Archive for the ‘Author Secrets’ Category


In our Author Secrets column we have already talked about finding inspiration and ideas for writing, and how to get started, writing routine and we even took a look at the daily rituals of famous writers.  This time, we will talk about style and craft of your writing, and what some of the world’s famous writers have to say about finding your own style of writing.

Author Secrets: Writing Style & Craft

“What a writer has to do is write what hasn’t been written before or beat dead men at what they have done.”
—Ernest Hemingway

“You have to follow your own voice.  You have to be yourself when you write.  In effect, you have to announce,  ‘This is me, this is what I stand for, this is what you get when you read me.  I’m doing the best I can—buy me or not—but this is who I am as a writer.”
—David Morrell

“You should really stay true to your own style.  When I first started writing, everybody said to me, ‘Your style just isn’t right because you don’t use the really flowery language that romances have.’  My romances—compared to what’s out there—are very strange, very odd, very different.  And I think that’s one of the reasons they’re selling.”
—Jude Deveraux

“I’m very concerned with the rhythm of language.  ‘The sun came up’ is an inadequate sentence.  Even though it conveys all the necessary information, rhythmically it’s lacking.  The sun came up.  But, if you say, as Laurie Anderson said, ‘The sun came up like a big bald head,’ not only have you, perhaps, entertained the fancy of the reader, but you have made a more complete sentence.  The sound of a sentence.”
—Tom Robbins

“We, and I think I’m speaking for many writers, don’t know what it is that sometimes comes to make our books alive.  All we can do is to write dutifully and day after day, every day, giving our work the very best of what we are capable.  I don’t think that we can consciously put the magic in; it doesn’t work that way.  When the magic comes, it’s a gift.”
—Madeleine L’Engle

Source: Writers’ Digest magazine, 90 years worth of author secrets

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Last week in our Author Secrets column we have talked about how to find inspiration and ideas for your writing.  So now, we have the ideas and inspiration, but how to get started?

Here are some ideas from the acknowledged authors – I hope any of them helps to get you going as well!

Author Secrets: Getting Started

“Two questions form the foundation of all novels: ‘What if?’ and ‘What next?’ (A third question, ‘What now?’, is one the author asks himself every 10 minutes or so; but it’s more a cry than a question.) Every novel begins with the speculative question, What if ‘X’ happened? That’s how you start.”
—Tom Clancy

“Beginning a novel is always hard. It feels like going nowhere. I always have to write at least 100 pages that go into the trashcan before it finally begins to work. It’s discouraging, but necessary to write those pages. I try to consider them pages -100 to zero of the novel.”
—Barbara Kingsolver

“An outline is crucial. It saves so much time. When you write suspense, you have to know where you’re going because you have to drop little hints along the way. With the outline, I always know where the story is going. So before I ever write, I prepare an outline of 40 or 50 pages.”
—John Grisham

“Don’t quit. It’s very easy to quit during the first 10 years. Nobody cares whether you write or not, and it’s very hard to write when nobody cares one way or the other. You can’t get fired if you don’t write, and most of the time you don’t get rewarded if you do. But don’t quit.”
—Andre Dubus

“Writing is like being in love.  You never get better at it or learn more about it.  The day you think you do is the day you lose it.  Robert Frost called his work a lover’s quarrel with the world.  It’s ongoing.  It has neither a beginning nor an end.  You don’t have to worry about learning things.  The fire of one’s art burns all the impurities from the vessel that contains it.”
—James Lee Burke

Source: Writers’ Digest magazine, 90 years worth of author secrets

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With my fifth book underway, and after so many characters, places, plots, love angles and love triangles later, my friends and colleagues often ask me, “Where do you get the inspiration for writing?,  How did you come up with that character?,  Where did you get this or that idea?, …”.  There’s not one answer to this question, as the ideas and inspirations come to me from everywhere.  It might be while I’m showering, or walking my dog, or it might be something that I read in the newspapers or magazine, that triggers an idea, which later converts into something else.  It might be a comment from a friend, or a postcard from a far away place.  But what I think is the most important for any writer, is to write down your ideas – write them in a notebook, on your computer, or smatphone or tablet, record it and keep it safe.  I find it helpful and inspiring when I am browsing through my random notes, thoughts and ideas.  Often the notes I saved spark another thought or idea, and before you know it, the book title, or the book character, or the entire novel has been born.

Writers’ Digest magazine published 90 years worth of author secrets, and I thought I would share some with you today, which are related to Inspiration and Ideas.  It is fascinating to observe what has changed since 1920-ies, and it is equally astonishing to realise how much good, sound writing wisdom remains the same.

Author Secrets: Inspiration & Ideas

 “If you stuff yourself full of poems, essays, plays, stories, novels, films, comic strips, magazines, music, you automatically explode every morning like Old Faithful. I have never had a dry spell in my life, mainly because I feed myself well, to the point of bursting. I wake early and hear my morning voices leaping around in my head like jumping beans. I get out of bed quickly, to trap them before they escape.”
—Ray Bradbury

 “Good writing is remembering detail. Most people want to forget. Don’t forget things that were painful or embarrassing or silly. Turn them into a story that tells the truth.”
—Paula Danziger

“Every idea is my last. I feel sure of it. So, I try to do the best with each as it comes and that’s where my responsibility ends. But I just don’t wait for ideas. I look for them. Constantly. And if I don’t use the ideas that I find, they’re going to quit showing up.”
—Peg Bracken

“I have never felt like I was creating anything. For me, writing is like walking through a desert and all at once, poking up through the hardpan, I see the top of a chimney. I know there’s a house under there, and I’m pretty sure that I can dig it up if I want. That’s how I feel. It’s like the stories are already there. What they pay me for is the leap of faith that says: ‘If I sit down and do this, everything will come out OK.’”
—Stephen King

“Sit and quiet yourself. Luxuriate in a certain memory and the details will come. Let the images flow. You’ll be amazed at what will come out on paper. I’m still learning what it is about the past that I want to write. I don’t worry about it. It will emerge. It will insist on being told.”
—Frank McCourt

“As writers we live life twice, like a cow that eats its food once and then regurgitates it to chew and digest it again. We have a second chance at biting into our experience and examining it. … This is our life and it’s not going to last forever. There isn’t time to talk about someday writing that short story or poem or novel. Slow down now, touch what is around you, and out of care and compassion for each moment and detail, put pen to paper and begin to write.”
—Natalie Goldberg

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We – wanna-be writers, starting up writers and writers who aren’t that famous (just yet) – often wonder about any daily writing routines we should take in order to boost and improve our writing.  My daily writing routine has changed since I got my dog, but it’s generally the same (you can read more about it here).  I wake up, feed and walk her.  Then, I do a quick check of Facebook, Twitter and emails.  And then, when I really start to set off into my writing world, I read a few paragraphs from where I left off, or maybe even the chapter before, so I can pick up on the thread.  At this point the story may change direction from where I left off or it may go the way I had originally envisioned.  I let my imagination do the walking…  I write all day, taking dog walking and internet breaks.  What about you?

For new book Rituals: How Great Minds Make Time, Find Inspiration, And Get To Work, New York-based author Mason Curry has listed 161 famous names and the 161 very different ways they approached their work.  You might even be surprised by a few.

So take a look at the 6 daily rituals of famous writers from the new book, below, and marvel at how some of your finest books were forged…



Austen rose early, before the other women were up, and played the piano.  At 9:00 she organised the family breakfast, her one major piece of household work.  Then she settled down to write in the sitting room, often with her mother and sister sewing quietly nearby.  If visitors showed up, she would hide her papers and join in the sewing.  Dinner, the main meal of the day, was served between 3:00 and 4:00.  Afterward there was conversation, card games, and tea.  The evening was spent reading aloud from novels, and during this time Austen would read her work-in-progress to her family.



King writes every day of the year, including his birthday and holidays, and he almost never lets himself quit before he reaches his daily quota of two thousand words.  He works in the mornings, starting around 8:00 or 8:30.  Some days he finishes up as early as 11.30, but more often it takes him until about 1:30 to meet his goal.  Then he has the afternoons and evenings free for naps, letters, reading, family, and Red Sox games on TV.



“I must write each day without fail, not so much for the success of the work, as in order not to get out of my routine.”  This is Tolstoy in one of the relatively few diary entries he made during the mid-1860s, when he was deep into the writing of War and Peace.

According to Sergei [his son], Tolstoy worked in isolation – no one was allowed to enter his study, and the doors to the adjoining rooms were locked to ensure that he would not be interrupted.



First, he needed absolute quiet; at one of his houses, an extra door had to be installed to his study to block out noise.

And his study had to be precisely arranged, with his writing desk placed in front of a window and, on the desk itself, his writing materials – goose-quill pens and blue ink – laid out alongside several ornaments: a small vase of fresh flowers, a large paper knife, a gilt leaf with a rabbit perched upon it, and two bronze statuettes (one depicting a pair of fat toads duelling, the other a gentleman swarmed with puppies).



Although Beauvoir’s work came first, her daily schedule also revolved around her relationship with Jean-Paul Sartre, which lasted from 1929 until his death in 1980.  Theirs was an intellectual partnership with a somewhat creepy sexual component; according to a pact proposed by Sartre at the outset of their relationship, both partners could take lovers, but they were required to tell each other everything.  Generally, Beauvoir worked by herself in the morning, then joined Sartre for lunch.  In the afternoon they worked together in silence at Sartre’s apartment.  In the evening, they went to whatever political or social event was on Sartre’s schedule, or else went to the movies or drank Scotch and listened to the radio at Beauvoir’s apartment.



When he is writing a novel, Murakami wakes at 4:00 A.M. and works for five to six hours straight.  In the afternoons he runs or swims (or does both), runs errands, reads, and listens to music; bedtime is 9:00.  “I keep to this routine every day without variation,” he told The Paris Review in 2004.  “The repetition itself becomes the most important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism.  I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind.”

The one drawback to this self-made schedule, Murakami admitted in a 2008 essay, is that it doesn’t allow for much of a social life.

[Images: Rex, Wiki Commons, Science Image Library, Getty]

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writing routine

There’s no other way to kick off our new Friday Author Secrets column than with our very own Madison Lake.  Hit it Madison!

Question: What is your writing routine?

RL:  We understand most writers have a daily routine that can almost become ritual.  Can you tell us a little bit about your daily writing routine?

ML:  Yes, that is so true.  My routine has changed since I got my dog, but it’s generally the same.  I wake up, feed and walk her.  That’s now first.  Wow, amazing how she’s become #1.  (laughs).  What’s good about that though is having a good, long walk before settling down to write for the day.  It’s wonderful.  Anyway, when I do hit my computer, which is where I write my novels, I do a quick check of Facebook, Twitter and emails.

RL:  Ah, so you are one of those internet junkies?

ML:  (laughs) Of course I am!  First of all there might be something important from a publisher or colleague, and secondly, I feel I should get the normal daily stuff over with so my slate is clean to begin writing.

RL:  Good point.  Then what?

ML:  I read a few paragraphs from where I left off, or maybe even the chapter before, so I can pick up on the thread.  At this point the story may change direction from where I left off or it may go the way I had originally envisioned.  I let my fingers do the walking, or maybe it’s my imagination that does the walking and my fingers follow (laughs again).  In any case, I write all day, taking dog walking and internet breaks.

RL:  Do you set daily goals?

ML:  No, because I generally accomplish a lot.  If I don’t it’s because it wasn’t meant to be.  I try to let my writing come organically.  For me that’s the best way.

RL:  Do you write every day?

ML:  Yes, every day.

If you have any questions for Madison about this post, please comment and we will do our best to answer your question.

To read about other authors, their writing routines, where they get their ideas, and other juicy tips, tune in next Friday right here at

Have a great weekend!


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