So you can read my books

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


{" A tale shall accomplish something and arrive somewhere."

-Mark Twain.}

Samuel Clemens, ghost here, to help you pilgrims.

My above quote seems a bit self-evident, don't it?


Both meander worse than a sluggish Mississippi at ebb tide.

But they got published you wail. I was wailing, too ... after I read them.

Sure they got published ... after a string of good writing by said authors.

But Cronin pushed his readers at a distance with page after page after page of narrative summary. Leave the lecturing for the classroom, Justin.

Naomi Novak, poor girl, just seemed to lose her fire, having no danger, no crisis breathing down the neck of her heroes. She managed the impossible : she made a book on dragons boring.

I struggled like you pilgrims to get published. I learned my craft in the newspapers at which I worked one after another clear across this nation.

And I learned a few rules :

1.) The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say.

Ever hear two people tell the same joke? Both tell it differently. One always tells it better.

One tears it from his guts. The other pulls it out of his overcoat pocket. Talk to the heart of your listener, and you will never go wrong.

2.) Told or unfold?

Histories belong in the classroom. Novels are the place for scenes.

A scene takes place before the reader's eyes. He sees the mysterious stranger being feared, not being told what a hoodoo he is. Your hero runs down the alley, ducking zinging bullets.

The reader sees it happen. He isn't told about it after the fact.

3.) What I like in a good author is not what he says, but what he whispers.

I've read a good bit of what passes for novels these days. They're leaner and meaner. No more Norman Rockwell, exact details down to the slightest freckle.

Novels today are impressionistic like the paintings or a film by that Hitchcock fellow. Why, the most horrific story I ever heard centered on a monster only hinted at, never seen clear ... and the more fearsome because of that.

4.) Substitute "damn" every time you're inclined to write "very;" your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.

Less is more when it comes to writing. If you hit the poor reader over the head with your point, you'll blunt your point and won't do much for the reader either.

5.) The best words are actions.

What did that Anton Chekhov fellow write?

Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.

Actions pulls your reader into the flow of the story. Preambling just shoves him back to being a distant observer, not a participant.

Give the reader the taste of the wind, the feel of the grit in the badly cooked food, and the ache of a broken heart.

For me, a page of good prose is where one hears the rain and the noise of the battle.

No second-hand prose. Draw the reader into the sound and feel of the actions. He will forget he is reading. He will become a part of the world you have created.

6.) The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.

The amateur writer draws attention to himself ...

why, isn't that a beautiful description I've just pounded you over the head with for five pages?

The professional author knows that to draw the reader's attention to himself with mechanics is to draw it away from the story.

You want the reader to be so absorbed in your world that they're not even aware you, the writer, exists.

7.) Writing, I think, is not apart from living.

In fact, writing is a kind of double living. The writer experiences everything twice.

Once in reality and once in that mirror which waits always before or behind.


  1. I love your second point, Roland. Or, to take your advice:

    Elena scrolls through Roland's newest post. Her eyes zig-zag like a gazelle running from a lion as she absorbs the words. Her lips edge toward the ceiling, forming a smile.

    "This is brilliant," she says.

  2. Elena : Action makes the best comments, too. Thanks for bringing a smile to my face on this too-short noon break.

  3. I can't abide books that don't have enough action in them. It's what really influences what I think of someone's writing--if there's action or if it's just people doing . . . ordinary things.

  4. This is what I strive for in everything I write. I edit until my eyes water.

  5. Told or this one. This is so true and so hard of a habit to get into. Great advice today, Roland.

    Edge of Your Seat Romance

  6. Especially loved #3, what the writer whispers. Well put.

    Great advice. Thanks! Loved the vid quotes, too:)

  7. These are always worth remembering - especially no. 5 for me!

    Thank you!
    Take care

  8. I cannot tell a joke. I'm terrible at it. What I am good at is playing off what other people say....

    This is, as always, chock full of fantastic and usable advice.

    Sometimes I can't get anywhere because the word I've used isn't right. I search for synonyms over and over till I find one. Then, I try to find the right one from there....

    Hope your week is treating you well....

  9. Great advice, as usual! Especially love #4! I have a little surprise for you, over at my place, cher! Cheers!

  10. Excellent post, Roland. Show don't tell, keep it simple and less is more. I think even Papa would agree with Samuel.

  11. "Ever hear two people tell the same joke? Both tell it differently. One always tells it better."

    So true. Very inspiring.