So you can read my books

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


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

-Mark Twain.}

Samuel Clemens, ghost here, to help Roland out a mite.

Seems the saw-bones has told the boy he has Bronchitis, is infectious, and has to lay off work a day or two.

'Course his supervisor told the boy that he couldn't infect nobody in a car, and Roland shoulda torn up that work release a'fore he showed it to him.

Roland insists that I do not record what I said when I stood next to the man. I will just leave it to your imaginations. Though the fella couldn't hear me, my remark made Roland smile at least.

Now, let me help you pilrims out a mite, too.

My quote next to my picture 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.

Franklin D. Roosevelt originally wrote in his famous speech of December 8, 1941 "a date that will live in history." Later the President scratched out "history" and instead wrote "infamy."

And that line still rings down the corridors of time.

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. Thanks Mark Twain's ghost! Real pearls of wisdom.

  2. M Pax : Samuel is always ready to help or laugh -- whichever is easiest!

  3. I've waited so long for this advice and then I had to get it from a ghost!

  4. L'Aussie : That's life for you ... and afterlife! Good to see you again. Have a great Wednesday!

  5. The wisdom of the dead. (= Totally dug it, man.
    "What I like in a good author is not what he says, but what he whispers."


  6. Thanks, Jo. Good seeing you here again.

  7. I'm glad I stopped to read this.... I try to keep up with you, but I fall back sometimes.

    I just love the way you give great advise by turning it into a story. You make learning so much FUN! Your students must have loved you when you taught.

    Excellent job, Roland.


  8. Michael : I still have students call out to me when I'm walking through the mall or a store to tell me how much they enjoyed my classes. It makes my day when they do! Have a great Wednesday, Roland

  9. Ah yes, I love Mark Twain's writings and clever sayings. I've heard the "very/damn" bit before; that word doesn't seem to be one of my pet words as a writer, but I have others! (like...but) LOL

  10. Carol, we all have our words we need to prune from overuse. It usually takes an outside eye to see them though. Thanks for dropping by!

  11. Hi Roland .. I love your point one .. "talk to the heart of your listener - and you will never go wrong".

    .. and point 5: "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".

    How true are these points .. I'm only realising this now - and it's fascinating reading others' words and learning more of the this process .. thanks Roland - you've set it out so clearly ..

    Hope you feel better soon .. cheers Hilary

  12. Hi, Hilary : Point One may just be my favorite of Samuel's. I'm glad you liked it as well. The heart spurs us to read, feeling starved from the day's demands. If we can read something that nourishes it, we often feel recharged. Have a great Thursday, Roland