So you can read my books

Monday, October 14, 2013


Consider buying for a mere 99 cents, pilgrim:
Now at #77 in Amazon's Top 100!
Oh, all right, Hemingway!
Here!  Have at it!

{There is nothing to writing.

All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

- Ernest Hemingway.}

Ghost of Papa here again.

VR Barkowski

wrote an intriguing post about this lemming event that happens every November.  Really popular among you novice writers

I caught Roland shaking his head over NaNo or NoMo or NoNoNanettes

or whatever you people call it as he read VR's post.

I told him that it was the Litmus Test to determine the Dreamers from the Determined.

Gentle people, writing is not a group hug affair.

It is lonely, hard, and demands discipline.

You build a hovel when you just slap boards together as fast and as many as possible.

Same for a novel. You take 25 words, distilling them into 15 or 10. You agonize over 400 true words a day not 4,000.

Raymond Carver had it right when he said good writing demands brevity and intensity. Those elements are distilled not vomited.

Be NoNoNanettes if you choose. Or BOO-hooers when you read a month later what you felt so thrilled about in the high of creation.

But if your goal is to be a good writer, you must eskew the month long frenzy of throwing words together to get a semblance of a novel.

You wail it is popular. Are you a lemming? 

You pout that it is only a month.

A month where you will be teaching yourself destructive writing habits.

A writer will have to sacrifice much to craft (notice my word) a novel. Let your sacrifices be for a novel that will take the reader's breath away.

Children, if you choose to write, write well. And how do you do that you pout. Here are the secrets:


Secret #1:
There aren't any secrets.

Secret #2:
There is only one secret :

The only secret to good writing is that it is poetry written into prose, and it is the hardest of all things to do.

But I will try to see if I can't share a bit of what I've learned. We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.

And if you are reading this at night, it will mean something different than if you are reading this in the day. I know the night is not the same as the day:

that all things are different, that the things of the night cannot be explained in the day,

because they do not then exist, and the night can be a dreadful time for lonely people once their loneliness has started.

There are no secrets to good writing. But there is a compass:

No sentimentality allowed.

There is no sentimentality in prose that touches the heart.

Sounds like nonsense. It isn't.

Sentimentality, sympathy, and empathy are turned inwards, not restrained, but vibrant below and beyond the level of fact and fable.

If you would touch your reader, find what gave you a similar emotion:

what the action was that gave you the excitement. Then write it down making it clear so the reader will see it too and have the same feeling as you had.

No secrets. No sentimentality. Yet, there are rules:

Rule #1
Writing is re-writing.

The first draft of anything is shit. Get the draft done, then sculpt away anything that is excess.

Rule #2
In fiction as in life: you can't go back.

The reason most sequels, films or books, fail is that the author tries to unscramble the egg. The hero has changed, has learned, has become something other.

Rule #3

Good books belong to the reader.

The reader will identify with your protagonist if you've been honest.

The tale then belongs to him:
the good and the bad, the ecstasy and the remorse and the sorrow. He will have felt the air on his cheek, smelled the bread baking on the breeze, and how the weather was.

He will feel that it has happened to him.

Rule #4
Talent is not enough.

It doesn't matter if you have the talent of Kipling.
You must also have the discipline of Flaubert if you would become a good writer. Dreamers dream pipe dreams. Writers write. Writers grow in their craft.

Rule #5
Know everything.

No bullshit. And if you would be a writer, you must develop a foolproof shit detector.

A good writer must know everything. Naturally, he will not. That is why you must read.

Mr. King was right when he said that if you do not have time to read, you have no business being a writer.

Read fiction. Read non-fiction. Read psychology texts. Read biographies, autobiographies. Become a student of life.

Good writing is true writing.

If a man is making up a story, it will be true in proportion to the amount of knowledge he has about life and how conscientious he is:

so that when he makes something up, it is as it would truly be.

Sit down and think about what I've written. Look over what you last wrote. Slash and burn what is excess.

Sermon over. Now, sit down and write something.
I like Jesse Cook. Don't cock those eyes at me. An old ghost can like new music.

Jesse would have developed a real following in pre-Castro Cuba.

Roland even used this tune in his END OF DAYS in the chapter
THERE IS NO FAIL, where a chopper fights a swarm of attacking dragons of all things!


  1. I know the scene of which you speak. Good to know the music behind the action.

    I'm not a Nano'er, for several of the reasons mentioned, but I can see many have a soft spot for it. Some writers work better in a group where they receive reciprocal-based encouragement and others prefer to work on their own.

    I've mentioned before, Roland, that it seems we have more experts than students.

  2. D.G.:
    If Hemingway always considered himself a student of writing, I know I certainly am!

    Ever see something made by committee? Shiver. All the great writers felt they had to produce their work alone until they were finished when they gave it to those few they trusted.

    Check your email. The transcript of your interview with me at Meilori's is heading your way. :-)

  3. Foolproof shit detector - funny!
    I didn't do it for the group hug. I did it because I'm a lazy writer and needed something to motivate me. I'm also a very slow writer - 350 words an hour at my fastest. The magic for me is in the editing phase, but I need something to get me to that point.
    I'm also a planner. I spent more time on the outline for my last book than I did the writing and editing.
    My second book came from NaNo and my third from BuNo. It works for me and my style of writing.

  4. Excellent post as always.

    Hugs and chocolate,

  5. Bleed we do. Many phases of the process are very painful. The discipline is a must.

  6. Going to have to disagree with the ghost on NaNo. ;) It works for me - I don't do it 'cause it's popular, either. I do it 'cause it works for me. It gives me something to work on later, something I didn't have to work on before NaNo started. Of course, I do have to work on actually revising my 11 complete novels at some point, instead of just writing new ones. :P