So you can read my books

Thursday, January 24, 2013

WHEN A BEST SELLER AIN'T A GOOD READ_ghost of Mark Twain here

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

-Mark Twain.}

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

Seems the saw-bones told the boy he has worn himself near to exhaustion and should take it easier for a day or two.

Well, I was standing right next to him, stretched out and looking all peaked, so I volunteered to do today's post.

And I think my little cyber-column might help out you pilrims a mite, too. After all, I was a newspaper man a'fore I became the great literary genius the world knows and loves.

Now, on to my gem of a post:

My quote next to my picture seems a bit self-evident, don't it?

Well, just read THE PASSAGE by that Justin Cronin fella or THE TONGUES OF SERPENTS.

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 about 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. I'll even share a few with you :

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.) 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. I have mastered less is more, for better or worse.
    That includes blog comments as well as novels.

  2. Alex:
    As many comments as you leave, you had to do that for self-preservation!

    Less is more happens to be hard for me! :-)

    Thanks for visiting!! Roland

  3. Liked what you (Mark)said about 'many praise classics, but don't read them'. Many also avoid classics because they've chosen the hardest ones to plow through or they read about an era in which they have little interest.

    I mix up my reading interests, but I always have a few classics waiting. I have several modern books to finish-ebooks, and a Hemingway, a Gabaldon, and an Atwood that's on the go.

    Thanks for the guest post, Mark, enjoyed it. Hope Roland is feeling better soon.

  4. D.G.:
    Yes, there are so many "classics" which still are entertaining to modern readers. THE WAR OF THE WORLDS, WAR AND PEACE, GREAT EXPECTATIONS, FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS, and so many others.

    Mark is always ready to spell me. I just need to sleep through my next day off -- the date of which as my strange luck would have it, I don't know yet! :-)

  5. Writing from our guts. Yes, I agree it produces some of the best results.

  6. Candy:
    Our instincts will seldom lead us false. Thanks for visiting and commenting! :-)