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  1. The act of writing itself is done in secret, like masturbation —Stephen King
  2. Alliteration is like ivy, some of it is poison —Delmore Schwartz
  3. As a baker bakes more bread than brown; or as a tumbler tumbles up and down; so does our author, rummaging his brain, by various methods try to entertain —Henry Fielding
  4. An author at work is like an oyster, clam-quiet and busy —Rumer Godden
  5. An author introduced to people who have read, or who say they have read his books, always feels like a man taken for the first time to be shown to his future wife’s relations —Jerome K. Jerome
  6. An author is like a baker; it is for him to make the sweets, and others to buy and enjoy them —Leigh Hunt
  7. Authors are like cattle going to a fair: those of the same field can never move on without butting one another —Walter Savage Landor
  8. Authors, like coins, grow dear as they grow old; it is the rust we value, not the gold —Alexander Pope
  9. An author who speaks of his own books is almost as bad as a mother who talks about her own children —Benjamin Disraeli
  10. Being an author is like treading water in the middle of the ocean; you can never stop, you can never stop treading water —Delmore Schwartz
  11. Being a writer in a library is rather like being a eunuch in a harem —John Braine, New York Times, Oct. 7, 1961
  12. A biographer is like a contractor who builds roads: it’s terribly messy, mud everywhere, and when you get done, people travel over the road at a fast clip —Arthur Wilson
  13. Churn out books as though his days were numbered —Michiko Kakutani, New York Times, February 14, 1987

    In reviewing Anthony Burgess’ autobiography, Little Wilson and Big God, Kakutani uses this simile to introduce her recounting the story of how Burgess began writing when he thought that his days were in fact numbered.

  14. Clear writers, like fountains, do not seem so deep as they are —Walter Savage Landor

    The simile is followed by this about the less-than-clear: “The turbid look the most profound.”

  15. A collection of essays is a collection of variations —Elizabeth Hardwick
  16. The essayist is kind of poet in prose —Alexander Smith
  17. Every author, however modest, keeps a most outrageous vanity chained like a madman in the padded cell of his breast —Logan Pearsall Smith
  18. For the blocked or hesitant, the advent of the computer is like the advent of spring: the frozen river surges, the hard earth flowers —Edward Mendelson reporting on computers for writers, Yale Review, 1985
  19. Getting a book published without a literary agent is like swimming dangerous waters without a shark repellent —Rae Lawrence, New York Times Magazine, July 5, 1987

    Lawrence’s simile serves to introduce her experience in finding and choosing a literary agent for her first novel.

  20. Good writing is a kind of skating which carries off the performer where he would not go —Ralph Waldo Emerson
  21. Grammar is an art. Style is a gift. You are born with your style, just as you are born with your voice —Anatole France
  22. The great writer finds style as the mystic finds God, in his own soul —Havelock Ellis
  23. Hiring someone to write your autobiography is like hiring someone to take a bath for you —Mae West, quoted in Bookviews, February 11, 1977
  24. I can get a kind of tension when I’m writing a short story [as compared to a novel], like I’m pulling on a rope and know where the rope is attached —Alice Munro, quoted New York Times Book Review, September 14, 1986
  25. I get a thing I call sentence-fever that must be like buck-fever; it’s a sort of intense literary self-consciousness that comes when I try to force myself —F. Scott Fitzgerald
  26. (I enjoy the hell out of writing because) it’s [writing] like an Easter egg hunt. Here’s 50 pages and you say, “Oh, Christ, where is it? Then on the 51st page, it’ll work” —John D. MacDonald
  27. Like thrifty French cooks, waste nothing —Leslie Garis, New York Times Magazine, February 8, 1987

    Garis used the simile to describe Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne’s extensive note taking.

  28. A long preface to a short treatise is like a high hat crowning a low brow —Zevi Hirsh Somerhausen

    Paraphrased for more modern English usage from “Like a high hat crowning a low brow is a long preface to a short treatise.”

  29. Long sentences in a short composition are like large rooms in little houses —William Shenstone
  30. Method in writing is like ceremony in living too often used to supply the want of better things —Thomas Killigrew
  31. Minor characters [in scripts] are rather like knights in chess: limited in movement, but handy in their capacity for quick turns, for fixing situations —John Fowles
  32. A narrative is like a room on whose walls a number of false doors have been painted; while within the narrative, we have many apparent choices of exit, but when the author leads us to one particular door, we know it is the right one because the door opens —John Updike
  33. Nobody can write a real drama who hasn’t smelled the grease paint; it’s like somebody composing who’s never played an instrument —Mary McCarthy
  34. Novels, like human beings, usually have their beginnings in the dark —Rita Mae Brown
  35. People who write books take as much punishment as prizefighters —Norman Mailer
  36. A pin has as much head as some authors and a great deal more point —George D. Prentice
  37. The profession of book-writing makes horse racing seem like a solid, stable business —John Steinbeck
  38. The profession of writing is wrong, like smoking cigarettes, bad for your health, a diminisher of life expectancy —William Saroyan
  39. Prose as smooth and burnished as well-oiled furniture —A. R. Gurney Jr., New York Times Book Review, 1985

    The author of this smooth prose is Louis Auchincloss.

  40. Prose consists of … phrases tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated hen-house —George Orwell
  41. Prose is like music, every word must be placed for sound, color and nuance —James G. Huneker
  42. A sentence should read as if its author, had he held a plough instead of a pen, could have drawn a furrow deep and straight to the end —Henry David Thoreau
  43. Sometimes writing a recipe takes me a whole day … to communicate it correctly. It’s like writing a little short story —Julia Childs
  44. To inclose him (a fictional character) as irradiantly as amber does the fly and yet the while to preserve every detail of his being has, of all tasks, ever been the dearest to me —Stefan Zweig

    In his foreword to a collection of stories and novelettes, Zweig used this simile to explain that he considers his short fiction as much an accomplishment as his more “spacious” works.

  45. Typing your own manuscript for submission is a lot like dressing to see that old lover who left you five years ago —Ira Wood

    In his novel, The Kitchen Man, Wood expands the simile as follows: “Ready to walk out the door you stop one last time at the mirror, just to be sure they’re going to regret what they walked out on. Well, maybe the belt is wrong, you think, throwing it on the bed, pulling out another. No, these old shoes won’t do, too dowdy. After an hour, you’re stripped to your socks and in tears, absolutely sure now that you are the perfect mess they said you were. And so your manuscript will be if you don’t fight every urge to better every sentence.”

  46. A well-written life is almost as rare as a well-spent one —Thomas Carlyle
  47. Words flowed from his pen like sparkling spring water —Yoko Ono, about husband John Lennon’s writing
  48. A writer may take to long words, as young men to beards, to impress —F. L. Lucas
  49. Writers, like teeth, are divided into incisors and grinders —Walter Bagehot
  50. The writer’s work is a little like handwriting. It comes out to be you no matter what you do —John Updike, New York Times, January 18, 1987
  51. The writer who draws his material from a book is like one who borrows money only to lend it —Kahlil Gibran
  52. Writes like a comrade, the kind of friend with whom it is a pleasure to dispute —Jacques Barzun about H. W. Fowler, the author of Modern English Usage, New York Times Book Review, December 12, 1986

    Reviewer John Gross in his turn applied the simile to Barzun’s book, A Word Or Two Before You Go.

  53. Writing a first draft is like groping one’s way into a pitch dark room, or overhearing a faint conversation, or telling a joke whose punchline you’ve forgotten —Ted Solotaroff
  54. Writing for a newspaper is like running a revolutionary war; you go into battle not when you are ready but when action offers itself —Norman Mailer
  55. Writing for him was as hard work as catching fleas —Ivan Turgenev
  56. Writing is akin to fortunetelling … you look into someone’s life, read where they have been and predict what will happen to them —Marcia Norman, quoted New York Times Book Review, May 24, 1987
  57. Writing is like building a house —Ellen Gilchrist
  58. Writing is like pulling the trigger of a gun: if you are not loaded, nothing happens —Henry Seidel
  59. Writing is like religion. Every man who feels the call must work out his own salvation —George Horace Lorimer
  60. Writing is like serving a jail sentence, you’re not free until you’ve done time on the rock-heap —Paul Theroux
  61. Writing is like writing a check … it’s easy to write a check if you have enough money in the bank, and writing comes more easily if you have something to say —Sholem Asch
  62. Writing … it is rather like building a house, every separate word is another brick laid into place, cemented to its fellows, and gradually you begin to see the wall beginning to rise, and you know that the rooms inside will take their shape as you intended —Vita Sackville-West
  63. Writing without publishing gets to be like loving someone from afar, delicious for fantasies but thin gruel for a living —Ted Solotaroff
  64. Wrote not without puzzlements and travail, nevertheless as naturally as birds —Cynthia Ozick
  65. You become a good writer just as you become a good joiner: by planing down your sentences —Anatole France
  66. Your article should be like a lady’s skirt: long enough to cover the essentials, and short enough to be interesting —editorial advice to free lancers, PhotoGraphic, January 1987
Similes Dictionary, 1st Edition. © 1988 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in classic literature ?
Saintsbury conceives it, has been always, or even generally, the ideal, even of those chosen writers here in evidence.
Poetry now diverged in two directions, according to the individual character of the writers. The graver spirits imitated noble actions, and the actions of good men.
In passing, I may say that Rataziaev is not only a supreme writer, but also a man of upright life--which is more than can be said for most writers.
As writers of travels among barbarous communities are generally very diffuse on these subjects, he deems it right to advert to what may be considered a culpable omission.
In Thomas Hardy (born 1840) the pessimistic interpretation of modern science is expressed frankly and fully, with much the same pitiless consistency that distinguishes contemporary European writers such as Zola.
We were all writers. It was a fine day, early in spring, and we were in a good humour.
Besides Wace, many writers told the tale in French.
Indeed, a love for any one of these significant writers will be enough, not to speak of an admiration for "Aucassin and Nicolete."
Early and late I was at it--writing, typing, studying grammar, studying writing and all the forms of writing, and studying the writers who succeeded in order to find out how they succeeded.
"By the co-operation of different writers in carrying out this plan it was hoped that a thoroughness and completeness of treatment, otherwise unattainable, might be secured.
THE WRITER, an old man with a white mustache, had some difficulty in getting into bed.
{1} Black races are evidently known to the writer as stretching all across Africa, one half looking West on to the Atlantic, and the other East on to the Indian Ocean.