So you can read my books

Saturday, March 30, 2013


"At the age of fourteen

I discovered writing as an escape from a world of reality

in which I felt acutely uncomfortable."

- TENNESSEE WILLIAMS, Forward to Sweet Bird of Youth

*) Tennessee gives us the first clue:

Readers usually first discover the world of books for the same reason Tennessee found the realm of creating his own worlds:

Something was lacking in their daily lives.

Like the hunt for the mythical will-o-wisp, the hunt for the fulfillment of that lack drives them even today to read.

In childhood, we often feel different, feel outside the group, feel weak, and feel unloved.

Those same ghosts haunt many into their adult lives.

Give readers a protagonist that they can identify with,

whose goals and hurts echo their own,

and dangle the fulfillment of those aims in front of them being threatened

 -- well, you've certainly gotten their attention.

Which brings us to the real number one.

1.) Learn the lesson of Madonna:

Before you can get them to read your book, you have to get the reader to pick it up.

Your Title:

When Madonna chose her name it was controversial, attention-getting, and short.

Same for the title of your book.

It must be short, grab the eye from the endless titles on the book shelves, and be jarring:




Tell me you wouldn't at least pick up those books to flip a page or two.

Which leads to our second path to Best Read of the Year.

2.) Each page may be your reader's last.

Think channel surfing.

Have you ever surfed the TV, just listening for a second to each program you passed?

One would have a snippet of dialogue so jarring or funny or both that you just had to stay and watch.

Another would have a scene so riveting,

you leaned in close on the edge of your seat to see what would happen next,

hoping to be able to catch on to the story as it progressed.

Each page of your novel has to be like that.

You have to turn the browser into the buyer.

You have to keep the reader burning to turn the next page. Arthur Miller has a clue to how we can do that:

"One had the right to write because other people needed news of the inner world,

and if they went too long without such news they would go mad with the chaos of their lives."

- ARTHUR MILLER, "The Shadows of the Gods"

3.) Be like Megan Fox's plunging cleavage or minuscule hem line: eye magnets.

Suspense. You have to keep them guessing. How?

4.) Sow the dragon's teeth, water, then reap the deadly harvest:

a.) Show a ring of black mushrooms in the neighbor's yard in whose center lies your MC's dead cat.

b.) A little later have your neighbors invite your MC to dinner. They are eating those black mushrooms stewed. Your MC politely declines that item on the menu.

c.) A few chapters later, the rings of black mushroom are in everybody's yard but hers. And everybody has stopped talking to her.

d.) One evening as she's coming back from her nightly jog, she sees a mob of zombie-like neighbors trudging to her door, each carrying a tray of those black mushrooms.

You get the idea:
Suggest a puzzling problem. Let it blossom strangely. Have the harvest come out of the darkness to threaten your MC.

5.) "When a good writer is having fun,

the audience is almost always having fun too."

- STEPHEN KING, Entertainment Weekly, Aug. 17, 2007

Make the readers laugh.

The laughter will make the following harrowing adventures that much more intense.

Work to give your characters one-liners that the reader will repeat to her friends.

Making your readers chuckle along with your heroes will endear them to her. So when one cries or makes the ultimate sacrifice for the others, the reader will mourn as if for a real person.

Your novel will have the semblance of real life even if it is a fantasy or horror story.

Humor is the glue that holds the reader to the next page:

"As we understand it, the surest way to make a living by the pen is to raise pigs."

- ROBERT ELLIOTT GONZALES, Poems and Paragraphs

6.) Don't forget the music:

"To me the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it's about, but the music the words make."
- Truman Capote

Have each page contain a paragraph of prose that rolls like billowing fog in the awakening dawn, catching the heartstrings of the reader.

"I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions."
- James Michener

"In conversation you can use timing, a look, an inflection.

But on the page all you have is commas, dashes, the amount of syllables in a word.

When I write, I read everything out loud to get the right rhythm."

- Fran Lebowitz {Which is great advice.}

7.) Love is not a four letter word in writing.

Most readers live loveless lives in this country. Sometimes the loneliest people in America are the married ones.

At least give them the dream that real love can exist between two intelligent people.

Give them love that survives the bed sheets and goes with the couple into their daily lives.

Give that loving couple struggles that draw them together not pry them apart.

A true, lasting love is like driving a car at night.

You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.
Say a prayer for Neil Gaiman.  He lost his beloved dog late last year.  Now, his beloved cat is dying.  I know how that can hurt:
to lose so many close to you in such a short time.


"Princess, my old, old old cat, is coming to the end of her life. She's somewhere over 20, but we do not know how much over 20 she is, as she was living wild in the woods for at least a year before she decided to live in our house instead. Right now she's in the bathroom in the attic, beside the space heater, sleeping most of the time.

This is her on my lap last night. (From

For D.G. who couldn't see my video:


  1. Oh goodness - so much great advice. I think I'm going to have to print this post and have it by my desk! Thanks :)

  2. Roland:

    In my next life, I'm going to marry you....LOL! Loved this!


    Hugs and chocolate,

  3. Real love and real friendship.
    Simple short titles - got that one down pat.

  4. Can't view the trailer, says 'not made available for my country by the uploader'. Tut-tut.

    Always good advice, Roland, write for the reader, and reading out loud - two things I try to do.

  5. Laura:
    You made my afternoon when I read your comment! Thanks for the boost. With my down-sizing blood center who is keeping us in the dark until June, I needed it.

    Oh, sure, make my next life come sooner by me getting killed by a jealous husband! :-)

    I'm happy you liked this. Thanks for tweeting it, Roland

    As Goliath said, "If you can't be short, be striking." :-) But I think he was talking about something else!

    And your short titles blend into a triad whole: great thinking.

    I gave you the trailer to the direct sequel to PITCH BLACK that's coming out this year as an apology for that other trailer!

    Following my own advice sometimes is very hard! LOL.

  6. Thanks, I like Riddick! But not the dark. . .

  7. D.G.:
    I thought you'd like that trailer. Riddick might be different in the dark with a pretty lady ... but he gives you that uneasy vibe that maybe he wouldn't, right? :-)