So you can read my books

Monday, January 31, 2011


"All you have to do is write one true sentence.
Write the truest sentence you know."
- Ernest Hemingway

But how to do that?

Hemingway always worked until he had something done, and he always stopped when he knew what was going to happen next. That way he could be sure of going on the next day.

But how to write that true sentence?

A "true" sentence, according to Frank Barone:
shows instead of tells
uses sense words
uses active verbs
does not use the following forms of the verb "to be": is; are; was; were; has, have, had been.

But, of course, there is more :

"How little we know of what there is to know. I wish that I were going to live a long time instead of going to die today because I have learned much about life in these four days; more, I think than in all other time.

I'd like to be an old man to really know. I wonder if you keep on learning or if there is only a certain amount each man can understand. I thought I knew so many things that I know nothing of. I wish there was more time."
— Ernest Hemingway (For Whom the Bell Tolls)

More time.

But that is just it. None of us know how much time we have. How best to use what little we have.

What do we know? Is it true? How do we know for sure?

Evocative prose is no one's mother tongue. It has to be won through the trials of life and pen. And that takes the most precious of commodities : time.

Steve Job, who birthed APPLE, said this :

“Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life.

Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice.

And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

Live your dream with everything you have. Submit that novel without fear. If it is rejected, you are no worse off than before. You have grown through the experience.

Friends write me worried that agents or editors will steal their ideas. A great writer does not have to worry, for he writes in a manner that no one can imitate. Take the plot, yes. But not the manner in which it unfolds.

Because his sentences are true sentences. They reflect his truth, his hopes, his dreams, his fears. And so the story is HIS in a way no other could write it.

If you had to write the truest sentence you know, what would it be?


  1. L. Diane : Ah, but believe what? A thought-provoking true sentence. Have a great new week, Roland

  2. Thank you Roland. I'm learning how to tap into my true voice. This was a helpful reminder.

  3. Thanks, Green Monkey. I'm glad my post helped you in some small way. Roland

  4. I have no idea what a "true" sentence really is, and I don't think anyone can explain it, really. Though Frank Barone makes a decent attempt, all he's done is tell me how to write a "decent" sentence, not a true one.

    I'll just keep on writing a whole bunch of sentences. The ones that resonate with readers will be the ones I consider true, in the end.

  5. I named my blog with this in mind.

    In Time ... anything can happen.

    This is my truth.

    A most profound post Roland.


  6. Great post Roland. It got me thinking about life and writing. Also, thanks for the King interview!

  7. Angela : Hemingway certainly had a way with words and getting to the point, didn't he?

    Simon : A true sentence, to me, is one that speaks honestly of the human heart in conflict with itself ... which is the cornerstone of all great literature. And that sentence expresses it simply with to-the-marrow words. But hey, I'm still unpublished!

    Thanks, Michael. I, too, named my post with that in mind : to write with the truth of the human condition in the crosshairs. Sometimes I hit the target, other times I get close, others I miss widely. But I try to keep improving my aim. LOL.

    Lydia : Thanks for the kind words. And isn't King thought-provoking and inspiring? Thanks so much for visiting when I know your time is so short, Roland

  8. I'll have to think about that question for a while. There are so many ways to answer it . . .

  9. I don't believe there is one true sentence. And if there is, then it's already been taken by someone else. Yes, we should all live our lives and our dreams. Nice post!

  10. Like Hemingway, I also write until I know what the next scene should be about. I find that when I stop any time in the midst of a scene - even if the chapter has come to an end - I flounder when I get back to the writing b/c I have to play catchup with my characters.

    And as Stephen King says, he has an idea for a story, but it fleshes itself out as it is written. I rarely know the particulars of the plot or the traits and hidden secrets of my characters. I just know where they need to end and what is required to get there.

    Nice to be able to compare my writing style to such talented writers.

    I liked how King discussed the idea of stealing story ideas: if he'd seen the Simpsons movie Under The Dome may not have gotten written. How story ideas are out there and someone is going to tell them. Ideas are rarely original, but if you've never seen it before, then it will be new in the way the individual author writes it.

    I don't worry about agents/editors or other writers stealing my stories. My voice is unique, and the manner my characters fullfill the storyline will be also.

    An excellent post Roland. I always enjoy interviews with Stephen King.


  11. Donna : Doesn't Stephen King always give us something to ponder and analyze? I'm glad tc compare notes with a master, too. I'm happy you got something of this old post of mine. Roland

  12. Love your post but will have to reread it later, since I'm still laughing...LOVE calvin&hobbes.

    academia, here I come.


  13. Wow, very thought-provoking. And based on the stuff I'm currently having to read... Calvin is correct.

  14. This is golden advice that is ringing to true for me this week! I just got back from a conference where an editor said she really liked my work but I needed to tweak it a bit to show instead of tell. I'm all over it!

  15. This is great advice. And i am almost certain Dr. Suss had some true sentences :) LOL or at least some no other author could ever claim as thier own.


  16. I just love your insight and expression of that sight. True sentence... The complete truth lies solely in ones heart.

    I do not know about the grammar but it's my voice :)
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

  17. Jules : Thanks. And your voice and grammar are just fine.

    Jodi : True as true as be -- or at least as true as green eggs and ham! LOL.

    Heather : Great news about that editor liking your work. I know you can tweak it just as it needs to be. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for you!

    Su : Yes, my university textbooks seemed intent on hiding, not revealing, the facts, too. I love Calvin & Hobbes, don't you? Glad you liked my post.

    Tessa : Calvin & Hobbes always seem to put some laughter into my day. Always come back!

    Mary Mary : Perhaps not THE true sentence, but we can all come up with a sentence that is true for us at the moment or at the moment in our characters' lives.

    Golden Eagle : And each of those many answers could be true for you at the time you write them. Thanks for visiting and commenting! Roland

  18. I have tried using that Hemingway bromide innumerable times to get started writing, but it nevers works for me. Perhaps because I don't know what a "true sentence" is or perhaps...?

  19. Travener : What is truth? Pilate's question. But he wasn't serious. He didn't stay for the answer.

    To me, a true sentence is one that speaks honestly of a heart in conflict with itself. We all wear many masks, and often they war with one another. We are walking Civil Wars.

    If you find yourself stuck in a scene, write one sentence that is true of that scene or main character of that scene.

    Such as :

    Samuel McCord lives life as if it were a foreign language.

    What does that mean?

    McCord is never at ease within himself or with others. He has seen too much to trust to the surface appearance or speech of others. There is no easy flow of words or actions for him. He must think through each action, each word as if he were speaking a foreign language.

    I hope that helps in some small way.

  20. "Don't be trapped by dogma-which is living with the results of other people's thinking..."

    Words to live by. As for that prefect's out there somewhere, I'm sure of it:)

    Roland, you're the best. Have a great week,

  21. Elliot : Between the two of us I'm sure we can think of it -- or maybe the Dude can! Thanks for the kind words. I'm as only as good as the good friends, like you, that I have. Thanks again, Roland

  22. Roland, thanks for the advice...
    "A great writer does not have to worry, for he writes in a manner that no one can imitate."

    This is so true, everyone has a unique fingerprint of words, phrases and expressions.

  23. Imagery Imagined : I love your phrase "unique fingerprint of words." Thanks for visiting. I've missed you. Roland

  24. thanks, Roland, and missed you too, friend.