Mark Twain’s 20 Quotes on Writing

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Mark Twain (1853 – 1910)

1. “I haven’t any right to criticize books, and I don’t do it except when I hate them. I often want to criticize Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can’t conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Every time I read Pride and Prejudice I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone.”

2. “A successful book is not made of what is in it, but what is left out of it.”

3. “One should never use exclamation points in writing. It is like laughing at your own joke.”

4. “The test of any good fiction is that you should care something for the characters; the good to succeed, the bad to fail. The trouble with most fiction is that you want them all to land in hell together, as quickly as possible.”

5. “To get the right word in the right place is a rare achievement. To condense the diffused light of a page of thought into the luminous flash of a single sentence, is worthy to rank as a prize composition just by itself…Anybody can have ideas–the difficulty is to express them without squandering a quire of paper on an idea that ought to be reduced to one glittering paragraph.”

13 Comments

  1. I agree with him about Jane Austen. While I don’t hate her work, I cannot be classified as a very great fan of hers. I have read most of it, though, as I don’t think it would be fair to speak against her if I hadn’t :)

  2. I agree that his advice will help you write well in a similar style to the excellent writing he himself produced. H P Lovecraft violates just about all his rules however, he uses exclamation points, there are many adjectives, His sentences run on, H P Lovecraft would make a terrible Mark Twain, but Mark Twain never got the moods H P Lovecraft got. I’ve heard many educated people say H P Lovecraft is a bad writer for having noticed that he does not write in the recommended “modern” way pioneered by Mark Twain. Mark Twain gave good advice, unfortunately its lost on fools who take their grades in literature class way too seriously, they become such dogmatic professor pleasers they actually believe there is only one true way to write, even when the results of the another approach work..I think Mark Twain would have felt disdain for any such toadyism, fortunately hes not alive to have to endure it, but I am.

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