I remember when I first began writing, I would spend maybe five or six hours on perhaps two paragraphs, and at the end of the day, not only were the paragraphs pretty terrible but I was also exhausted by the effort. I clearly wasn't in shape. You don't just tie on a pair of running shoes and go out and run a marathon. You have to be in running shape, just like you have to be in writing shape.
Julie Tetel Andresen
The Rhapsody is not a composition at all. It's a string of separate paragraphs stuck together - with a thin paste of flour and water... I don't think there has been such an inspired melodist on this earth since Tchaikovsky... but if you want to speak of a composer, that's another matter.
There is a big difference between wanting to say you wrote a book, and actually writing one. Many people think they want to write, even though they find crafting sentences and paragraphs unpleasant. They hope there is a way to write without writing. I can tell you with certainty there isn't one.
There is never finality in the display terminal's screen, but an irresponsible whimsicality, as words, sentences, and paragraphs are negated at the touch of a key. The significance of the past, as expressed in the manuscript by a deleted word or an inserted correction, is annulled in idle gusts of electronic massacre.
Love great first lines and paragraphs. From The Yiddish Policemen's Union: Nine months Landsman's been flopping at the Hotel Zamenhof without any of his fellow residents managing to get themselves murdered. Now somebody has put a bullet in the brain of the occupant of 208, a yid who was calling himself Emanuel Lasker.
The spark for 'In Praise of Slowness' came when I began reading to my children. Every parent knows that kids like their bedtime stories read at a gentle, meandering pace. But I used to be too fast to slow down with the Brothers Grimm. I would zoom through the classic fairy tales, skipping lines, paragraphs, whole pages.
You can teach almost anyone determined to learn them the basics required to write sentences and paragraphs that say what you want them to say clearly and concisely. It's far more difficult to get people to think like a writer, to give up conventional habits of mind and emotion. You must be able to step inside your character's skin, and at the same time to remain outside the dicey circumstances you have maneuvered her into.
Once more, he was immersing himself in books, reaching the end of long articles, even going back over paragraphs to make sure he'd grasped things. How much more satisfying it was than all that skimming, all that jumping around. At present, he was working his way, deliciously, through a book on Mendel, the father of genetics. A man who might not have spend seven years watching peas, if he'd had the internet.
You know well that government always kept a kind of standing army of newswriters who, without any regard to truth or to what should be like truth, invented and put into the papers whatever might serve the [government] ministers. This suffices with the mass of the people who have no means of distinguishing the false from the true paragraphs of a newspaper.
The problem is once you've written the opening paragraph and worked out how the rest of the story will go in your head, there's nothing in it for you. I write in longhand using disposable fountain pens on the right-hand side of the notebook for the first draft, then I rewrite some of the sentences and paragraphs on the left-hand side.
Writing is a muscle. Smaller than a hamstring and slightly bigger than a bicep, and it needs to be exercised to get stronger. Think of your words as reps, your paragraphs as sets, your pages as daily workouts. Think of your laptop as a machine like the one at the gym where you open and close your inner thighs in front of everyone, exposing both your insecurities and your genitals. Because that is what writing is all about.
I just typed up three, four paragraphs of an idea and dropped it in a box at the Chicago Comic Con in the summer of 2000, I guess, or 2001 - I forget. I just dropped it on a stack of a giant pile of dozens of other entries. Months later, I was thrilled to get a call from a Marvel editor while I was working my crappy day-job.
I was very struck by the fact that Colin Powell said he would produce evidence and then never produced it. Then Tony Blair produced a document of seventy paragraphs, but only the last nine referred to the World Trade Center, and they were not convincing. So we have a little problem here: If they're guilty, where is the evidence? And if we can't hear the evidence, why are we going to war?
My God, this novel makes me break out in a cold sweat! Do you know how much I've written in five months, since the end of August? Sixty-five pages! Each paragraph is good in itself and there are some pages that are perfect. I feel certain. But just because of this, it isn't getting on. It's a series of well-turned, ordered paragraphs which do not flow on from each other. I shall have to unscrew them, loosen the joints, as one does with the masts of a ship when one wants the sail to take more wind...
Imagine that the genome is a book. There are twenty-three chapters, called CHROMOSOMES. Each chapter contains several thousand stories, called GENES. Each story is made up of paragraphs, called EXTONS, which are interrupted by advertisements called INTRONS. Each paragraph is made up of words, called CODONS. Each word is written in letters called BASES.
The biggest challenge in the research process is to let go, to stop, to say enough, and then to reduce all of that beloved labor down to a few succinct paragraphs that shape the background to your narrative. I love research - that's all the fun, especially in the field. To write, however, is to suffer, and my pieces usually come in thousands of words over the assigned length. That's a serious flaw in my writing process - shaping and disciplining the footlockers of material one has so happily gathered.
Every artist of importance creates his own world, with its own laws - creates and shapes it in his own shape and image, and no one else's. This is why it is difficult to fit the artist into a world that has already been created, a seven-day, fixed and solidified world: he will inevitably slip out of the set of laws and paragraphs, he will be a heretic.
Euphonic and harmonious expressions, forcible and just expressions, profound and comprehensive expressions, and especially apt and witty expressions, each have their specific influence upon different minds, and their common influence upon all minds.... It is therefore high time our most valuable aphorisms and paragraphs were put in order for frequent perusal, and for handy reference, as the circumstances of life call up subjects.
There are a set of men who go about making purchases upon credit, and buying estates they have not wherewithal to pay for; and having done this, their next step is to fill the newspapers with paragraphs of the scarcity of money and the necessity of a paper emission, then to have a legal tender under the pretense of supporting its credit, and when out, to depreciate it as fast as they can, get a deal of it for a little price, and cheat their creditors; and this is the concise history of paper money schemes.
On May 15, 1957 Linus Pauling made an extraordinary speech to the students of Washington University. ... It was at this time that the idea of the scientists' petition against nuclear weapons tests was born. That evening we discussed it at length after dinner at my house and various ones of those present were scribbling and suggesting paragraphs. But it was Linus Pauling himself who contributed the simple prose of the petition that was much superior to any of the suggestions we were making.
In the entire works of the Jewish historian Josephus (37-c. 100 CE), which constitute hundreds of pages, there are only two paragraphs that purport to refer to Jesus. Although much has been made of these 'references, ' they have been dismissed by many scholars and even by Christian apologists as forgeries, as have been those referring to John the Baptist and James, 'brother' of Jesus. Bishop Warburton (1698-1779) labeled the Josephus interpolation regarding Jesus as 'a rank forgery, and a very stupid one, too.
With Salvage the Bones, Jesmyn Ward has written the best sort of novel-a beautiful, important book that's both unflinching and tender, heartbreaking and triumphant. A lyrical and riveting testament to the strength of the human spirit, as well as the power of family and community. Ward's paragraphs are like songs, lifting us even as the authenticity of this world and these characters keeps the ground in clear sight. This is an extraordinary book by an extraordinary writer.
The first sentence of the truth is always the hardest. Each of us had a first sentence, and most of us found the strength to say it out loud to someone who deserved to hear it. What we hoped, and what we found, was that the second sentence of the truth is always easier than the first, and the third sentence is even easier than that. Suddenly you are speaking the truth in paragraphs, in pages. The fear, the nervousness, is still there, but it is joined by a new confidence. All along, you've used the first sentence as a lock. But now you find that it's the key.
Reading off a page is like looking down at a landscape from a balloon - your eye "sees" the story as well as reads it, its layout, its paragraphs and structure, and "remembers" what it just read because it's still there, on the page, simultaneously. If you want to, you can reread any line instantly; or linger; or speed up; or optically "flinch." Reading a series of tweets is more like looking through a narrow window from a train speeding through a landscape full of tunnels and bands of light and dark. Each tweet erases its predecessor.
He pressed bravely ahead with his story, the outlines and preliminary versions of which by now filled two thick notebooks, reorganizing, redrafting, and obsessively re-polishing lines and paragraphs with a jeweler's precision. But it was not good enough. He wanted the pages to sing with ideas that had once seemed so important to him, all and everything he knew, and yet they did not, and no amount of diligence was able to bring them to life. The story came to be a burden and weighed more heavily in his hands each time he lifted it out of the drawer. After a few weeks he was reluctant to open the desk at all. ("Talking In The Dark")
Where do you get your ideas?' people are always asking authors they admire, which I've always thought was another way of asking, 'How did you get my ideas, which I didn't know I had until you put words to them?' We are known, appreciated, even cherished by our favorite writers; every word of our favorite books seems to have been written for us. Within their sentences and paragraphs, those writers are forever available, forever patient, including us in their compassionate recognition of the impossible, exhausting complexity of being human (those 'many thousand' selves), never ignoring us or abandoning us or finding us dull. It's you, they whisper, as we turn their pages, you are the one I've been waiting to tell everything to.
When I visit schools and talk to students about writing, I give them one word of advice and I give it to them quickly and loudly-FINISH! Starting something is easier than finishing it. You must have discipline to go from a few sentences, to a few paragraphs, to a piece of writing that has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Finishing something bridges the difference between someone who has talent and one who does not. My best advice? Apply the seat of your pants to the seat of your chair-and finish. FINISH!
E. L. Konigsburg
To what level does your patriarchal blessing reach in your life? Can you recollect the time you received it and recover any of the spirit of the occasion? Do you in quiet moments ponder it? Does Karl G.Maeser's phrase, "paragraphs from the book of our possibilities" rest upon you with a sense of mission so that, as President Heber J.Grant exemplified, "you "dream nobly and manfully" and prepare ceaselessly? Do you ever think of Heber C.Kimball's faith that you can "write your own patriarchal blessing" under inspiration, for, saith the Lord, "No good thing will I withhold...
Truman G. Madsen
Bubble gum angels swooped from top margins or scraped their wings between teeming paragraphs, maidens with golden hair dripped sea blue tears into the books spine, grape-colored whales spouted blood around a newspaper item (pasted in) listing arrivals to the endangered spieces list. Six hatchlings cried from shattered shells near an entry made on Easter. Cecilia had filled the pages with a profusion of colors and curlicues, candyland ladders and striped shamrocks.
I'm not really putting this very well. My point is this: This book contains precisely zero Important Life Lessons, or Little-Known Facts About Love, or sappy tear-jerking Moments When We Knew We Had Left Our Childhood Behind for Good, or whatever. And, unlike most books in which a girl gets cancer, there are definitely no sugary paradoxical single-sentence-paragraphs that you're supposed to think are deep because they're in italics. Do you know what I'm talking about? I'm talking about sentences like this: The cancer had taken her eyeballs, yet she saw the world with more clarity than ever before. Barf. Forget it. For me personally, things are in no way more meaningful because I got to know Rachel before she died. If anything, things are less meaningful. All right?
For a long time, she sat and saw. She had seen her brother die with one eye open, on still in a dream. She had said goodbye to her mother and imagined her lonely wait for a train back home to oblivion. A woman of wire had laid herself down, her scream traveling the street, till it fell sideways like a rolling coin starved of momentum. A young man was hung by a rope made of Stalingrad snow. She had watched a bomber pilot die in a metal case. She had seen a Jewish man who had twice given her the most beautiful pages of her life marched to a concentration camp. And at the center of all of it, she saw the Fuhrer shouting his words and passing them around. Those images were the world, and it stewed in her as she sat with the lovely books and their manicured titles. It brewed in her as she eyed the pages full to the brims of their bellies with paragraphs and words.
How to read this book: Even after I was told my father was dead, I believed (I still believe) that I could fix everything- that if I logged enough miles in my VW and kept telling stories through the countless dead ends and breakdowns, I could undo the terrible tree events... not that I should have expected to with this particular power, which is incomplete (as I was forced to sell a few stories and procedures for time-of-money), full of holes. Sure, the book turns on, lights up; its fans whirr and the bookengine crunches. But some of the pages are completely blank; others hang by a thread. the book's transmission is shot, too, so don't' be surprised if the book slips from one version to the next as you're reading.Finally, the thermostat's misked, so you should expect sudden changes in temperature, the pages might get cold, or it may begin to snow between paragraphs, or you may turn the page and get hit with a faceful of rain or blinding beams of sunlight. So go ahead. Do it-open the book. See? You see me, right? And I see you. See? I am reading your face, your eyes, your lips. I know the sufferdust on your brow. I can see you reading, and I can tell, too, when you are here, when you are absent, what you've read and how it affects you. There is no more hiding. I see your chords- your fratures, your cold gifts, where and when you've hurt people... your stories are written right there on your face!
It was getting very clear then (and during this week Riseholme naturally thought of nothing else) that Lucia designed a longer residence in the garish metropolis than she had admitted. Since she chose to give no information on the subject, mere pride and scorn of vulgar curiosity forebade anyone to ask her, though of course it was quite proper (indeed a matter of duty) to probe the matter to the bottom by every other means in your power, and as these bits of evidence pieced themselves together, Riseholme began to take a very gloomy view of Lucia's real nature. On the whole it was felt that Mrs. Boucher, when she paused in her bath-chair as it was being wheeled round the green, nodding her head very emphatically, and bawling into Mrs. Antrobus's ear-trumpet, reflected public opinion. "She's deserting Riseholme and all her friends, " said Mrs. Boucher, "that's what she's doing. She means to cut a dash in London, and lead London by the nose. There'll be fashionable parties, you'll see, there'll be paragraphs, and then when the season's over she'll come back and swagger about them. For my part I shall take no interest in them. Perhaps she'll bring down some of her smart friends for a Saturday till Monday. There'll be Dukes and Duchesses at The Hurst. That's what she's meaning to do, I tell you, and I don't care who hears it." That was lucky, as anyone within the radius of a quarter of a mile could have heard it.
Hester Lipp had written Where the Sidewalk Starts, an inexplicably acclaimed book of memoir, recounting - in severe language and strange, striking imagery - Lipp's childhood and adolescence on a leafy suburban street in Burlington. Her house was large and well-kept, her schooling uneventful, her family - the members of which she described in scrupulous detail - uniformly decent and supportive. Sidewalk was blurbed as a devastatingly honest account of what it meant to grow up middle class in America. Amy, who forced herself to read the whole thing, thought the book devastatingly unnecessary. The New York Times had assigned it to her for a review, and she stomped on it with both feet. Amy's review of Sidewalk was the only mean-spirited review she ever wrote. She had allowed herself to do this, not because she was tired of memoirs, baffled by their popularity, resentful that somehow, in the past twenty years, fiction had taken a backseat to them, so that in order to sell clever, thoroughly imagined novels, writers had been browbeaten by their agents into marketing them as fact. All this annoyed her, but then Amy was annoyed by just about everything. She beat up on Hester Lipp because the woman could write up a storm and yet squandered her powers on the minutiae of a beige conflict-free life. In her review, Amy had begun by praising what there was to praise about Hester's sharp sentences and word-painting talents and then slipped, in three paragraphs, into a full-scale rant about the tyranny of fact and the great advantages, to both writer and reader, of making things up. She ended by saying that reading Where the Sidewalk Starts was like "being frog-marched through your own backyard.
Marginalia Sometimes the notes are ferocious, skirmishes against the author raging along the borders of every page in tiny black script. If I could just get my hands on you, Kierkegaard, or Conor Cruise O'Brien, they seem to say, I would bolt the door and beat some logic into your head. Other comments are more offhand, dismissive - Nonsense." "Please!" "HA!!" - that kind of thing. I remember once looking up from my reading, my thumb as a bookmark, trying to imagine what the person must look like who wrote "Don't be a ninny" alongside a paragraph in The Life of Emily Dickinson. Students are more modest needing to leave only their splayed footprints along the shore of the page. One scrawls "Metaphor" next to a stanza of Eliot's. Another notes the presence of "Irony" fifty times outside the paragraphs of A Modest Proposal. Or they are fans who cheer from the empty bleachers, Hands cupped around their mouths. Absolutely, " they shout to Duns Scotus and James Baldwin. Yes." "Bull's-eye." "My man!" Check marks, asterisks, and exclamation points rain down along the sidelines. And if you have managed to graduate from college without ever having written "Man vs. Nature" in a margin, perhaps now is the time to take one step forward. We have all seized the white perimeter as our own and reached for a pen if only to show we did not just laze in an armchair turning pages; we pressed a thought into the wayside, planted an impression along the verge. Even Irish monks in their cold scriptoria jotted along the borders of the Gospels brief asides about the pains of copying, a bird singing near their window, or the sunlight that illuminated their page- anonymous men catching a ride into the future on a vessel more lasting than themselves. And you have not read Joshua Reynolds, they say, until you have read him enwreathed with Blake's furious scribbling. Yet the one I think of most often, the one that dangles from me like a locket, was written in the copy of Catcher in the Rye I borrowed from the local library one slow, hot summer. I was just beginning high school then, reading books on a davenport in my parents' living room, and I cannot tell you how vastly my loneliness was deepened, how poignant and amplified the world before me seemed, when I found on one page A few greasy looking smears and next to them, written in soft pencil- by a beautiful girl, I could tell, whom I would never meet- Pardon the egg salad stains, but I'm in love.
It's useful to make the distinction between reports and stories. A report is above all responsible for providing the facts, without manipulation or interpretation. Stories, on the other hand, are a way that people try to make sense of their lives and their experiences in the world. The test of a good story isn't its responsibility to the facts as much as its ability to provide a satisfying explanation of events. In a few paragraphs, the reader learns of the problem (sales and profits are down), gets a plausible explanation (the company lost its direction), and learns a lesson (don't stray, focus on the core). There's a neat end with a clean resolution. No threads are left hanging. Readers go away satisfied. Now, there's nothing wrong with stories, provided we understand that's what we have before us. More insidious, however, are stories that are dressed up to look like science. They take the form of science and claim to have the authority of science, but they miss the real rigor and logic of science. They're better described as pseudoscience. Richard Feynman had an even more memorable phrase: Cargo Cult Science. Here's the way Feynman described it: In the South Seas there is a cult of people. During the war they saw airplanes land with lots of materials, and they want the same thing to happen now. So they've arranged to make things like runways, to put fires along the sides of the runways, to make a wooden hut for a man to sit in, with two wooden pieces on his head like headphones and bars of bamboo sticking out like antennas - he's the controller - and they wait for the airplanes to land. They're doing everything right. The form is perfect. But it doesn't work. No airplanes land. So I call these things Cargo Cult Science, because they follow all the apparent precepts and forms of scientific investigation, but they're missing something essential, because the planes don't land. That's not to say that Cargo Cult Science doesn't have some benefits. The folks who wait patiently by the landing strips on their tropical island, dressed up like flight controllers and wearing a pair of coconut headsets, may derive some contentment from the whole process - they may live in hope of a better future, they may enjoy having something to believe in, and they may feel closer to supernatural powers. But it's just that - it's a story. It's not a good predictor of what will happen next. The business world is full of Cargo Cult Science, books and articles that claim to be rigorous scientific research but operate mainly at the level of storytelling.
The news that she had gone of course now spread rapidly, and by lunch time Riseholme had made up its mind what to do, and that was hermetically to close its lips for ever on the subject of Lucia. You might think what you pleased, for it was a free country, but silence was best. But this counsel of perfection was not easy to practice next day when the evening paper came. There, for all the world to read were two quite long paragraphs, in "Five o'clock Chit-Chat, " over the renowned signature of Hermione, entirely about Lucia and 25 Brompton Square, and there for all the world to see was the reproduction of one of her most elegant photographs, in which she gazed dreamily outwards and a little upwards, with her fingers still pressed on the last chord of (probably) the Moonlight Sonata... She had come up, so Hermione told countless readers, from her Elizabethan country seat at Riseholme (where she was a neighbour of Miss Olga Bracely) and was settling for the season in the beautiful little house in Brompton Square, which was the freehold property of her husband, and had just come to him on the death of his aunt. It was a veritable treasure house of exquisite furniture, with a charming music-room where Lucia had given Hermione a cup of tea from her marvellous Worcester tea service... (At this point Daisy, whose hands were trembling with passion, exclaimed in a loud and injured voice, "The very day she arrived!") Mrs. Lucas (one of the Warwickshire Smythes by birth) was, as all the world knew, a most accomplished musician and Shakespearean scholar, and had made Riseholme a centre of culture and art. But nobody would suspect the blue stocking in the brilliant, beautiful and witty hostess whose presence would lend an added gaiety to the London season. Daisy was beginning to feel physically unwell. She hurried over the few remaining lines, and then ejaculating "Witty! Beautiful!" sent de Vere across to Georgie's with the paper, bidding him to return it, as she hadn't finished with it. But she thought he ought to know... Georgie read it through, and with admirable self restraint, sent Foljambe back with it and a message of thanks-nothing more-to Mrs. Quantock for the loan of it. Daisy, by this time feeling better, memorised the whole of it. Life under the new conditions was not easy, for a mere glance at the paper might send any true Riseholmite into a paroxysm of chattering rage or a deep disgusted melancholy. The Times again recorded the fact that Mr. and Mrs. Philip Lucas had arrived at 25 Brompton Square, there was another terrible paragraph headed 'Dinner, ' stating that Mrs. Sandeman entertained the following to dinner. There was an Ambassador, a Marquis, a Countess (dowager), two Viscounts with wives, a Baronet, a quantity of Honourables and Knights, and Mr. and Mrs. Philip Lucas. Every single person except Mr. and Mrs. Philip Lucas had a title. The list was too much for Mrs. Boucher, who, reading it at breakfast, suddenly exclaimed: "I didn't think it of them. And it's a poor consolation to know that they must have gone in last." Then she hermetically sealed her lips again on this painful subject, and when she had finished her breakfast (her appetite had quite gone) she looked up every member of that degrading party in Colonel Boucher's "Who's Who.