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Who Has the Best Writing Quote?

The Thompson Writing Program has been conducting a Quote of the Week contest this semester. Weekly winners are eligible for a $25 gift card. There’s still time to enter your quote this week in the contest! Enter it at:

To keep with the spirit of the TWP’s contest, we are dedicating this post to some of our favorite writing quotes, collected from What’s your favorite writing quote? Please share in the comments.

“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”― Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”― Ernest Hemingway

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”― Stephen King

“Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”― Mark Twain

“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”― Toni Morrison

“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”― Mark Twain, The Wit and Wisdom of Mark Twain

“You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.”― Saul Bellow

“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.”― Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums

“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”― Robert Frost

“Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it.

Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.”― William Faulkner

“There are books of which the backs and covers are by far the best parts.”― Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist

“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”― Stephen King, On Writing

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”― Stephen King

“The first draft of anything is shit.”― Ernest Hemingway

“Talent is helpful in writing, but guts are absolutely essential.”― Jessamyn West

“No one is asking, let alone demanding, that you write. The world is not waiting with bated breath for your article or book. Whether or not you get a single word on paper, the sun will rise, the earth will spin, the universe will expand. Writing is forever and always a choice – your choice.”― Beth Mende Conny


Best Tutoring Practices

One of my greatest joys as a tutor is knowing that each session is unique; no two tutoring sessions are the same even if you work with the same writer multiple times. This uniqueness also means that each session can present its own challenges and obstacles to overcome in order to have a productive meeting. With this in mind, I thought I’d share some of my common strategies for tutoring sessions. These are what I consider some of my “best practices.”

1)  Inquire early on in the session what the writer’s goals are for the session or concerns about the paper. The Writing Studio tutoring form requires this information for good reason: it helps direct the entire session. It also helps you identify whether the writer is realistic in what he wants to accomplish and also if he even has a clear idea of what he wants to talk about during the session.

2)  Ask the writer a lot of questions throughout the session and take notes (or at least be ready to take notes) as she responds. I’ll often ask questions at the global level to help a writer address any conceptual issues in the paper. For unclear passages, I’ll usually ask “What do you mean here?” Often, the person knows exactly what she is trying to convey but just didn’t do it effectively.

3)  Sympathize! Sometimes when a person hangs his head low and states how miserable he is at writing introductions, closings, or whatever, I often chuckle and say “Join the club” or “Oh, that’s such a common struggle, we can definitely address that.” I find this approach can ease the tone of the session, especially if the writer came in feeling dejected. We all struggle at times, so I see it as important to sympathize and inform writers that revision should always be part of the writing process.

4)  Give the writer something to continue the session on her own time. I frequently recommend handouts that I think might be useful to the writer’s particular needs and also inform her of other resources we have, such as workshops, Undergraduate Writing Partners, and Facebook tutoring opportunities.

I hope you find my best practices useful! What are some of yours?–HG

Handout Highlight: Group Essays

Working in groups for a writing project offers both rewards and challenges distinct from writing papers individually. Group Essays is one of the newest additions to the Writing Studio’s online resources. This brief handout offers advice for optimizing your group writing experience by discussing tips for writing a group essay, describing a possible writing process, and identifying challenges and strategies to deal with those inevitable bumps in the road. We hope you find it useful!

Beyond Strunk & White

Lately, I’ve encountered some intriguing book titles. I don’t mean fiction. J.K Rowling and Stieg Larsson have nothing on writers who write about … writing. Yes, the books I’m contemplating buying are about writing style. I plan to move beyond the tried and true The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White. Two books currently on my list are: Bonnie Trenga, The Curious Case of the Misplaced Modifier: How to Solve the Mysteries of Weak Writing and Ben Yagoda, How to Not Write Bad: The Most Common Writing Problems and the Best Ways to Avoid Them. Perhaps these snazzy titles will lead to joyful reading. Do you have any recommendations for books about writing?

Handout Highlight: Useful Tools for Non-Native English Speakers

Diversity characterizes the Duke student body, with students hailing from different cultures, backgrounds, and countries. As a result, there are many non-native English speakers who must adapt to writing and speaking in English for an academic audience. The Writing Studio has compiled an array of resources for non-native English speakers and international students. Rather than being a single handout, the link provided takes you to a host of electronic resources.

Make it New, Make it New

Essayist John Jeremiah Sullivan is a dedicated reviser. As he tells The Guardian, “I’m a passionate believer in revision and a lot of my writing gets done during revision process. It isn’t just tweaking: I tend to break it apart and remake it every time I do a new draft.” How much work is involved when you revise a draft? -JM

DukeWrites Interviews Tutor Zackary Vernon

How long have you worked as a writing tutor at Duke? This is my third year as a tutor at the Writing Studio. During that time, I’ve had nearly 500 appointments with writers from all fields and disciplines.

Describe your particular approach to tutoring. My approach to tutoring is improvisatory. The Writing Studio does not have a single formula that can be applied to each writer’s work.  Instead, we strive to tailor every appointment to best fit the needs of the individual writer and project. As a result, my appointments always start with the question: “What would you like us to work on today?”

 What do you think are the most useful resources at the Writing Studio? The Writing Studio has a very impressive collection of helpful links and handouts on our website. In particular, I’d like to highlight the reverse outline handout.  The idea behind revere outlining could not be simpler: You create an outline for a paper after, rather than before, you have completed a draft of the paper. This can help you assess the global organization of the paper and then rearrange the structure to cultivate the most effective form possible for the piece. For me, discovering this revision strategy was a complete revelation, and it has undoubtedly strengthened my writing ever since.

 What do you enjoy most about tutoring? I enjoy getting to see the interesting work that is being done in many fields across the university. As an English graduate student, I’m normally only exposed to a relatively small spectrum of work that is done primarily in the humanities. But at the Writing Studio, I’m exposed to the valuable scholarship that is currently being produced by writers from many different areas. It’s particularly rewarding to discover connections between these projects. There are many issues, such as environmentalism, that seemingly far-flung parts of the university are all working to address.

If you could offer writers only one tip, what would it be? Revise. It’s unrealistic and unproductive to expect perfection from a first draft. Writing is a difficult process that can and often does take a lot of time and energy.  That’s not to say that the process is always painful; it can be, but it can also be very rewarding.  The point, though, is that writing—like many things that are worth doing—requires tremendous and ongoing effort. One of my professors once said, “I hate writing, but I love having written.”

What do you do when you are not tutoring? This will probably sound like a lie, given the context. But when I’m not at the Writing Studio, I actually spend a lot of time writing…and I enjoy it.

Also, I like films, fiction, cooking, gardening, pouring salt on slugs, cheese, birds of prey, swimming, watching trains, getting lost in the woods, finding shark’s teeth, coffee, Irish accents, catching blue crabs, listening to crickets, making campfires, the color blue, the texture velvet, Seagrove pottery, Indian arrowheads, the sound of stepping on a pinecone, the word bougainvillea, and the phrase “Don’t overdo it, but don’t overunderdo it.”

Above all, though, I love just hanging out at home with my fiancée and our two Australian Shepherds.