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I suspect that any vital creative process somehow involves arranging things so that intuition is given pride of place. The individual writer’s “craft” might be understood, then, as the process of conspiring to work oneself into the necessary state of mystification, such that one is deferring to the innate energy of the story, rather than overriding it.

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Simple style is like white light. It is complex, but its complexity is not obvious.

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Tell the truth by making every page drive one story forward and have a context the reader can relate to.

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I learned that if they’re characters, you don’t think about what they have given you or taken away — they’re just someone you’re describing.

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So much of writing is about how you deal with failure. I meet a lot of young people who have the talent and the work ethic to write. A lot of them are really intelligent and have succeeded for much of their lives. But writing is different: you have to fail in order to move forward. You can’t smart your way out of it. You can be smart as hell and it just doesn’t matter. You’re going to fail.

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If I want to write well, I have to work hard at it. I have disciplined myself by clearing other things out of my life that would make me busy. If I was going to fail in being a writer, I didn’t want to have any excuses. My excuse was going to be that I had given myself my best shot and I wasn’t good enough. It’s kind of an imposed desperation.

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I can produce copy–that’s not a problem. I can produce books left and right. The question is, What do you want your name on? What do you want to endure?

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The reader is always faced with the question of what a particular gesture, a particular detail means. It is not enough to say that it need not mean anything because it simply is. The meaningless accumulation of accurately observed detail cannot satisfy us for long; only if the details are made to tell, only if they are weighted with a significance for the lives shown, will they be tolerable.

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I didn’t know from one chapter to the next what was going to happen – I was just following. That’s what I like to do. I just start out and follow the characters…The main thing for me is characters. I don’t really worry about anything else. I don’t think about the storyline too much actually – just the characters and what might happen to them because of who they are and where they are and who they interact with. The settings, the stories, the themes and the voices and everything else, the inter- relationships – all belong to the characters. So if you keep true to those characters and how they might develop because of who they are and who they have around them and, to a degree, what happens to them, then the story will unfold. I’ve learned to have faith that something will come out.

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At thirteen, I’d never thought about writing. But the experience of understanding that you cannot take the entire work in at once, yet that there are places you can enter—I still hold onto that. 

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