Frank Herbert’s Writing Advice

Frank Herbert portraitFrank Herbert (1920-1986) was an award-winning science fiction writer that wrote the famous “Dune” series, which is usually said to be the “Lord of the Rings of science fiction.” Here are some instructive quotes from him about writing.

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On being sentimental in stories:

“The difference between sentiment and being sentimental is the following: sentiment is when a driver swerves out of the way to avoid hitting a rabbit on the road. Being sentimental is when the same driver, when swerving away from the rabbit, hits a pedestrian.”

On ending stories:

“There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.”

On using experience in writing:

“A person needs new experiences. They jar something deep inside, allowing you to grow. Without them, it sleeps—seldom to awaken. The sleeper must awaken.”

On argumentation:

“The purpose of argument is to change the nature of truth.”

“The truth always carries the ambiguity of the words used to express it.”

On the research process:

“Highly organized research is guaranteed to produce nothing new.”

On creativity:

“The only rule governing creativity is the act of creation itself.”

On narrative:

“What is “story”? It’s the quality that keeps the reader following the narrative.”

On a writer’s job:

“A writer’s job is to do whatever is necessary to make the reader want to read the next line. That’s what you’re supposed to be thinking about when you’re writing a story. Don’t think about money, don’t think about success; concentrate on the story—don’t waste your energy on anything else. That all takes care of itself, if you’ve done your job as a writer. If you haven’t done that, nothing helps.”


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