So you can read my books

Wednesday, February 12, 2014



We all know what to leave out:

1.) It’s Open Season on anything ending in –ly.

2.) Clunky sentences and long paragraphs that dull the readers’ focus and wither her/his attention-span.

3.) Any word that you wouldn’t pay a quarter to keep in your manuscript. Ernest Hemingway learned to write lean when a foreign correspondent. EVERY WORD cost his employers money.

Elmore Leonard suggests: “Leave out the boring stuff.”

In reverse logic: we leave in the riveting stuff:

1.) Primal is riveting.

THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA is riveting. Why? Because the fish means more to the old man than just something to keep hunger at bay. Catching the fish would say to those who jeer at him that he is not old and useless, that he is still a man.

2.) Sex is riveting.

Without it, the species would end. But we don’t live for abstractions. We live for attractions. Flirting is only verbal fondling. The act doesn’t have to be literally on the page, blow by blow. Still, the sparks should be seen,  and the heat felt.

3.) Danger is riveting.

But only if we care for the characters at risk. And the danger must flow out of the natural development of the narrative – not just be thrown in for spice out of nowhere.

4.) Empathy is magnetic.

We care for characters to whom we can relate. So we leave in those prose strokes that resonate with the pains, the dreams, the struggles of our readers – the search for love, the endurance of loneliness, the tragedy of being misunderstood.

5.) Great dialogue sparkles.

No clichés – even for teenagers, for clichés or even modern slang has a very short shelf-life.

Think of your favorite movies.

 Each one had snippets of dialogue that had you repeating them to your friends. Try to make your novel someone’s favorite in a like manner.

6.) Poetry in prose.

Ernest Hemingway said the secret to writing great novels was that they contained poetry in prose.

Make each first sentence on a page memorable by use of metaphor, dialogue, or simply tilting an image on its ear.

Each of us must do that in our way. Read a page of Hemingway or Zelazny at random to see how they did it.

“She gave him a look that should have left bruises.”

“The sea was harsher than granite.”

*) I hope this has helped in some small way. Roland
Please read the free sample of DEATH IN THE HOUSE OF LIFE:
Here is the video of the melody, Adiemus, which Victor hears within his mind as he struggles to make it through a mystic ordeal for the sake of innocents depending upon him in END OF DAYS:


  1. Favorite line like from a movie. Crap, that's going to be difficult...

  2. This certainly says a lot:
    “She gave him a look that should have left bruises.”

    Succinct. Much implied. Brevity has its place, as much as eloquent prose. I like a bit of both.

    Sean at Meilori's was fun btw, and his comment about iced tea. . .

  3. Forgot the snippet I remember, but haven't ever been able to use -
    "You know how to whistle, don't you? You just put your lips together and blow. . ." delivered by L. Bacall (to Bogie).

  4. And what do you hope that your readers will take away?

  5. Alex:
    One of my favorite movies lines is from CON AIR: "I only trust two people - one of them is me and the other isn't you."

    Like a true archaeologist he likes scotch or run & coke! :-)

    Bacall's line is one of my favorites -- those two are favorites of mine which is why I included them in GHOST OF A CHANCE, soon to be an audiobook along with HER BONES ARE IN THE BADLANDS!

    Elephant's Child:
    I hope my readers will take away a fun read and some memorable lines and mental images. :-)

  6. I think a Damon Runyon line goes, "She gave him a look you could pour on a waffle." Hard to forget a line like that.

    Empathy for our characters, having characters we care about -- that is essential. I once read a John Updike novel that was full of people I just couldn't care about. If they had all croaked at the end (unfortunately they didn') I wouldn't have cared. I haven't been able to pick up an Updike book since then.

  7. I needed to hear Adiemus tonight. I'm feeling pretty content and that has a mellowing feel to it.

    Good writing tips Roland.


  8. Helena:
    I love that Damon Runyan line. :-)

    I once read an Elmore Leonard book that had a similar affect on me as John Updike did on you. I haven't read a Leonard novel since -- although I did enjoy VALDEZ IS COMING as a movie.

    I'm glad you like Adiemus -- it is one of my favorite tunes to listen to -- hence Victor's liking for it! :-)

    I hope my friends get a little help from my writing tips. Have a good weekend.