Friday, January 27, 2012

Stamp of a Writer: Samuel L. Clemens (MARK TWAIN)

"I have been an author for 20 years and an ass for 55."

"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."

"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."

"We write frankly and fearlessly but then we "modify" before we print."

"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."

"Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand."

The humorous story is told gravely; the teller does his best to conceal the fact that he even dimly suspects that there is anything funny about it."

"If you invent two or three people and turn them loose in your manuscript, something is bound to happen to them — you can't help it; and then it will take you the rest of the book to get them out of the natural consequences of that occurrence, and so first thing you know, there's your book all finished up and never cost you an idea."

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.

"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." 

"An author values a compliment even when it comes from a source of doubtful competency."

"There is only one brief, solitary law for letter-writing, and yet you either do not know that law, or else you are so stupid that you never think of it. It is very easy and simple: Write only about things and people your correspondent takes a living interest in."

"Nothing in the world affords a newspaper reporter so much satisfaction as gathering up the details of a bloody and mysterious murder, and writing them up with aggravated circumstantiality."

"Classic — a book which people praise and don't read."


  1. I'm a man who is still a boy in plenty of ways.

  2. Charles, I've enjoyed reading Mark Twain since my school days, especially his humour.

  3. Prashant: It was a revelation to me in first year university when I read Huck Finn and found out how great a writer was Mark Twain. He could so vividly capture scenes, ideas and thoughts in 1-2 sentences.

  4. I like author stamps a lot and have posted a few of them on my blog-most recently one of Maxim Gorky-Twain is one of the truly great writers

  5. Bill, I read abridged versions of TOM SAWYER and HUCKLEBERRY FINN in English class, probably somewhere between the 4th and 6th standard (grade) and I loved the stories back then. That was the time when I read classics, including A TALE OF TWO CITIES by Dickens, without knowing who wrote them!

  6. Mel, I like the honesty and the wry and self-deprecating humour in the writings of early authors. The stamps of authors of the 19th and early 20th century could make for excellent book jackets.