• Rating: 4/5

Key takeaways

The situation comes first. The characters – always flat and unfeatured, to begin with – come next. (Location 1912)


  • ‘When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story,’ he said. ‘When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story.’ (Location 630)
  • The most important is that the writer’s original perception of a character or characters may be as erroneous as the reader’s. Running a close second was the realization that stopping a piece of work just because it’s hard, either emotionally or imaginatively, is a bad idea. Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position. (Location 890)
  • It starts with this: put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room. Life isn’t a support-system for art. It’s the other way around. (Location 1194)
  • When composing it’s best not to think too much about where paragraphs begin and end; the trick is to let nature take its course. If you don’t like it later on, fix it then. That’s what rewrite is all about. (Location 1534)
  • In my view, stories and novels consist of three parts: narration, which moves the story from point A to point B and finally to point Z; description, which creates a sensory reality for the reader; and dialogue, which brings characters to life through their speech. (Location 1888)
  • The situation comes first. The characters – always flat and unfeatured, to begin with – come next. (Location 1912)
  • I started taking long walks (a habit which would, two decades later, get me in a lot of trouble). I took a book or magazine on these walks but rarely opened it, no matter how bored I felt looking at the same old trees and the same old chattering, ill-natured jays and squirrels. ==Boredom can be a very good thing for someone in a creative jam. I spent those walks being bored and thinking about my gigantic boondoggle of a manuscript. (Location 2425)==
  • If I write rapidly, putting down my story exactly as it comes into my mind, only looking back to check the names of my characters and the relevant parts of their back stories, I find that I can keep up with my original enthusiasm and at the same time outrun the self-doubt that’s always waiting to settle in. (Location 2510)
    • Note: Writing the firs draft quickly
  • You can’t let the whole world into your story, but you can let in the ones that matter the most. And you should. (Location 2637)
    • Note: Try to impress the select few, not the entire world
  • The most important things to remember about back story are that (a) everyone has a history and (b) most of it isn’t very interesting. Stick to the parts that are, and don’t get carried away with the rest. (Location 2747)
  • The scariest moment is always just before you start. After that, things can only get better. (Location 3248)
  • Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. (Location 3258)