So you can read my books

Friday, May 18, 2012



A co-worker showed me a picture of her grandson in his graduation robes. He was graduating from Pre-K! 

She let me know that when he finished kindergarten, there would be another graduation ceremony! Isn’t graduation reserved for the completion of training?

But for writers there are no graduation days for we never complete our apprenticeship.

Hey!  Ernest what are you doing?

Ghost of Ernest Hemingway here. I just had to push Roland away from the keyboard. Let me get to the point of the matter before some of you start drawing Social Security.

Writing is something that you can never do as well as it can be done. It is a perpetual challenge, and it is more difficult than anything else I have ever done -- which is why I do it.

And it makes me happy when I do it well. And after each novel, I feared I would never write as well again.

That is why I loved to cover war as a journalist. Every day and each night, there was a strong possibility that I would get killed and not have to write.

 Writing is like a disease. I have to write to be happy whether I get paid for it or not. And that makes it worse. That changes it from a disease to a vice.

And then I want to do it better than anybody has ever done it which makes it into an obsession. Even though I am dead, I still write. Look at me here in this computer journal.

You ask me: how do I make my writing better.  I will tell you.

The trouble with most fiction churned out these days is that it is as flat as a photograph. Your novel has to be rounded and resonate with depth.

You do that by filling your prose with truth. Truth rings inside the mind of the reader. He believes not your story but the truth of the characters in that story.

 Cliche is not truth.

We all know that war is bad. Yet, sometimes it is necessary to fight. Even then, it is bad, destroying something precious inside those who survive. Writing is a form of war. And you will not emerge from your novel the same as you were before starting it.

But before you can finish a novel you must start it. And sometimes starting is the hardest thing about your novel.

Other times, the hardest thing is to continue. At the start, it is all juice and kick to the writer. But you use up all the juice and the kick goes.

That is where your heart either saves you or gives up on you.

Sometimes when I was starting a new story, I would sit in front of the fire and squeeze the peel of the little oranges I love into the edge of the flame. I'd watch the sputter of blue they made and look out over the roofs of Paris.

I would whisper, "You have always written before, and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know."

I would do just that. Because there is always one true sentence you know or have seen or have heard someone say that rang in your mind.

Still struggling? Get into somebody else's head for a change. If someone yells at you, try to figure what that person is thinking about as well as how you feel.

Study people. Especially arguing people.

Don't think who is right. As humans we naturally think of things as they should or should not be. As a human, you know who is right, and who is wrong. You have decisions to make and actions to take.

Be more than human. Be a writer. Do not judge. A writer understands. Or if he doesn't understand, he struggles to understand or to understand his lack of comprehension.

That is the difference between a hack and a writer. A hack memorizes what people say around him. A writer listens.

Hardly anybody listens any more. Worse. Hardly anybody observes.

When you come out of a room, you should be able to describe everything you saw there and what feelings that room gave you. And you should know exactly what it was that gave you that feeling.

Practice it. You're standing in a line at the movies or at the grocery store -- observe and understand what it is that you saw.

See how people get out of taxi's or cars. How do women look at strange men, at their husbands, at their children. There are thousands of ways to practice.

Start doing it today. And always think of other people: their actions, their expressions as they do them. Do that for a month, and you will become a better writer.

Remember writing fiction is an interior affair. Fiction must always keep a private address. Nothing was ever learned in a crowd. The deepest truths are those we mine from the solitude of our thoughts.


  1. Midnight in Paris, loved that movie and do so love it when Ernest pays you a visit. My belief is that writing is an addiction, I guess that would be just another form of disease. We are all cursed with some form or another.

  2. Resonate with depth, I love that. Ah Ernest, always filled with wonderful wisdom. ;)

  3. I'll observe some people tonight at the movies!
    And I'm not quite to the point of hoping I'll die so I don't have to write another book.

  4. This post is just utter brilliance. Go Ernest :)

    It's funny you should say that about graduating, as I was watching an interview with Ian McEwan today (yes, procrastinating: and was outraged that he believed creative writing programs should only be undertaken by graduates! And that undergraduates taking creative writing programs creates "mass ignorance". Prick. Sorry, rant over. I shall endeavour to be more observant when I'm out and about, thank you Roland and Ernest! :)

  5. I people watch. As an author, you need to do that. It's the fodder for your next character.

    It's also the details that matter, and the more interesting, the better!

    - Eric

  6. Siv:
    All of us touched by a dream are in some form of fever, right? I like MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, too!

    Ernest certainly has a way with words ... and scowls (he gives me enough of them!)

    Old Ernest is always going for the melodramtic when talking of himself! I hope you enjoy BATTLESHIP! Let us know what you think of it, all right?

    His is just one voice. Yours has as much to speak and live your belief as he does! I taught creative writing for a time to high school seniors. They seemed to benefit from it.

    Sometimes I think people watching came first for me, and I tried to make sense of what I saw by putting it down on the written page. Thanks for visiting, Roland

  7. Hi Roland. I love you posts on writing, this and the previous ones too. I always enjoy you channelling one of my faves, Ernest H. We can all learn so much from him and the 'one true sentence'. I think his being a war correspondent helped his prose as he knew how to make every word count.

    Sorry to hear you've had a bad week at work. That happens, but you get over it. You're in your own war at times, aren't you?

    Also, don't miss the opportunity to post a direct link to one of your April posts for the latest RFW challenge, currently happening. Find one you especially liked and repost the direct link. Not enough people got to read our A-Z posts as they were up for such a short time.

    The linky is up on my blog too.


  8. The telephone company exiling me from the internet at home due to thier incompetence and indifference has gone on for nearly a month!

    Sorry I haven't made it to your blog. All of my posts April were about my novels, and I think everyone is a little tired of hearing about them! :-)

    I'm glad you liked Ernest's little post of advice on how to write a little better, Roland