Category Archives: Writing

Mark Twain writing tip 12

“The more you explain it, the more I don’t understand it.” – Mark Twain

Being clear and concise (but not to brief) is important.  Try to keep it simple, if it’s not working out, try to change without changing what you are trying to say.

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Mark Twain writing tip 11

“The difference between the right word and the almost write word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” – Mark Twain

Choosing the right word is essential.  Synonyms are great, they help add variety to writing and make our language more dynamic, but two words don’t always have the exact same meaning.  Searching at dict.org can result in the Moby thesaurus, a group of related words, not necessarily the same same, one cannot simply select one and move on, though I imagine if you used it to substitute words, you could come up with some crazy stories.

A good example is the Eye of Argon.  In it the author is writing about a barbarian, think Conan fanfiction.  A loincloth is an essential part of being a barbarian; looking at thesaurus.com’s “visual thesaurus” at the bottom, g-string is closely related.  Like a loincloth, a g-string essentially covers the same area.  Yet one would not use it when referring to a barbarian, as the author did.  Sorry for the image of Arnie/Conan in a lacy g-string.

Similarly, there is the use of the wrong word, known as a malaprop, the unintentional misuse of a similar sounding words.  I know I’m certainly guilty of this in conversation.

Another aspect is mispronouncing a word, like epitome, it’s not ep-i-tow-m.  It’s great to watch someone use words they don’t know how to pronounce, especially when they’re acting smarter than they really are.

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Mark Twain writing tip 10

“I don’t give a damn for a man that can only spell a word one way.” – Mark Twain

A lot of words came from writers, like Shakespeare who simply made them up.

In writing fantasy, it is obvious that one might have to create words for things that don’t exist, and then explain them.  Combine with the fact that each culture, and subculture, is different, and will have different expressions for things.  For example, Americans and British speak English.  The words are the same, but they don’t always mean the same thing.

In my own writing, I’ve focused a bit on Susurrus’ gambling, particularly dice.  I made up a game with the aspect that a fate die changes the results of the “combat” dice.  Then I created references to this aspect, i.e. when the “fate die is cast”, or fate has cast her die.  I could even add “fate changed the roll” or other references.  It adds just that little bit of “authenticity” without being to foreign.

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vegetable, herbs & fruits

I picked this book up for research.  It’s over 600 pages of illustrations, generally 1-2 pages per plant, with some being up to 5 or so.  The main thing I was looking for was usage of herbs, but it covers a variety of topics (cultivation, growing, plant varities and more) in bite-size chunks of information.  It even has some recipes.  The pictures are great if you plan on describing them without actually mentioning the name, a way of subtly revealing information without revelaing what it is.  A bit of obfiscation to throw the reader off while remaining within the Galactic Guidelines of Narative Practice.  Had to throw a little H2G@ humor in.  For example, should the protagonist pick a flowering herb that turns out to be deadly or the very thing his lady fair is allergic to.

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Mark Twain writing tip 9

“Don’t say the old lady screamed.  Bring her on and let her scream.” – Mark Twain

Easy to say, hard to do.  Telling a story like you weren’t there, will distance the reader.  Tell it like you are witnessing it.

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Mark Twain writing tip 8

“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.” – Mark Twain

This is an interesting one, and a challenge to balance, considering many writers have had success with fluff, but being clear, consice and getting to the point is usually the best route.  Using too many “large” words can bore readers and distract them from the point of the story.

Another thing to consider, is filler.  While writing my book, I find that I liked to write about a lot of different events between the plot events.  The problem isn’t writing it, the problem is making the desicion to cut it.  Maybe with the advent of ebooks, authors can give readers an option to read short or long versions.

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Mark Twain writing tip 7

“As to adjectives: when in doubt, strike it out.”

Mark Twain wasn’t enamored with overly descriptive prose.  Just read the first paragraph of The Eye of Argon, and you’ll know what I mean.  While it’s not actually adjective laden, it’s very heavy with description.  Quality over quantity.

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Mark Twain writing tip 6

“Great books are weighed and measured by thier style and matter, and not the trimmings and shadings of their grammar.”

Understanding grammar is important, but it doesn’t make a good story.  Focus on your ideas, style and story.  Worry about grammar later.  But don’t forget the essential misrules of grammar and avoid the misconceptions of English usage.

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An Alternate Route to Publication

For people who want to take the time to write books that have a guaranteed audience (or risk a quick indication of lack of interest) there are a couple of sites.  In the US (and elsewhere) there is Kickstarter.  It does more than books (and can be quite addictive).  In the UK there is Unbound.  Unbound focuses on books.  The idea of both is you pitch your book and people decide if they are interested.  If so, they pledge money and if you reach the goal, the project goes ahead.  (Mainly with Kickstarter, Unbound may be slightly different.)

Of course it helps if you promote your book/project to generate interest.  There are many books out there on how to utilize Kickstarter, but one that I know is written by two people with successful projects is Kicking It by Monte Cook and Shanna Germain.

Me, I’m trying to go the traditional route.

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