Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Mark Twain on Writing

Who: Mark Twain

Written: "The Prince and the Pauper", "The Adventure of Tom Sawyer", "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" and "A Double Barreled Detective Story" among others

What did he say: He said a lot, but most of his quotes have been written in the context of his letters to various people. The only straightforward advice given on writing is this:
“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.” 
This second one that I enjoyed very much comes from his letter to W. D. Howells. 
"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." 
What do I think: 'Very' is not my crutch word per se. I think that 'very' has been clubbed to death so that no one uses it as much. I could be wrong. Do editors edit 'damn' out these days? I think we have well passed the point of desensitizing here. I'd say that the principal 'avoid crutch word X' is full on force, though I think that it's way better to be proactive with weeding these out rather than troll your editor. Of course, Twain seems like a joker. 

I love the second quote because it paints such an apocalyptic picture. Beauty. That is how I feel, when I finish a project and I believe that this is the prime reason, why so many people get caught in the revisions game or why series have proven to be so enjoyable. 

What do you think about Twain's quotes?