Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”

–quoted by Adam O’Fallon Price in “On Semicolons and the Rules of Writing

“[Chekhov] has put his finger on a problem that often affects writers and just as frequently stands in the way of clarity: the belief that every noun needs an adjective, that every sentence must be elaborate, that every turn of phrase must be lyrical, poetic, and above all original, and that it represents some sort of shameful failure of the imagination to use language in a way that can be readily understood by all.”

–Francine Prose, “It’s Harder Than It Looks to Write Clearly” on Lithub


Occasionally, I shake my head at some of the things I used to do. One of the dumbest was finishing every book I started, no matter how bad. No more. I wasted a lot of time reading crap because of my completion compulsion, and as a result didn’t read a lot of good books I’d otherwise have had time for.

Anymore, the first thing I do is read a book’s opening sentences and then, if those don’t cause me to drop it as if it were leprous, flip to a random page and read a paragraph or two. Of the books that make it past that initial weeding-out process, I finish maybe one out of four. Sometimes I’ll stop reading after a few pages, and sometimes only after I’m halfway or more through a book.

With nonfiction, I’ll put a book down if the writing is sloppy or otherwise bad, if the argumentation is consistently faulty, or if the author obviously did a poor job of research.

With fiction, I’ll stop reading if the writing is bad enough to get in the way of the story, if the writing style irritates me, if there are plot holes big enough to drive an 18-wheeler through, or if there are major implausibilities or absurdities in the premise(s) or events. (I just stopped reading a sci-fi novel because it hinged on NASA managing to build both an interplanetary spaceship big enough for dozens of people and an equally large space station in orbit around Mars — and managing to keep both projects secret. Please. Spare me.)

If you’re still finishing every book you start, please consider doing yourself a favor by putting down books that aren’t worth your time. If you do that, you’ll probably end up reading a lot more good books.

Several of our authors have web sites. Here are the ones that immediately come to mind:

Over the next few days I’ll contact the other authors who seem like they might have either a site or blog, and will add any that come up. So, if you’re interested, please check back shortly and you’ll probably find additional author sites and blogs.

Note: Tim Boomer, who wrote The Bassist’s Bible, is also a computer pro who wrote the very nice looking Bassist’s Bible web site. He’s currently rewriting the See Sharp Press site, which badly needs the update. I wrote it in html 3 over 15 years ago, and it looks it. It’s not quite in Save Walter White territory, but not that far beyond it. The spiffy looking redesigned site will be up later this summer.

Finally, in non-book-related news, Mick Berry, co-author of The Drummer’s Bible, has a web site up for his one-man show, Keith Moon: The Real Me, which is playing in San Jose through June 24th.


“Books should be about the people you know, that you love and hate, not about the people you study . . .”

Ernest Hemingway’s 9 Best Tips on Writing

Philip Roth

“Beginning a book is unpleasant. I’m entirely uncertain about the character and the predicament, and a character in his predicament is what I have to begin with. Worse than not knowing your subject is not knowing how to treat it, because that’s finally everything. I type out beginnings and they’re awful . . . I need something driving down the center of a book, a magnet to draw everything to it—that’s what I look for during the first months of writing something new. . . . What matters most isn’t there at all. I don’t mean the solutions to problems, I mean the problems themselves. You’re looking, as you begin, for what’s going to resist you. You’re looking for trouble.”

–“Philip Roth, The Art of Fiction No. 84

Ursula Le Guin

“There’s always room for another story. There’s always room for another tune, right? Nobody can write too many tunes. So if you have stories to tell and can tell them competently, then somebody will want to hear it if you tell it well at all. To believe that there is somebody who wants to hear that story is the kind of confidence a writer has to have when they’re in the period of learning their craft and not selling stuff and not really knowing what they’re doing.”

Ursula Le Guin interview with Choire Sicha