So you can read my books

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

A TO Z: B is for ...

Is for ...


"To get the right word in the right place is a rare achievement. 

To condense the diffused light of a page of thought into the luminous flash of a single sentence, 

is worthy to rank as a prize composition just by itself...

Anybody can have ideas --

the difficulty is to express them 

without squandering a quire of paper on an idea that ought to be reduced to one glittering paragraph."
- Mark Twain's Letter to Emeline Beach, 10 Feb 1868

 Ghost of Ernest Hemingway here ...

That jacknape Clemens has wandered off after starting like he did so often in his writing.

If you should be wondering what the definition of jacknape is:

1 a : an impudent or conceited fellow.
   b : a saucy or mischievous child.

 2 : monkey, ape.

Either version fits Clemens.


Surprisingly, Clemens used an image suitable to the times and the subject.

When you find yourself winding on and on in your novel, be kind to the reader: 

rewind and begin again to distill your chapter to its essence.

If you truly care about your subject, you will strive to make the reader care as well.

You do not do that by boring him.

In this shallow age of texting and news bites ...

readers skim.

They did that in my time with newspaper articles.

I wrote in short, crisp sentences so that even skimmers would get the gist of my story.

In my “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” when the protagonist is nearing death because of a gangrenous leg, 

I wrote: 

“All right. Now he would not care for death. One thing he had always dreaded was the pain.” 

 Here the short sentences have a cumulative effect, pounding home the idea that the hero is nearing death. 

Try to achieve a similar effect in your writing 

by stringing together a series of short sentences when you want to stress a point or add dramatic punch to your prose.

Is your prose bloated or lean?  


Intent or laziness?  


I am a ghost.  Your passions mean little to me.

The quality of your writing does ...

After all, if people stop reading for pleasure, who will read my novels?


  1. And of course we still read Twain and Hemingway, because they knew how to tell a story and with just the right words!

    And these have been more words of wisdom from you, Roland.

  2. Which is why I'm so fond of Hemingway. He made sure there was nothing superfluous in his sentences.

    1. Exactly. He taught us how to write with his writing and how NOT to live with his treatment of wives and friends! :-)

  3. Replies
    1. Our novels should be Banzai trees not bushes, right! :-)

  4. This is good advice. I always waffle on and on and then have to go and edit out a lot of unnecessary detail.