6 Quick Writing Tips from Katherine Anne Porter

katherine ann porter

Here are 6 helpful writing tips from Katherine Anne Porter (1890 – 1980), novelist and short story writer best known for Ship of Fools and Pale Horse, Pale Rider. Hers was a true American rags to riches story.

Porter often took many years after events to write about and analyze them fully, using her own life as a basis for her work. Her writing was a way to face questions that were left unanswered in her own life, giving her work a passionate, realistic, and sometimes harsh voice.

She lived on her own terms, and rose to fame by using her steely determination, energy, and above all, her writing  talent. She was a friend and correspondent of many literary figures of her time.In 1966 Porter won a Pulitzer Prize, the Gold Medal for Fiction and the National Book Award for The Collected Stories, published in 1965.

Porter often spoke of writing as a craft and used her own struggles as a point of departure to smooth the rough road for others who hoped to see their work in print. Here’s a sampling of writing tips from an American master.


Writing is a craft

“Most people won’t realize that writing is a craft. You have to take your apprenticeship in it like anything else.”

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Write for the sake of writing

“There is so much in one’s mind that doesn’t work itself into fiction and I love to write for the sake of writing and saying on what is in my mind at the time … we are all happier and do better work if we let our minds range freely through all our interests, not trying to sustain one tone, or level or mood.”

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Keep limbered up

“By writing we keep limbered up, like an athlete. Thoughts just running around in the head are not much good to anybody, least of all the writer unless [she] can snare them and put them into words.”

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Katherine Anne Porter 1931

You might also like: Katherine Anne Porter at Work
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Recognize your path

“Any writer worth talking about, no matter how original [she] seems, can be placed within a tradition; there was somebody before [her] who prepared the way … The tradition you belong to is something you can’t select for yourself: your own temperament will simply lead you to a certain path.”

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Write the ending first

“If I didn’t know the ending of a story, I wouldn’t begin. I always write my last lines, my last paragraph first, and then I go back and work towards it. I know where I’m going. I know what my goal is. And how I get there is God’s grace.”

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Don’t show before you’re ready

“If you go about showing what you do and asking advice and perhaps taking it, then the work isn’t yours any more, isn’t entirely your own.”

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Katherine Anne Porter quote

Forthright Quotes by Katherine Anne Porter

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