Muriel Spark, 1918-2006

“‘You begin,’ he said, ‘by setting your scene. You have to see your scene, either in reality or in imagination. For instance, from here you can see across the lake. But on a day like this you can’t see across the lake, it’s too misty. You can’t see the other side.’ Rowland took off his reading glasses to stare at his creative writing class, whose parents’ money was being thus spent: two boys and three girls around sixteen to seventeen years of age, some more, some a little less. ‘So,’ he said, ‘you must just write, when you set your scene, “the other side of the lake was hidden in mist.” Or if you want to exercise imagination, on a day like today, you can write, “The other side of the lake was just visible.” But as you are setting the scene, don’t make any emphasis as yet. It’s too soon, for instance, for you to write, “The other side of the lake was hidden in the fucking mist.” That will come later. You are setting your scene. You don’t want to make a point as yet.’”

— from The Finishing School

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I’m Joel Spolsky, co-founder of Trello and Fog Creek Software, and CEO of Stack Overflow. More about me.