Before EPublishing, Before FanFic, In the Beginning…

There was Mark Twain. And it was good. And God looked down on the Earth and said “Let there be books.” And He left Mark Twain in charge of writing all the good ones.

There’s all this jazz about whether epubbed writers can call themselves writers. I think it’s all about self-perception. Are you a writer when you get paid for it? When you put pen to paper? When you call yourself one? Are you a musician if you play a guitar in your bedroom (only). Or if you’ve had one gig at which you made $20? Or do you have to be Eric Clapton?

Who knows. Who cares. You’ll never get respect from everyone, so give it to yourself. Write to your heart’s content. Write what you like. Or write for the “market” of your choice, if that works for you.

But by all means, DO NOT skip the following. Mark Twain is my muse.

“I conceive that the right way to write a story for boys is to write so that it will not only interest boys but strongly interest any man who has ever been a boy. That immensely enlarges the audience.”

“Experience of life (not of books) is the only capital usable in such a book as you have attempted; one can make no judicious use of this capital while it is new.”

“Well, my book is written–let it go. But if it were only to write over again there wouldn’t be so many things left out. They burn in me; and they keep multiplying; but now they can’t ever be said. And besides, they would require a library–and a pen warmed up in hell.”

“I wrote the rest of The Innocents Abroad in sixty days and I could have added a fortnight’s labor with the pen and gotten along without the letters altogether. I was very young in those days, exceedingly young, marvelously young, younger than I am now, younger than I shall ever be again, by hundreds of years. I worked every night from eleven or twelve until broad daylight in the morning, and as I did 200,000 words in the sixty days, the average was more than 3,000 words a day- nothing for Sir Walter Scott, nothing for Louis Stevenson, nothing for plenty of other people, but quite handsome for me. In 1897, when we were living in Tedworth Square, London, and I was writing the book called Following the Equator, my average was 1,800 words a day; here in Florence (1904) my average seems to be 1,400 words per sitting of four or five hours.”

“You need not expect to get your book right the first time. Go to work and revamp or rewrite it. God only exhibits his thunder and lightning at intervals, and so they always command attention. These are God’s adjectives. You thunder and lightning too much; the reader ceases to get under the bed, by and by.”

“The time to begin writing an article is when you have finished it to your satisfaction. By that time you begin to clearly and logically perceive what it is that you really want to say.”

“To get the right word in the right place is a rare achievement. To condense the diffused light of a page of thought into the luminous flash of a single sentence, is worthy to rank as a prize composition just by itself…Anybody can have ideas–the difficulty is to express them without squandering a quire of paper on an idea that ought to be reduced to one glittering paragraph.”

“Let us guess that whenever we read a sentence & like it, we unconsciously store it away in our model-chamber; & it goes, with the myriad of its fellows, to the building, brick by brick, of the eventual edifice which we call our style.”

“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.”


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