The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—’tis the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning.
—Samuel Langhorne Clemens, a.k.a. Mark Twain (1835–1910) via a letter to George Bainton, 10/15/1888
In his highest flights, musical and architectural above all, for they are one, man gives the illusion of rivaling the order, the majesty and the splendor of the heavens.
—Henry Miller (1891–1980), via The Colossus of Maroussi
Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.
Start as close to the end as possible.
Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them-in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.