So you can read my books

Monday, March 12, 2012


"At the age of fourteen I discovered writing as an escape from a world of reality in which I felt acutely uncomfortable."

TENNESSEE WILLIAMS, Forward to Sweet Bird of Youth

*) Tennessee gives us the first clue :

Readers usually first discover the world of books for the same reason Tennessee found the realm of creating his own worlds :

Something was lacking in their daily lives.

Like the hunt for the mythical will-o-wisp, the hunt for the fulfillment of that lack drives them even today to read.

In childhood, we often feel different, feel outside the group, feel weak, and feel unloved.

Those same ghosts haunt many into their adult lives.

Give readers a protagonist that they can identify with,

whose goals and hurts echo their own,

and dangle the fulfillment of those aims in front of them being threatened -- well, you've certainly gotten their attention.

Which brings us to the real number one.

1.) Learn the lesson of Madonna :

Before you can get them to read your book, you have to get the reader to pick it up.

Your Title :

When Madonna chose her name it was controversial, attention-getting, and short.

Same for the title of your book. It must be short, grab the eye from the endless titles on the book shelves, and be jarring :


Tell me you wouldn't at least pick up those books to flip a page or two.

Which leads to our second path to Best Read of the Year.

2.) Each page may be your reader's last.

Think channel surfing.

Have you ever surfed the TV, just listening for a second to each program you passed?

One would have a snippet of dialogue so jarring or funny or both that you just had to stay and watch.

Another would have a scene so riveting,

you leaned in close on the edge of your seat to see what would happen next,

hoping to be able to catch on to the story as it progressed.

Each page of your novel has to be like that.

You have to turn the browser into the buyer. You have to keep the reader burning to turn the next page. Arthur Miller has a clue to how we can do that :

"One had the right to write because other people needed news of the inner world,

and if they went too long without such news they would go mad with the chaos of their lives."
ARTHUR MILLER, "The Shadows of the Gods"

3.) Be like Megan Fox's plunging cleavage or minuscule hem line : eye magnets.

Suspense. You have to keep them guessing. How?

4.) Sow the dragon's teeth, water, then reap the deadly harvest :

a.) Show a ring of black mushrooms in the neighbor's yard in whose center lies your MC's dead cat.

b.) A little later have your neighbors invite your MC to dinner. They are eating those black mushrooms stewed. Your MC politely declines that item on the menu.

c.) A few chapters later, the rings of black mushroom are in everybody's yard but hers. And everybody has stopped talking to her.

d.) One evening as she coming back from her nightly jog, she sees a mob of zombie-like neighbors trudging to her door, each carrying a tray of those black mushrooms.

You get the idea : Suggest a puzzling problem. Let it blossom strangely. Have the harvest come out of the darkness to threaten your MC.

4.) When a good writer is having fun,

the audience is almost always having fun too.

STEPHEN KING, Entertainment Weekly, Aug. 17, 2007

Make the readers laugh.

The laughter will make the following harrowing adventures that much more intense.

Work to give your characters one-liners that the reader will repeat to her friends.

Making your readers chuckle along with your heroes will endear them to her. So when one cries or makes the ultimate sacrifice for the others, the reader will mourn as if for a real person.

Your novel will have the semblance of real life even if it is a fantasy or horror story.

Humor is the glue that holds the reader to the next page :

"As we understand it, the surest way to make a living by the pen is to raise pigs."


5.) Don't forget the music :

"To me the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it's about, but the music the words make." Truman Capote

Have each page contain a paragraph of prose that rolls like billowing fog in the awakening dawn, catching the heartstrings of the reader.

"I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions." James Michener

"In conversation you can use timing, a look, an inflection.

But on the page all you have is commas, dashes, the amount of syllables in a word.

When I write, I read everything out loud to get the right rhythm."

Fran Lebowitz {Which is great advice.}

6.) Love is not a four letter word in writing.

Most readers live loveless lives in this country. Sometimes the loneliest people in America are the married ones.

At least give them the dream that real love can exist between two intelligent people.

Give them love that survives the bed sheets and goes with the couple into their daily lives.

Give that loving couple struggles that draw them together not pry them apart. A true, lasting love is like driving a car at night.

You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.


Writing is eternal,

For therein the dead heart liveth, the clay-cold tongue is eloquent,

And the quick eye of the reader is cleared by the reed of the scribe.
As a fossil in the rock, or a coin in the mortar of a ruin, So the symbolled thoughts tell of a departed soul.
MARTIN FARQUHAR TUPPER, Proverbial Philosophy



  1. I have seen a lot of posts that give advice on writing, but I really like the way you put it here. Makes the ideas visible.

  2. A very motivating post! Makes me want to be a writer:) Thanks for your lovely words.

  3. Michael:
    Visible ideas. Great turn of phrase. Thanks for making my weary afternoon better.

    Lady Gwen:
    Your words were a balm to me today. Thanks, Roland

  4. Great tips; love how you use the words of the masters in the craft.


  5. Well said. As writers it is our job to fill that void in people's lives. Personally, I write and read for the adventures I cannot have in my daily life.

  6. Megan Fox's cleavage - yes, that does get attention!
    Laughter is difficult. I didn't figure out a good way to handle it until my second book.
    Excellent tips and all framed by John Carter - perfect!

  7. Donna:
    Yes, the masters seem to best to be able to reach us where we struggle, don't they? Which is why I "ghosted" GHOST WRITERS IN THE SKY. LOL!

    You and me both. Victor says that if I crave death-defying adventures to live them myself and stop putting him into harm's way!!

    Can you tell I really liked JOHN CARTER! LOL! Drama some say is easier than laugther ... and since so many have distinctly different senses of humor, I can understand why. Roland

  8. I enjoyed reading this brilliant, insightful post.