Advice from the Masters: William Faulkner

Apr 1, 2015 | Better Writing

It’s hard to argue with William Faulkner‘s reputation. There’s the Nobel Prize and a couple of Pulitzers and all those novels assigned in college classes, but I would suggest that today Faulkner’s reputation rests on two things.

First there are those marvelous books. Whether you have one assigned in lit class or pick one up from a cluttered table at a flea market, the books can captivate you.

Faulkner also was a fountain of quotes. He and his characters seemed to come out with something memorable every few pages. If you doubt me, visit the Wikiquote page devoted to Faulkner.

This week’s quote isn’t on that page. I didn’t want to use it until I could source it and this week I finally found a source. It’s not perfect, but Faulkner scholar Daniel Singal says that, late in life Faulkner responded to questions about how to learn to write with the following.

“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.”

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