Monday, October 4, 2010

Mark Twain on Writing

Tip of the Day: I love Goodreads! If you enjoy it as much as I do, I'd love it if you friended me. I get your book ratings through email that way, and it helps me decide what to read next.

Yesterday, I read the middle grade biography of Mark Twain by Sid Fleischman, THE TROUBLE STARTS AT 8. I'm not a big biography reader myself, although I can see by the library and bookstore shelves that they are popular. I don't know why I don't read many biographies. I enjoy a well-written one and this was a very enjoyable read. I recommend it to writers who admire Mark Twain. If you don't admire him as a writer, this biography will change your mind!

Is Huckleberry Finn America's greatest YA novel of all time? I might vote yes.

Here are some of my favorite Mark Twain quotes about writing:

The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—'tis the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning.

If you would have your work last forever, and by forever I mean fifty years, it must neither overtly preach nor overtly teach, but it mustcovertly preach and covertly teach.

From the preface to Huckleberry Finn:
Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.

You can't depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.

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.

Surely the test of a novel's characters is that you feel a strong interest in them and their affairs—the good to be successful, the bad to suffer failure.

Whenever you find that you are on the side of the majority, it is time to pause & reflect.

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages


Christina Farley said...

Very interesting perspective. I love how taking the time to reflect and being covert is part of the writer's job too.

DeenaML said...

There are some really great YA/MG non-fic books out now! This one sounds very interesting.

Hannah Kincade said...

So true. Sometimes pausing and reflecting is the only way to gain perspective.

Kate Fall said...

Deena, I enjoyed this one quite a bit. Well, Sid Fleischman, how could you go wrong?

Christy, what I love about that quote is that Mark Twain felt the writer can tap in and understand the minority point of view on any philosophy. Like in Huckleberry Finn. Twain was raised in a slave state before the Civil War, and he had to go against what most people he knew thought about slavery and Christianity to write that novel. And we can tap into the minority point of view on things too: capitalism, freedom, privacy, materialism, whatever values we see around us. Can you tell I LOVE Mark Twain?

Kate Fall said...

Hannah, I couldn't write without my reflection time! The challenge is finding the right words afterwards.