So you can read my books

Friday, March 23, 2012


We are going into a savage arena as writers.

Just as surely as if we were gladiators, we are pitting ourselves up against seasoned professionals.

Not our blog compatriots. No. We're going up against Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and Saul Bellow.

Damn you say. You can say that again.

The agents to whom we send our queries will be trying to pitch to editors who publish those writers.

They don't want to put forward writing that is "pretty good." This isn't Hollywood where the deal is often colored by cocaine, studio politics, and the latest trend.

Our writing must be breathtaking.

Yeah, right. How do we get to that level? Practice.

Well, duh, you say. But practice in an area not comfortable to you. A literal kind of guy? Try writing poetry.

What? Yes, stretch muscles in your mind that you don't often use. Your prose tends to the purple? Imitate Hemingway for a two page flash fiction.

Descriptions flow from your pen easy?

Write an understandable scene with just dialogue. Dialogue comes natural? Tell a story like Hemingway without any. He did it in one short paragraph:

For sale new baby shoes. Never used.

Offer to critique someone else's writing. You may see habits of your own that deflate, pad, or interrupt the flow of the story.

Or you may see a way of writing that improves your own. Sometimes a good deed does get rewarded.

Read what you write. Remember what Stephen King said :

"If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that."

Take off the blinders:

Chuck the internal editor.

Just sit for a half hour and come up with the most outrageous plots, dialogue, and premises for novels that you can. Just have fun with the exercise. Then, for the next half hour see what you can make of the material your unconscious has given you.

Think of someone whose intelligence and taste you respect. Write your next chapter just for that person. Read that chapter aloud as if to that person, refining what you've written.

Consider your real audience: the agent:

Use short sentences in short paragraphs to ease the flow of the words the agent is trying digest. Small, well-cut bites don't choke.

But as with any meal, vary the menu:

Some long sentences for flavor. Some reflection for body. Small sentences in dialogue for spice.

Be proactive:
Your hero does things and is not acted upon. Active voice in your novel not passive. Don't break off abruptly.

Blend your transitions naturally. Use said with as few additives as possible. Instead of "he said happily" let the words of the dialogue say it for you.

Write as if each word cost you a penny:

Pennies add up. Lose as many adjectives and adverb as possible. Be lean in your prose.

Be brave:

Brave enough to question what the reader might believe. But diplomatic enough not to slap him in the face doing it. Have a map of where you want to go, but be brave enough to head off into new territory if your instincts say that is the way to go.

Be curious:

Try to retain or recapture that child-like sense of wonder and surprise at life. Ask yourself things a child might ask of you :

what happens when we sleep? Do you really know? Where do our thoughts come from? Do they come from inside our minds? What they were broadcast into them like radio waves? Where would those brain waves come from?

I hope this helped in some small way.



  1. I who dream of writing found this very enlightening. I write without my glasses but I can still read and this was good. Thanks.

  2. I both agree and disagree with you, Roland. Fabulous writing is sometimes discarded because the author has not hit upon the latest - and quite often - overdone trend. Sad but true.

    P.S. Gladiator is my all-time favorite movie. Great pic for illustration.

  3. Unfortunately, I do most of my writing in my head these days. I'm planning a vacation from blogger during April, so hopefully those ideas will populate a word document instead of my fondest wishes :)

    This is good advisce though.


  4. Great advice and they come just at the right time - I'm in the scary middle of my WIP. The bit I always get stuck in. I'm taking so many of your tips to heart, but the one I like best is "Write as if each word costs a penny". Thank you Roland!

  5. Gail:
    Thanks for liking this. I write with my glasses on to keep the headaches away!

    No doubt good writing is discarded due to elements outside our control. I only urge all of us to hone our skills to produce the best possible prose to hoopefully stand out from the crowd. Good luck on your soon to be released novel!!

    I have an autographed poster of GLADIATOR on my wall. I just found this photo from the movie. Great capture, isn't it?

    Many people are taking April off. Sometimes Blogging becomes a burden instead of a blessing. I wish you luck in your writing! I will miss you.

    I'm so happy that you found something useful in this post! Great good fortune in your writing.

  6. Capture the story that enthralled you as a child and make it your own.

  7. Alex:
    You and I have been doing just that, right?

  8. Those are some sage writing words. Thanks Roland!

  9. Ah yes, our competition... well unless they write their stories naked they too put their pants on one leg at a time. They can just afford nicer pants.