* All starting out to be a "dedicated, uncompromising artist" want to know if they have what it takes. Most often the answer is "God only knows."
* Anyone stubborn enough can get published and success breeds success, but building one's skills is more important than getting into print.
* First, a novelist must have "verbal sensitivity," understanding how language works.
* Clichés, careless, and showy language all break the "vivid and continuous dream state" that a novelist must create and sustain in a reader, removing the reader from his environment.
* Readers are jerked out of this state by authors who feel no attachment to the ordinary world, who refuse to tell a story or advance an argument, but simply revel in their own words.
* Contrast Shakespeare, whose language is always subservient to character and plot, with Dylan Thomas and Updike.
* Gardner studies writing in...
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