So you can read my books

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


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."

SOLUTION : 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.

SOLUTION : 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.

EXCEPTION : 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. Or K.I.S.S. - keep it short stupid!
    I can't abide writers who take 30 words to say what could be done in 15.

    Great post.

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  2. Thanks, Ellie. Hope your day is magical, Roland

  3. I have a tendency to ramble - so reading that I need to keep it short is always GREAT advice for me. Thanks!

  4. wonderful advice Roland. I have difficulty with class assignments that include flowery words as descriptions. Academically they want flavor, but in the writing world, they want short and sweet

  5. This is great, Roland,

    I learned and am still learning to economize your words.


  6. I love this idea! It makes so much sense. If people wouldn't listen to it, they wouldn't read it. Thank you! Sometimes the most simple explanation totally escapes us.

  7. makes sense to me...
    good post, Roland.

  8. Ah, Calvin and Hobbes. Good for so many life lessons.

  9. Terry & Su : It's hard to beat Calvin And Hobbes, isn't it?

    Imagery Imagined : Glad my post helped in some small way. Good to see you again.

    Heather : That you enjoyed my listening idea made my evening. I try to hang a sign post along the way as I learn the ropes myself. LOL.

    Michael : I'm still learning to economize my words. None of us ever get it down pat. Not even Hemingway. Oh, oh. His ghost just scowled at me.

    Summer : One of the hardest things I had to do in the university was write what was approved, though I knew it ran counter to my good sense. But you have to make those grades. Sigh. Life. Well, it beats the alternative! LOL.

    Donea : I tend to ramble, too. So I guess we're kindred spirits, right?

  10. Good point about the punchline and the ordering of the sentences. Hey, I like the numbering here--it makes the post easier to read. :) Love the bit about playing Hide and Seek with the subject of a sentence, as well as bewildering readers with "blunt instruments of prose." :o)