So you can read my books

Thursday, June 19, 2014


{courtesy Brian Wasko}

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

-Mark Twain.}

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

Seems the saw-bones has told the boy he is suffering from exhaustion, and he needs to sleep more and write less.

Now, me being a ghost and all, I have slept more than I want and need to write to feel alive again.

What you modern folks call a win/win situation, don't you know?

Now, let me help you pilrims out a mite, too.

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

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 on 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:

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 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.

And remember:

The novel you finish ain't necessarily the one you started.


  1. Thanks, Mark for all the witty knowledge you disperse.

    To Roland: do get some rest, healing requires it, and strengthening yourself for the upcoming surgery is very important. We aren't going to forget the creator of Sam McCord stories and New Orleans tales. Think like Hibbs.

  2. D.G.:
    Mark waggles his eyebrows at you. :-)

    With my supervisor gone this week, and another vacationing co-worker gone the next, rest is not on my schedule!

    And the next week after that is the surgery! Ouch!!

    Hibbs says you are right!

  3. "The novel you finish ain't necessarily the one you started."

    True words after revision.

    Great list Samuel. I hope you are feeling refreshed Roland.

  4. I can do less is more!
    Still working on action and showing not telling.

  5. Mark Twain...I could read his musings all day long. Happy Friday Roland!

  6. Donna:
    I am feeling a bit better but heading into a weekend where I work solo! Ouch!! I believe our lives, too, do not finish as the ones we started!

    Funny you should mention action: I went to sleep after writing an action scene, only to have a better way to write come to me after awakening!

    About showing not telling -- I think you've given me the idea for what my weekend posts will be.

    Optimistic Existentialist:
    Mark Twain is a major character in my DEATH IN THE HOUSE OF LIFE. It follows him from a 12 year old boy in Missouri, to the Sandwich Islands in 1866, to Egypt in 1895.

    Like you, I enjoy Mark's company - which is why I include him in so many of my posts and novels. :-)

  7. Roland, thank you so much for the gift that you emailed!! I will happily sign into Amazon shortly and accept it. What an awesome gift. I thank you! You have earned a new follower and friend sir!

  8. Keith:
    You're more than welcome. We fellow Mark Twain fans have to stick together. Mark Twain is my companion as I am hunted in my own fictional worlds in GHOST OF A CHANCE, too. :-)

    Thanks for following as well!

  9. As always, there are words of wisdom in your posts. A lot of good things to keep in mind hoping they'll become second nature...
    Please, try to get some rest. Your body's immune system, not just your mind, will work much better. Be well, my friend.

  10. Thanks, Vesper:
    I am up too late yet once again, facing a solo weekend at the blood center. Whew!