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The Southampton Writers Conference has come together to fill you in on some great tips for those currently working on something - whether it's for the long haul or not.


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"In the planning stage of a book, don't plan the ending. It has to be earned by all that will go before it."

-Rose Tremain

"Don’t romanticize your “vocation”. You can either write good sentences or you can’t. There is no “writer’s lifestyle”. All that matters is what you leave on the page."

-Zadie Smith

"The first draft can be The Worst Book In The World. Nobody ever needs to read it or know it exists but you."

-Neil Gaiman



"You must write as if your reader needed you desperately, because he does."

-Roger Rosenblatt

"A prologue in a novel is backstory, and you can drop it in anywhere you want."

-Elmore Leonard

"The first sentence can be written only after the last sentence has been written. FIRST DRAFTS ARE HELL. FINAL DRAFTS, PARADISE."

-Joyce Carol Oates



"You can do anything, break any rule, as long as you believe it’s in the service of the story you have to tell."

-Karen Russel

"When I get stuck I find that the best strategy is to just work on something else for a while and then come back to it later. There's always something else you could be writing: a different chapter of the novel you're working on, notes for a new short story, an essay."

-Emily St. John Mandel

""Sometimes the first draft is us telling ourselves the story. The second draft is the real first draft."

-Paul Harding

"If writers were too wise, perhaps no books would get written at all. It might be better to ask yourself ‘Why?’ afterward than before … There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside you."

-Zora Neale Hurston

"I’m not looking for any kind of clear moral, and I never do in my novels. I like to highlight some aspect of being human. I’m not really trying to say, so don’t do this, or do that. I’m saying, this is how it feels to me. Emotions are very important to me in a novel."

-Kazuo Ishiguro

"Make a rule: The only way for anyone to ever hear about your stories is to read them."

-Andy Weir

"“I didn’t publish my first book until I was 37, so if anybody out there is reading this and thinking your chance has passed, there’s no expiration date on your talent.”

-Leigh Bardugo


"When I create another planet, another world, with a society on it, I try to hint at the complexity of the society I’m creating, instead of just referring to an empire or something like that."

-Ursula K. Le Guin

"Every sentence must do one of two things--reveal character or advance the action."

-Kurt Vonnegut

"I think my favorite compliment that I got from a writer early on was someone saying to me, "You leave out all the right things."

-Amy Hempel

"Ignore all proffered rules and create your own, suitable for what you want to say."

-Michael Moorcock

"If you're using dialogue, say it aloud as you write it. Only then will it have the sound of speech."

-John Steinbeck

"Show up, show up, show up, and after a while the muse shows up, too."

-Isabel Allende

"[T]o dream or write about a place effectively, you need to have memories that are distant enough to be transformed by your imagination."

-David Surface

"The world […] [is] more than the description of buildings and the name you give your seasons. The world is your characters moving through it."

-Tochi Onyebuchi

"Aesthetic and politics are not incompatible with each other."

-Carmen Maria Machado

"There is no such thing as a reliable narrator."

-Matthew Klam

"[O]ften […] when a writer doesn’t strike gold, they believe they are a failure, and give up, instead of taking the long, slow road. But the long, slow, uneven road is the more likely way that you will succeed."

-Kameron Hurley