Tag Archives: Mark Twain

To Ly Word or Not to Ly Word: Writing Real Good. No. I Mean It. (Part 1)

In writer’s group (a million years ago), an author read her work aloud. The story was a fantasy and while the plot might have been interesting, it got lost in the words.

That can happen, you know. Too many words. Too many weak words. Too many throw away words.

Your words should work for you. Hard.

“If you do these few things,” I said, offering suggestions because we were in writer’s group, trying to be better writers, “you’ll strengthen the writing. Everything will be more clear. Cleaner.”

“Oh,” she said, waving me off. “My genre excuses bad writing.”

My eyeballs fell on the floor and rolled under an arm chair.

Another published writer in that same group said to suggested changes from us, “That’s what my editor’s for. To catch these mistakes.” We had offered suggestions because we were in writer’s group, trying to be better writers. Get it?

At Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers my hope is every writer learns how to be the best writer she can be. Writing well is a process. I always strive to form tight, strong sentences. I want to be better. We can never know too much.

(Here’s an argument from William Faulkner.  “Let the writer take up surgery or bricklaying if he is interested in technique. There is no mechanical way to get the writing done, no shortcut. The young writer would be a fool to follow a theory. Teach yourself by your own mistakes; people learn only by error. The good artist believes that nobody is good enough to give him advice. He has supreme vanity. No matter how much he admires the old writer, he wants to beat him.”)

“But, said another writing friend of mine, “you know readers are blind to style.”

That may be, Writing Brothers and Sisters, but at this point, I’m still not. And so as long as I write, I plan to write the best I can. And this week on TUW, I wanna talk about a few tips. Here’s one for today.

My mother said, “If you have to pay a dollar for every word you put on the page, you’d trim your writing and use only the best language.” Mark Twain said, “Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”

You can cut some of these words, too–that, well, start, begin, just, was-ing words

Question: What words are throw aways in your opinion?



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Three Thing Thursday

  1. I am reading Fahrenheit 451. For the first time. And quite liking it. I’m not sure if I’m surprised by this. My sister loved Ray Bradbury as a kid (she always out-read me). She read Stephen King, Tolkien and Bradbury long before I did. I was stuck in Steinbeck, Faulkner and Twain.

    This summer I’m reading a lot. A lot more than I have since school

    What have you read recently that you’ve loved?
    What have you read that you missed out on as a kid or teen?
    What is a favorite book that I should read?

  2. I am gathering books for the Hopi Reservation. If you would like to donate, please email me at carolthewriter@yahoo.com. These books must be gently used or new. I just looked up at my shelf and saw several novels I will never read again. It’s time to let those go. I have space only for the ones I want to keep forever. Or, maybe not space, but you know.
  3. In August, Ann Dee and Kyra and I might be having a writing marathon again. It’s been awhile. Will let you know as we get closer. If you are interested in playing a long, let me know.


Filed under Ann Dee, Kyra, Uncategorized

Day Eleven, continued!

“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”

Mark Twain is right.

Remember, every word counts.

Each word carries weight. The wrong word is heavier and makes the sentence feel unwieldy. But the right word. Ah, the right word touches the heart of the reader.

Of course, we aren’t searching for that perfect word now. Right (Write= Mr. Hemingway)? We are just putting the words down.

Then we slash, carve, skin, fillet and perfect the piece.

For now–keep working. Just a few days left!

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Filed under CLW, Writing Marathon

Day Five–Day of Accountability

How has the week felt to you?

I was teaching and grading papers for 7 hours yesterday and so unable to keep up with you all. However, I did get several hundred words written yesterday morning on my novel.

Today I do three things: write, pack and clean, go to lunch with a dear friend.

First–a quote, but I have to  back up and remind you of Ann Dee and her neighbor and the 4:30 am visitor. Remember that?

Okay, here’s the quote:

“The writer should never be ashamed of staring. There is nothing that does not require his attention.”

Yup, Miss Flannery O’Connor. Great, huh? I love it. I shall now stare with abandon because I am a writer and I need to stare. Plus, we’ve give permission.

Yesterday I got to the place in the novel where I knew I only have a little ways to go before I am finished with a draft.

I think I am maybe four chapters from the finish.

Yippee ti yi yo!

Here is one more quote. This is to help you with the excellent writing you are all doing and it’s from our buddy Mark Twain.

“I notice that you use plain, simple language, short words and brief sentences. That is the way to write English—it is the modern way and the best way. Stick to it; don’t let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in. When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don’t mean utterly, but kill most of them—then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are wide apart. An adjective habit, or a wordy, diffuse, flowery habit, once fastened upon a person, is as hard to get rid of as any other vice.”

I’ll be back. And maybe Ann Dee, too. But she also might be up and moving around early in the morning and spying and unable to stop in later in the afternoon.

So off we go!

PS Don’t you think a hugely pregnant spy would be hilarious? I was feeling pretty clever thinking about Ann Dee as the main character in a funny spy novel when I remembered Fargo, which is a movie about as funny as a Flannery O’Connor short story (so funny until the end–and Fargo was funny except all those grisly murders). But, to the point, isn’t Marge Gunderson pregnant in that?

PMS I just got caught reading crazy good lines from Coen Brothers’ films.


Filed under Ann Dee, CLW, Voice, Writing Marathon, writing process