So you can read my books

Wednesday, May 25, 2016


Ghost of Mark Twain here ...

I'm here to help Roland out a mite.  The trouble with his posts?

They're too dang long!  

By the time I get to Point #17 I've done forgot the first five!

Roland, take notes, son.  Here is how it is done ...

There was never a time in the last 40 years I wrote 

when my literary shipyard hadn't two or more unfinished ships on the way, neglected and baking in the sun.

This has an unbusinesslike look, but it was not purposeless.  It was intentional.

As long as a book would write itself, I was a faithful suitor, and my industry did not flag.

But the minute the book tried to shift to my head the contrivings of its situations, 

inventing its adventures, 

and conducting its conversations, 

I put it away and dropped it out of my mind.

It was by accident that I discovered that a book is pretty sure to get tired about its middle 

and refuse to go on until its powers and its interest should have been refreshed by a rest

 and its depleted stock of raw materials reinforced by a lapse of time. 

When I reached the middle of TOM SAWYER, I could not understand why I could not go on with it.

The reason was simple: 

My tank had run dry.  It was empty; the stock of material in it exhausted.

The story could not go on without materials.  It could not be wrought out of nothing.

When the manuscript had lain in a pigeonhole for two years, I took it out one day and read the last chapter I had written.

It was then that I made the great discovery that when the tank runs dry, you've only to leave it alone for a spell ... 

even for so small a time as a good night's sleep to awaken to discover your tank has filled while you dreamed.

See, children?  A short post but you still learned something important.  

But be kind to Roland.  He ain't achieved ghosthood yet.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Sorry I had to delete my earlier comment-- a couple typos meant it made no sense.

    And I'm GLAD you haven't achieved ghosthood yet, Roland!

    It does help to set a manuscript aside before going back to it with fresh eyes. But I've also found that when I sharpen my focus on the theme, that tells me how the story must end, which in turn tells me what must happen in the middle of the story.

    1. It's also good to have a basic idea of where your novel will end so that you can work towards that horizon all through the chapters. :-)

  3. I've only ever written articles and short fiction, but am now embarking on my first book (non-fiction about my life in Fiji) so I shall know what to do if my tank runs dry during my journey. Thank you!

    Susan A Eames at
    Travel, Fiction and Photos

    1. From Mark Twain to Hemingway to Neil Gaiman, the middle is where you book will start to "sag." :-) Just like with us humans!!

  4. Hi Roland - I am going to concur with Helena - glad the ghosthood hasn't grabbed you quite yet! Be around a while for us to continue to learn from ...

    Take care and all the best - Hilary

    1. I certainly want to avoid ghosthood for as long as I can! :-)

  5. Well, we don't want you to achieve ghosthood anytime soon.
    Evening running dry between projects can occur. Just need a break.

    1. The break can keep us from a breakdown! Best of luck with your next project. :-)

  6. Yes, been there. Sometimes all a manuscript needs is a little time away.

    1. Just like with some couples. I think some marriages last because the husband is away a part of the day!! :-)

  7. (sound of clapping). Regardless of length, you hold my imagination and attention long beyond the norm. Whatever 'norm' is.