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88 inspiring quotes about writing a novel

These 88 inspiring quotes about writing, divided into 8 categories, offer inspiration to finish writing a novel:

These 88 inspiring quotes about writing, divided into 8 categories, offer inspiration to finish writing a novel:

1. Quotes on finding an idea for a novel

Before you write the first word down, before your characters come alive on the page, the initial idea for your novel has to seize your imagination. Well-known writers offer perspectives on writing novel ideas, reasons to write your story, psyching yourself up to write and more:

George Orwell portrait and quote on reasons to write a novel | Now Novel


Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen. – John Steinbeck


I don’t believe that a writer ‘gets’ (takes into the head) an ‘idea’ (some sort of mental object) ‘from’ somewhere, and then turns it into words, and writes them on paper. At least in my experience, it doesn’t work that way. The stuff has to be transformed into oneself, it has to be composted, before it can grow into a story. – Ursula le Guin


If you start with a bang, you won’t end with a whimper. – T.S. Eliot


To write fiction, one needs a whole series of inspirations about people in an actual environment, and then a whole lot of work on the basis of those inspirations. – Aldous Huxley


A man who is not born with the novel-writing gift has a troublesome time of it when he tries to build a novel. I know this from experience. He has no clear idea of his story; in fact he has no story. He merely has some people in his mind, and an incident or two, also a locality, and he trusts he can plunge those people into those incidents with interesting results. – Mark Twain


When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, ‘I am going to produce a work of art.’ I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing. – George Orwell


There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed. – Ernest Hemingway


If a story is in you, it has to come out. – William Faulkner


Borges said there are only four stories to tell: a love story between two people, a love story between three people, the struggle for power and the voyage. All of us writers rewrite these same stories ad
infinitum. – Paulo Coelho


Books choose their authors; the act of creation is not entirely a rational and conscious one. – Salman Rushdie


My standard answer is ‘I don’t know where they come from, but I know where they come to, they come to my desk.’ If I’m not there, they go away again, so you’ve got to sit and think. – Philip Pullman

2. Quotes on planning your first draft

Writing by the seat of your pants (or ‘pantsing’) is something that many writers do. Even so, being methodical and planning the outline of your novel before you write the first draft could get you out of spots where you feel stuck:


First, find out what your hero wants, then just follow him! – Ray Bradbury


Outlines are the last resource of bad fiction writers who wish to God they were writing masters’ theses. – Stephen King


Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose. – Zora Neale Hurston


The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible. – Vladimir Nabokov


You don’t actually have to write anything until you’ve thought it out. This is an enormous relief, and you can sit there searching for the point at which the story becomes a toboggan and starts to slide. – Marie de Nervaud


The scariest moment is always just before you start. – Stephen King


The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes. – Agatha Christie


By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail. – Benjamin Franklin


It’s such a confidence trick, writing a novel. The main person you have to trick into confidence is yourself. This is hard to do alone. – Zadie Smith


I’m a relatively disciplined writer who composes the whole book before beginning to execute and write it. Of course, you can’t hold – you cannot imagine a whole novel before you write it; there are limits to human memory and imagination. Lots of things come to your mind as you write a book, but again, I make a plan, chapter, know the plot. – Orhan Pamuk


A goal without a plan is just a wish. – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Blank page and person about to start writing | Now Novel

3. Quotes on writing your first draft

So you have a novel idea that inspires you and you’ve planned to the point that you feel empowered to start writing. This is where a disciplined writing routine will help you to begin fleshing out your idea:


Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good. – William Faulkner


Close the door. Write with no one looking over your shoulder. Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer. – Barbara Kingsolver


We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down. – Kurt Vonnegut


Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it; Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


Everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt. – Silvia Plath


The first draft of anything is shit. – Ernest Hemingway


Quantity produces quality. If you only write a few things, you’re doomed. – Ray Bradbury


For me, writing is exploration; and most of the time, I’m surprised where the journey takes me. – Jack Dann


My aim is to put down what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way I can tell it. – Ernest Hemingway


My task, which I am trying to achieve is, by the power of the written word, to make you hear, to make you feel – it is, before all, to make you see. – Joseph Conrad


You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club. – Jack London

4. Quotes on revising what you have written

Revising what you have written can be a deeply gratifying process and is a crucial step as you finish writing a novel. There might be the occasional section where you wince at an awkward construction or a common cliché, but there will equally be sentences, paragraphs, or whole chapters where you feel a growing sense of achievement:


Books aren’t written, they’re rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it … – Michael Crichton


A small daily task, if it be really daily, will beat the labours of a spasmodic Hercules. – Anthony Trollope


The most beautiful things are those that madness prompts and reason writes. – Andre Gide


A good book isn’t written, it’s rewritten. – Phyllis A. Whitney


When your story is ready for rewrite, cut it to the bone. Get rid of every ounce of excess fat. This is going to hurt; revising a story down to the bare essentials is always a little like murdering children, but it must be done. – Stephen King


Write. Rewrite. When not writing or rewriting, read. I know of no shortcuts. – Larry L. King


If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it. Or, if proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative. – Elmore Leonard


It ain’t whatcha write, it’s the way atcha write it. – Jack Kerouac


You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write. – Saul Bellow


Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass. – Anton Chekhov


A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: 1. What am I trying to say? 2. What words will express it? 3. What image or idiom will make it clearer? 4. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect? – George Orwell

5. Quotes on editing your novel (or being edited)

Many writers see editing as a thankless task. If you cannot afford to hire an editor or intend to edit your own work for another reason, the editing advice of famous authors could help you become a better editor. Having a fresh pair of eyes to look over your work is useful:


Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. All they do is show you’ve been to college. – Kurt Vonnegut


Cut out all these exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke… – F. Scott Fitzgerald


It is perfectly okay to write garbage–as long as you edit brilliantly. – C.J. Cherry


Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly. – Franz Kafka


The difference between the almost right word and the right word is … the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning. – Mark Twain


What I had to face, the very bitter lesson that everyone who wants to write has got to learn, was that a thing may in itself be the finest piece of writing one has ever done, and yet have absolutely no place in the manuscript one hopes to publish. – Thomas Wolfe


In writing, you must kill all your darlings. – William Faulkner


A successful book is not made of what is in it, but what is left out of it. – Mark Twain


The things that the novel does not say are necessarily more numerous than those it does say and only a special halo around what is written can give the illusion that you are reading also what is not written. – Italo Calvino


Put down everything that comes into your head and then you’re a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff’s worth, without pity, and destroy most of it. – Colette


Only a mediocre person is always at his best. – W. Somerset Maugham

6. Quotes on seeing it all come together

Seeing your complete novel coming together, the different parts weaving into a narrative that tells a distinct story, is one of the most rewarding stages of the novel-writing process:


You always get more respect when you don’t have a happy ending. – Julia Quinn


The first sentence can’t be written until the final sentence is written. – Joyce Carol Oates


No one says a novel has to be one thing. It can be anything it wants to be, a vaudeville show, the six o’clock news, the mumblings of wild men saddled by demons. – Ishmael Reed


When I complete a novel I set it aside, and begin work on short stories, and eventually another long work. When I complete that novel I return to the earlier novel and rewrite much of it. In the meantime the second novel lies in a desk drawer. – Joyce Carol Oates


I work very deliberately, with a plan. But sometimes I come to a point that I planned as the end and it needs softening. Ending a novel is almost like putting a child to sleep – it can’t be done abruptly. – Colm Toibin


There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story. – Frank Herbert


As much as I like it when a book I’m writing speeds along, the downside can be that an author becomes too eager to finish and rushes the end. The end is even more important than the first page, and rushing can damage it. – David Morrell


Most authors liken the struggle of writing to something mighty and macho, like wrestling a bear. Writing a book is nothing like that. It is a small, slow crawl to the finish line. Honestly, I have moments when I don’t even care if anyone reads this book. I just want to finish it. – Amy Poehler


At the end of Slaughterhouse-Five … I had a shutting-off feeling … that I had done what I was supposed to do and everything was OK.” – Kurt Vonnegut


I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be. – Douglas Adams


Writing the last page of the first draft is the most enjoyable moment in writing. It’s one of the most enjoyable moments in life, period. – Nicholas Sparks

Woman thinking of inspiration for what to write about | Now Novel

7. Quotes on coping with publishers turning down your manuscript

Services such as Amazon’s Kindle Store and Scribd make it easier than ever for writer’s to self-publish their works digitally. Persistence, understanding of the industry and a thick skin are essential if you opt for the traditional publishing route.


This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don’t consider it rejected. Consider that you’ve addressed it ‘to the editor who can appreciate my work’ and it has simply come back stamped ‘Not at this address’. Just keep looking for the right address. – Barbara Kingsolver


Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self. – Cyril Connolly


Any man who keeps working is not a failure. He may not be a great writer, but if he applies the old-fashioned virtues of hard, constant labor, he’ll eventually make some kind of career for himself as writer. – Ray Bradbury


You must keep sending work out; you must never let a manuscript do nothing but eat its head off in a drawer. You send that work out again and again, while you’re working on another one. If you have talent, you will receive some measure of success – but only if you persist. – Isaac Asimov


If you show someone something you’ve written, you give them a sharpened stake, lie down in your coffin, and say, ‘When you’re ready’. – David Mitchell


Don’t listen to people who tell you that very few people get published and you won’t be one of them. Don’t listen to your friend who says you are better that Tolkien and don’t have to try any more. Keep writing, keep faith in the idea that you have unique stories to tell, and tell them. – Robin Hobb


You are never stronger…than when you land on the other side of despair. – Zadie Smith


Why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. – J.K. Rowling


I finished my first book seventy-six years ago. I offered it to every publisher on the English-speaking earth I had ever heard of. Their refusals were unanimous: and it did not get into print until, fifty years later; publishers would publish anything that had my name on it. – George Bernard Shaw


I love my rejection slips. They show me I try. – Sylvia Plath


You should never be ashamed to admit you have been wrong. It only proves you are wiser today than yesterday. – Jonathan Swift

8. Quotes on being published

Finishing the task and having told your story to the best of your ability is a major achievement in itself. Once your manuscript has been accepted or you have self-published a whole new promotion process begins. Following insider advice on book promotion will help you to reach a broader reading public and grow a base of fans:


A writer should say to himself, not ‘How can I get more money?’ but ‘How can I reach more readers without lowering standards? – Brian Aldiss


Writing is like sex. First you do it for love, then you do it for your friends, and then you do it for money. – Virginia Woolf


Publishing a book is like stuffing a note into a bottle and hurling it into the sea. Some bottles drown, some come safe to land, where the notes are read and then possibly cherished, or else misinterpreted, or else understood all too well by those who hate the message. You never know who your readers might be. – Margaret Atwood


A person who publishes a book willfully appears before the populace with his pants down. If it is a good book nothing can hurt him. If it is a bad book nothing can help him. – Edna St. Vincent Millay


An author who gives a manager or publisher any rights in his work except those immediately and specifically required for its publication or performance is for business purposes an imbecile. – George Bernard Shaw


I have rewritten — often several times — every word I have ever published. My pencils outlast their erasers. – Vladimir Nabokov


If you don’t put 99 percent of yourself into the writing, there will be no publishing career. There’s the writer and there’s the author. The author—you don’t ever think about the author. Just think about the writer. So my advice would be, find a way to not care—easier said than done. Accept that the world may never notice this thing you worked so hard at. And instead, do it for it, find a job, find a way of living that gives you an hour or two or three a day to do it, and then work your ass off sending out, trying to get out there, but do not put the pressure on the work to do something for you. – Andre Dubus III


Publishing is a very mysterious business. It is hard to predict what kind of sale or reception a book will have, and advertising seems to do very little good. – Thomas Wolfe


The publishing world is very timid. Readers are much braver. – Kiran Desai


In matters of truth the fact that you don’t want to publish something is, nine times out of ten, a proof that you ought to publish it. – G.K Chesterton


I publish my own books, so there isn’t a certain editor I owe the book to at a publishing house. – Dave Eggers

Are you writing a novel? Get help developing and finishing the story you’re dying to tell.

Feel free to share your favourite inspirational quotes about writing in the comments below!

By Jordan

Jordan is a writer, editor, community manager and product developer. He received his BA Honours in English Literature and his undergraduate in English Literature and Music from the University of Cape Town.

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