harmless. I mix leather and lace on the page." - Amy Hempel
Tim O'Brien in Vietnam, 1969
"A true war story is never moral. It does not instruct, nor encourage virtue, nor suggest models of proper human behavior, nor restrain men from doing the things men have always done. If a story seems moral, do not believe it. If at the end of a war story you feel uplifted, or if you feel that some small bit of rectitude has been salvaged from the larger waste, then you have been made the victim of a very old and terrible lie. There is no rectitude whatsoever. There is no virtue. As a first rule of thumb, therefore, you can tell a true war story by its absolute and uncompromising allegiance to obscenity and evil. " - Tim O'Brien
"Postmodern irony and cynicism's become an end in itself, a measure of hip sophistication and literary savvy. Few artists dare to try to talk about ways of working toward redeeming what's wrong, because they'll look sentimental and naive to all the weary ironists. Irony's gone from liberating to enslaving. There's some great essay somewhere that has a line about irony being the song of the prisoner who's come to love his cage… The postmodern founders' patricidal work was great, but patricide produces orphans, and no amount of revelry can make up for the fact that writers my age have been literary orphans throughout our formative years."
-David Foster Wallace
"When I used to teach creative writing, I would tell the students to make their characters want something right away even if it's only a glass of water. Characters paralyzed by the meaninglessness of modern life still have to drink water from time to time." - Kurt Vonnegut
“We read five words on the first page of a really good novel and we begin to forget that we are reading printed words on a page; we being to see images—a dog hunting through garbage cans, a plan circling above Alaskan mountains, an old lady furtively licking her napkin at a party. We slip into a dream, forgetting the room we’re sitting in, forgetting it’s lunchtime or time to go to work. We recreate, with minor and for the most part unimportant changes, the vivid and continuous dream the writer worked out in his mind (revising and revising until he got it right) and captured in language so that other human beings, whenever they feel like it, may open his book and dream that dream again. If the dream is to be vivid the writer’s ‘language signals’—his words, rhythms, metaphors, and so on—must be sharp and sufficient: if they’re vague, careless, blurry, or if there aren’t enough of them to let us see clearly what is being presented, then the dream as we dream it will be cloudy, confusing, ultimately annoying and boring. And if the dream is to be continuous, we must not be roughly jerked from the dream back to the words on the page by language that’s distracting. Thus, for example, if the writer makes some grammatical mistake, the reader stops thinking about the old lady at the party and looks, instead, at the words on the page, seeing if the sentence really is, as it seems, ungrammatical. If it is, the reader thinks about the writer, or possibly about the editor—’How come they let him get away with a thing like that?’—not about the lady whose story has been interrupted.” - John Gardner