(To survey other elements and author quotes, visit the Elements of Fiction home page)

“Thinking this way, working unit by unit, always keeping in mind what the plan of his story requires him to do but refusing to be hurried to more important things, the writer achieves a story with no dead spots, no blurs, a story in which we find no lapses of aesthetic interest.” John Gardner

“The true young novelist has the stamina, patience, and single-mindedness of a draft horse.” John Gardner

“No matter how much talent you have, if you let your focus slip on any one sentence or paragraph, it will show in a slacking of your workmanship. So focus equally on every part of your writing, whether it is the key paragraph or the little transition paragraph. Not all of them have to be equally brilliant or significant, but they all have to be written with the same care.” Ayn Rand

“Characters, Want, and Purpose must show strength and endurance. No one wants to live through weak characters with feeble wants.” Ulf Wolf

“People who have respect for all that grownups generally respect (earning a good living, etc.), are unlikely ever to make it through the many revisions it takes to tell a story beautifully, without visible tricks.” John Gardner

“There is a great deal that has to either be given up or be taken away from you if you are going to succeed in writing a body of work. There seem to be other conditions in life that demand celibacy besides the priesthood.” Flannery O’Connor

“The greatest gift of the writer is patience . . .” Flannery O’Connor

“I don’t think I’m fresh enough, though, to go on ‘making up.’ That was the strain—the invention: and I suspect that the last 20 pages have slightly flagged.” Virginia Woolf

“After the process has started, it cannot be halted or interrupted. This means that the change, though its rate may be controlled, must be a continuous reaction. Like a fire, it can smolder or blaze, but it cannot go out. A piece of fiction begins when the writer scratches the match, not when he lays the fire. It ends when all the logs have become ashes.” William Sloane

“When it comes to writers being obsessed, I have one notion. Obsession as a state seems so close to the natural condition of a novelist at work on a book, that there may be nothing else to say about it.” Don DeLillo