So you can read my books

Saturday, November 23, 2013


It is a magical world like Calvin says.

But often our prose is not magical ... it's murderous.

We have so much we want to say that sometimes it just tumbles forth onto the page

in great chunks of blocky sentences becoming an avalanche of numbing paragraphs.

1.) Write like someone is listening ... not reading.

a.) You wouldn't go up to a person and say:

"Although the complexities of stintilating prose can be easily comprehended, they are often misunderstood by today's beginning writers."

b.) Why not?

1.) People would stop listening almost at once, their eyes glazing over.

2.) We would bewilder them with blunt instruments of prose.

3.) We would bore them ... and we never want to bore an agent or potential buyer of our prose!

SOLUTION: Write short, easily understood sentences with equally short words. As in a more digestible sentence : "Writing riveting prose is easily understood if taught correctly."


Read your work aloud, page by page. You will hear flaws you never thought you'd written.

Print out your work. Look at the page. Is it filled with two huge, impossibly long paragraphs? Break them up into easier to digest paragraphs and sentences.


Never play "Hide and Seek" with the subject of your sentence.

1.) Be upfront with your subject, not putting rows of rail cars in front of your locomotive.

2.) No corollary things about your subject first.

3.) Get to your subject as quickly as you can in your sentence.

NOT: Heavily burdened by accepting the huge debts of Fannie Mae, the U.S. Treasury is reaching critical financial mass.

BUT: The U.S. Treasury faces bankruptcy due to its accepting trillions of dollars of debt from Fannie Mae.


When you want to build tension or expectation:

"Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings with a single bound --

 Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird; it's a plane.

No, it's Superman!"
The writer had a reason to withhold the subject. The subject is the punchline.

THAT is my short lesson in writing better. Now, go out and play in the snow.


  1. Really miss that strip. It and The Far Side both ended too soon.
    Write as if you are telling someone the story in person - that makes it so much more personable.

  2. Alex:
    John Steinbeck did that with his essays. He wrote "Letters To Alice" with his friend in mind even though she was dead -- he knew her so well, he knew how whaet would interest her. Yes, both those strips ended way too soon. Sigh.

  3. I'm a big fan of reading out loud to identify prose problems and dialogue foibles. I find it a great help.

    Hope your weekend and your Thanksgiving Day are great, unless you're covering work again for others. But that's a form of giving thanks too.

  4. I say speak out loud as you write your stories. Of course, your pets and spouses may think you're crazy.

    Happy Thanksgiving, Roland!

    Hugs and chocolate!

  5. Good lesson, Roland. I always "listen" to what I write, in my head at least. If it doesn't sound right, I rewrite until it does... :-)

  6. D.G.:
    I'm working, of course, this cold, wet weekend. Brrr. You guessed it about my Thanksgiving. It doesn't long to eat a frozen turkey dinner after all. I write my dialogue aloud, too -- which causes people to stare at me when they stumble upon me when I think the building is empty! :-) Happy Thanksgiving to you in Canada!!

    My cat, Snowball, knows I am crazy anyway!! May your Thanksgiving me grand!!

    Yes, it has to have a natural rhythm or out it goes for me, too!! :-)

  7. Reading our work aloud is SO important. I hear all manner of mistakes that way; really helps me clean things up during the revision stage.

  8. Milo:
    Sometimes I scare myself by what mistakes I hear! :-)

  9. That is an excellent lesson in writing. It was short, sweet and powerful! The importance of reading out loud can't be stressed enough.

  10. Thanks, Jenn:
    Now, if I could just get James Earl Jones to read the dialogue for my villain! :-)