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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

ONE TRUE WORD for the Insecure Writers' Support Group

"All you have to do is write one true sentence.
Write the truest sentence you know."
- Ernest Hemingway

But how to do that?

Hemingway always worked until he had something done, and he always stopped when he knew what was going to happen next. That way he could be sure of going on the next day.

But how to write that true sentence?

A "true" sentence, according to Frank Barone:
shows instead of tells
uses sense words
uses active verbs
does not use the following forms of the verb "to be": is; are; was; were; has, have, had been.

But, of course, there is more :

"How little we know of what there is to know. I wish that I were going to live a long time instead of going to die today because I have learned much about life in these four days; more, I think than in all other time.

I'd like to be an old man to really know. I wonder if you keep on learning or if there is only a certain amount each man can understand. I thought I knew so many things that I know nothing of. I wish there was more time."
— Ernest Hemingway (For Whom the Bell Tolls)

More time.

But that is just it. None of us know how much time we have. How best to use what little we have.

What do we know? Is it true? How do we know for sure?

Evocative prose is no one's mother tongue. It has to be won through the trials of life and pen. And that takes the most precious of commodities : time.

Steve Job, who birthed APPLE and whose passing we still mourn, said this :

“Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life.

Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice.

And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

Live your dream with everything you have. Submit that novel without fear. If it is rejected, you are no worse off than before. You have grown through the experience.

Friends write me worried that agents or editors will steal their ideas. A great writer does not have to worry, for he writes in a manner that no one can imitate. Take the plot, yes. But not the manner in which it unfolds.

Because his sentences are true sentences. They reflect his truth, his hopes, his dreams, his fears. And so the story is HIS in a way no other could write it.

If you had to write the truest sentence you know, what would it be?


  1. Thanks for these truly inspirational quotes, as well as the terrific tips! You really packed a lot in one post which will serve as an excellent reference tool. Julie

  2. Thanks Roland, those quotes and words of support are just what I needed right now. Sue

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  4. What lovely words! Thank you Roland - being true to oneself and following heart and instinct - the best thing you could do to yourself! Take care

  5. This post is going up on my wall of inspiration. Thank you!

  6. The best sentence I know might not make any sense at all. The best in me is who I am, not what I do.

    And yes, time goes by to fast to worry and fear. Let's just do what needs to be done. Risk is just the first step through the doorway. :)

  7. Excellent post, Roland, but I'd really have to think about that "true sentence".

  8. Julie :
    To ponder quotes of great men is to think thoughts born outside your brain, and I believe your own mind grows as a result. I'm glad you got something useful out of this post. Come and chat again, Roland

    Sue :
    Then, I am happy that I chose today to post this if it helped you a bit. May the road ahead be smoother for you.

    Mooderino :
    Great to see you here again. Writing is a lonely occupation. I thought all of us could use a pat on the back from those who have gone on before.

    Kitty :
    Your kind words made my morning. If we are not true to ourselves, we live with a lie at the center of ourselves. How hollow a walk that is! Come visit and talk again, Roland

    E. Arroyo :
    That this is something you want to remember is a balm to a bad morning for me. Thanks.

    Laila :
    It's a riddle : we are more than what we do, but what we do long enough we become. Good to see you here again.

    Wendy :
    True sentences are hard. I guess that is why really good novels are so rare. Have a great day today!

  9. I don't want to attempt any better sentence than to thank you for your inspirational words. Great post.

  10. Excellent point. I may never write long enough to excel at my prose, but may what I write now entertain others.
    And my truest sentence - I aspire to be remembered by what I did for others, rather than what I did for myself.

  11. Thanks, The Desert Rocks :
    Sometimes the best words are actions and a friend's heart. Thanks for being my friend, Roland

    Alex :
    That is a great true sentence. We are measured by our aspirations, true, but like I said above : sometimes our best words are our actions. Thanks for visiting and staying to chat, Roland

  12. Very inspirational post, Roland, thank you. I don't believe there can be a true sentence, per se, because one man's truth is another man's lie. A separate truth exists within each of us. That's why it's important we follow our hearts and not end up living (and writing) somebody else's truth.

  13. That is certainly true for literature. Yet, I believe there are bedrock truths. Like it is always going to be wrong to repay a kindness with a meanness or to stab a friend in the back.

    I know the world disagrees with how many wives a man should have, but I believe it is all agreed worldwide it is wrong to have another's wife.

    Your replies are as thought-provoking as your posts. Thanks, Roland

  14. Wendy :
    Well, when I think of you, I can think of a better word : friend. Thanks for being mine, Roland