Advice to Myself: Write True

Advice to Myself: Write True

Sometimes I put sticky notes to myself around my computer screen. They’re advice I know I need to write well. One I have up often is “Write True.”

To Write True Is To Write Well

The value of writing true has been brought home to me by listening to audio books as I drive. In them, I find that good writing overcomes a lot of drawbacks. By “good writing,” I don’t mean fancy writing. I mean things like interesting voice and insight into the human heart. In one word, I mean truth.

An Example of Untruthful Writing

I recently returned an audio book to the library after listening to only part of the first disc. It was by a well-known author with a long string of mysteries. But this author wrote things like (and I’m paraphrasing because I don’t have the book here): “Her face was insipid, with a chin that spoke of cruelty and eyebrows without character” or “In his eyes, she saw intelligence mixed with compassion.” Seriously? There’s no way I can believe that phony ultra-perceptive description of ultra-revealing facial expression. It’s just a sly and false way of “telling” rather than showing.

The Saving Value of Writing True

In this book’s place, I checked out a YA novel by Laurie Halse Anderson. The book is called Prom. Here’s the description from Amazon:

Philadelphia high school who doesn’t care about the prom. It’s pretty much the only good thing that happens there, and everyone plans to make the most of it—especially Ash’s best friend, Natalia, who’s the head of the committee and has prom stars in her eyes. Then the faculty advisor is busted for taking the prom money and Ash finds herself roped into putting together a gala dance. But she has plenty of help—from her large and loving (if exasperating!) family, from Nat’s eccentric grandmother, from the principal, from her fellow classmates. And in making the prom happen, Ash learns some surprising things about making her life happen, too

I suspect I don’t have to say that’s not a subject I ordinarily would have gravitated to. But Anderson is an amazingly good writer, who’s taken on tough subjects like anorexia and won awards galore, including for her historical YA. So I took a chance.

And by god, I’m rewarded. The MC leaps alive into my car, with a wonderful voice and the sense of a real person being there. The writing is clever without being distracting.

False Writing Is Mediocre Writing

Maybe I’m more sensitive to the quality of writing because I’m trying to write myself. But I’m less and less tolerant of mediocre books that try to slide away from the hard work of writing true.


The Trickster is now available for pre-order on the publisher’s website.

“When it comes to family, you’re rich… and I’m dirt poor.”

Amid the intoxicating chaos of Winter Festival, attendant Dilly and Hedge Mage Fitch cross paths.

After surviving Rin’s wretched streets, Dilly aims to prove herself to Lady Elenia, who brought her back to Lac’s Holding and blessed her with a new life of comfort and luxury. Fitch seeks vengeance for a loved one, killed by a liquor that makes one vulnerable to suggestion.

But their separate goals are derailed when Dilly discovers Elenia’s secret lover is the head of a too-ambitious kinship, and Fitch finds his own smuggler-family pressuring him into using his unique nudging abilities for mutinous deeds.

When murmurs of treason break out in Lac’s Holding, it becomes clear that only Dilly and Fitch know the truth.

The question is how they can save the city when those they’re loyal to stand in their way.

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