Monday, February 28, 2011

She looked across the darkness.

She looked across the darkness.
The black void near motionless.
Silence broken by the waves.
A tear escaped from within.
She knew they were lost.

Style Is A Relation Between Form and Content

Style is a relation between form and content. Where the content is less than the form, where the author pretends to emotion which he does not feel, the language will seem flamboyant. The more ignorant a writer feels, the more artificial becomes his style. A writer who thinks himself cleverer than his readers writes simply, one who is afraid they are cleverer than he, will make use of mystification: good style is arrived at when the chosen represents what the author requires of it without mystification.


There's A Sureness to Good Writing

There's a sureness to good writing even when what's being written about doesn't make all that much sense. It's the sureness of the so-called seat of an accomplished horseback rider or a sailor coming about in a strong wind. The words have both muscle and grace, familiarity and surprise. If forced to choose one writer of the 20th century who has these qualities most abundantly, I would name Vladimir Nabokov, who makes me want to take back everything I said about adjectives, except that each of his is chosen as carefully as an engagement ring: "On her brown shoulder, a raised purple-pink swelling (the work of some gnat) which I eased of its beautiful transparent poison between my long thumbnails and then sucked till I was gorged on her spicy blood."


Sunday, February 27, 2011

Fiction is an Attempt to Control and Accept the World

The novel form to which I have devoted so much time, and still attempt, is no mere story (favored word of newscasters), nor dialogue among scene settings, nor anything "well made," nor a page turner, so called, but a visionary plunge into what cannot be kept out of the mind, a "tale" its vehicle, that vision its tenor. If we have not yet learned this from Broch and Proust, Lowry and Frame, Joyce and Woolf, Lezama Lima and Roa Bastos, we have not learned much at all. Fiction is an attempt to control and accept the world, perhaps a reminder to all readers, and therefore on the side of life, that those who bite the bullet need not eat the gun.


Saturday, February 26, 2011

Deal Gone Bad

I recently took a challenge to write a story compiled of tagless dialogue only, I hope you enjoy it.

Warning Contains Swearing.

Deal Gone Bad

“I told you not to ring my mobile John.”
“I know, but I’m fucking worried.”
“Did you give them the money?”
“Yea, but…”
“Yea but what?”
“Paul I gave him the money, and that was it.”
“What did he say?”
“What do you mean nothing?”
“Not a word, not one single word.”
“John he must have said something.”
“Not a thing.”
“Well what happened when you gave it to him.”
“He looked in the bag, flicked through a few notes and just looked up at me.”
“Did you say anything?”
“I said we were sorry, that we didn’t know they were his drugs.”
“That was it, he just looked up at me, I thought that was it Paul, I thought they were going to do me there and then.”
“So what happened?”
“The goon that let me in opened the door and told me to get out.”
“So we’re okay then?”
“I don’t know I’ve seen the same van pass me twice.”
“You’re being paranoid.”
“I’ve got every right to be fucking paranoid, you weren’t there.”
“Yea alright, calm down.”
“How’s your leg?”
“It hurts like hell, and it’s still bleeding.”
“Can’t you go to the hospital and get it checked out?”
“Don’t be so fucking stupid, you know they’ll call the old bill the minute they see a gunshot wound.”
“What you going to do?”
“I’ll get it sorted later.”
“There’s that fucking van again, it’s the same one. I knew I was being followed.”
“Keep moving John.”


“John, fucking answer me.”

“John’s dead fool, you’re next.”

A Writer Writes with His Instincts

The process of writing is something in which a writer’s whole personality plays a part. A writer writes not only with his ideas but also with his instincts, with his intuition. The dark side of a personality also plays a very important role in the process of writing a book. The rational factor is something of which the writer is not totally aware. And so when a writer gives testimony about his books, he does it in a particularly subjective way. He gives a clear picture of only what he wanted to do, which rarely coincides with what he actually did. That is why a reader is sometimes in a better position to judge what a writer has done than the writer himself.


Friday, February 25, 2011

Omit Needless Words

Omit needless words. Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.


Try To Summarize Your Novel in a Sentence or Two

I sometimes suggest to inexperienced writers that they try to summarize their novels in progress in a sentence or two. It’s a useful though limited way of finding out whether a book has a coherent theme, a theme that’s likely to attract readers. “One day in the life of a humble prisoner in Stalin’s gulag,” or “one day in the life of a middle-aged mediocre Dublin Jew, explored as an odyssey,” would convince most literate people that there was, at least, a worthy and intelligible subject.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Learn Punctuation

Learn punctuation; it is your little drum set, one of the few tools you have to signal the reader where the beats and emphases go. (If you get it wrong, any least thing, the editor will throw your manuscript out.) Punctuation is not like musical notation; it doesn't indicate the length of pauses, but instead signifies logical relations. There are all sorts of people out there who know these things very well. You have to be among them even to begin.

You Write For Yourself

You do not write a novel for praise, or thinking of your audience. You write for yourself; you work out between you and your pen the things that intrigue you.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Sometimes the “Block” is a Good Thing

Sometimes the “block” is a good thing. Yes, we’re stalled from the process of producing words, but perhaps we are not ready to write at our best, and an inner voice (the “block”) is telling us that, and holding us back . . . and perhaps doing us a favor until we’re ready to produce what’s truly worthy of us. Too often writers write too much. They do not know the good from their inferior work, and their publishers release whatever the writer hands in if the writer has a “name.” There is no way to lose a “name” faster than to produce again and again unworthy work, and maybe it would be better for their reputations if they’d been “blocked” from doing so much bad writing.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Scrupulous Writer

A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: What am I trying to say? What words will express it? What image or idiom will make it clearer? Is this image fresh enough to have an effect? And he will probably ask himself two more: Could I put it more shortly? Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?

My First Haiku

Why are we shouting,
We always seem to argue,
And still, I love you.

Do What Works

There are so many different kinds of writing and so many ways to work that the only rule is this: do what works. Almost everything has been tried and found to succeed for somebody. The methods, even the ideas, of successful writers contradict each other in a most heartening way, and the only element I find common to all successful writers is persistence—an overwhelming determination to succeed.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Everybody Is Talented

I have been writing a long time and have learned some things, not only from my own long hard work, but from a writing class I had for three years. In this class were all kinds of people: prosperous and poor, stenographers, housewives, salesmen, cultivated people and little servant girls who had never been to high school, timid people and bold ones, slow and quick ones. This is what I learned: that everybody is talented, original and has something important to say.

Writing Is A Form of Therapy

Writing is a form of therapy; how do all those who do not write, compose, or paint manage to escape the madness, the melancholia, the panic and fear which is inherent in the human condition?


Editors make mistakes

Editors make mistakes. By actual count, 121 publishers said “No thanks” to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Roger Tory Peterson’s Field Guide to the Birds and Lolita were turned down too, again and again. The Clan of the Cave Bear, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, The Peter Principle, Watership Down, To Kill A Mockingbird—rejected, every one.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Six Word Stories

For sale: baby shoes, never used.

—Ernest Hemingway
The original short short story. In the 1920s, Ernest Hemingway’s colleagues bet him that he couldn’t write a complete story in just six words. They paid up. Hemingway is said to have considered it his best work.

A few Six Word Stories by Daniel Kaye:
Money; in one hand, then gone.
Letterbox rattles, another bill, excitement gone.
Lotto numbers picked, fingers crossed again.
These two are especially for the writers out there:
Words elude me, computer screen blank.
First Draft, then edit, then submit.

These six word stories are great fun, give them a go.

I never gave a thought to being a writer.

Growing up, I never gave a thought to being a writer. All I ever wanted to be was a traveler and explorer. Science-fiction allowed me to go places that were otherwise inaccessible, which is why I started reading it. I was going to be a lawyer, but I got saved.

New Daniel Kaye Facebook page set up

New Daniel Kaye Facebook page set up.!/pages/Daniel-Kaye-Writer/103967553013072

Saturday, February 19, 2011


Freewriting is the easiest way to get words on paper and the best all-around practice in writing that I know. To do a freewriting exercise, simply force yourself to write without stopping for ten minutes. Sometimes you will produce good writing, but that's not the goal. Sometimes you will produce garbage, but that's not the goal either. You may stay on one topic, you may flip repeatedly from one to another: it doesn't matter. Sometimes you will produce a good record of your stream of consciousness, but often you can't keep up. Speed is not the goal, though sometimes the process revs you up. If you can't think of anything to write, write about how that feels or repeat over and over "I have nothing to write" or "Nonsense" or "No." If you get stuck in the middle of a sentence or thought, just repeat the last word or phrase till something comes along. The only point is to keep writing. Or rather, that's the first point. For there are lots of goals of freewriting, but they are best served if, while you are doing it, you accept this single, simple, mechanical goal of simply not stopping. When you produce an exciting piece of writing, it doesn't mean you did it better than the time before when you wrote one sentence over and over for ten minutes. Both times you freewrote perfectly. The goal of freewriting is in the process, not the product.

Serial Killers

I just received my copy of the anthology Serial Killers today, it includes my short story "Let The Party Begin".

This plus other books can be purchased direct from Pill Hill Press.

Find Your Optimum Hours for Writing

My most important discovery has been that I have optimum hours for writing. These are between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. For a lifetime I’ve told myself that I was a nighttime writer—it seemed romantic. But actually I’m tired at night, and that’s when I prefer to read and research. Whatever your optimum hours are, don’t cheat yourself of them. This is a daily battle. If you spend them answering the phone, attending to correspondence, etc., you’ll find yourself empty-handed and out of sorts during your low tide.

Friday, February 18, 2011

By the End, You Should Be Inside Your Character

By the end, you should be inside your character, actually operating from within somebody else, and knowing him pretty well, as that person knows himself or herself. You’re sort of a predator, an invader of people.


T.S. Eliot's Advice to a Young Writer

Then it was four o'clock, or nearly; it was time for Eliot to conclude our interview, and take tea with his colleagues. He stood up, slowly enough to give me time to stand upright before he did, granting me the face of knowing when to leave. When this tall, pale, dark-suited figure struggled successfully to its feet, and I had leapt to mine, we lingered a moment in the doorway, while I sputtered ponderous thanks, and he nodded smiling to acknowledge them. Then Eliot appeared to search for the right phrase with which to send me off. He looked at me in the eyes, and set off into a slow, meandering sentence. "Let me see, said T. S. Eliot, "forty years ago I went from Harvard to Oxford. Now you are going from Harvard to Oxford. What advice can I give you?" He paused delicately, shrewdly, while I waited with greed for the words which I would repeat for the rest of my life, the advice from elder to younger, setting me on the road of emulation. When he had ticked off the comedian's exact milli­seconds of pause, he said, "Have you any long underwear?"

Writing Is Hard Work, Not Magic

Writing is hard work, not magic. It begins with deciding why you are writing and whom you are writing for. What is your intent? What do you want the reader to get out of it? What do you want to get out of it. It's also about making a serious time commitment and getting the project done.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

You've Got to Stand Back Quite A Distance

In order to write about people, you have got actually to stand back quite a distance. I feel much happier having a one-to-one conversation than being in a room full of people—I feel very shy then, and want to get back into the shadows. The shadows are where I think I belong.


Respect Your Reader

Respect your reader. The niftiest turn of phrase, the most elegant flight of rhetorical fancy, isn’t worth beans next to a clear thought clearly expressed.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

You Write By Sitting Down and Writing

You write by sitting down and writing. There’s no particular time or place—you suit yourself, your nature. How one works, assuming he’s disciplined, doesn’t matter.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Never Look at a Reference Book While Doing a First Draft

Never look at a reference book while doing a first draft. You want to write a story? Fine. Put away your dictionary, your encyclopedias, your World Almanac, and your thesaurus. Better yet, throw your thesaurus into the wastebasket. The only things creepier than a thesaurus are those little paperbacks college students too lazy to read the assigned novels buy around exam time. Any word you have to hunt for in a thesaurus is the wrong word. There are no exceptions to this rule. You think you might have misspelled a word? O.K., so here is your choice: either look it up in the dictionary, thereby making sure you have it right - and breaking your train of thought and the writer's trance in the bargain - or just spell it phonetically and correct it later. Why not? Did you think it was going to go somewhere? And if you need to know the largest city in Brazil and you find you don't have it in your head, why not write in Miami, or Cleveland? You can check it ... but later. When you sit down to write, write. Don't do anything else except go to the bathroom, and only do that if it absolutely cannot be put off.


Sunday, February 13, 2011

If You Get Stuck...

If you get stuck, get away from your desk. Take a walk, take a bath, go to sleep, make a pie, draw, listen to music, meditate, exercise; whatever you do, don't just stick there scowling at the problem. But don't make telephone calls or go to a party; if you do, other people's words will pour in where your lost words should be. Open a gap for them, create a space. Be patient.

The Narrator is the Most Important Character

From a technical point of view there are two essential things to solve or create when writing a novel. The first is the invention of the narrator. I think the narrator is the most important character in a novel. In some cases this importance is obvious because the narrator is also a central figure, a central character in the novel. In other cases, the narrator is not a character, not a visible figure, but an invisible person whose creation is even more complicated and difficult than the creation of one of the characters.


Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Truth Is We Write for Love

Despite all the cynical things writers have said about writing for money, the truth is we write for love. That is why it is so easy to exploit us. That is also why we pretend to be hard-boiled, saying things like “No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money” (Samuel Johnson). Not true. No one but a blockhead ever wrote except for love. . . . You must do it for love. If you do it for money, no money will ever be enough, and eventually you will start imitating your first successes, straining hot water through the same old teabag. It doesn’t work with tea, and it doesn’t work with writing.


It is All There, in the Subconscious

I think I’ve been . . . trying to calculate and figure too much. I’ve stopped that now and am trying not to worry and just let it come out, because apparently it is all there, in your mind, in the subconscious, and the trick is to throw your conscious mind out of gear and just let it flow thru.


Friday, February 11, 2011

“The first law of writing”

“The first law of writing,” said Macaulay, “that law to which all others are subordinate, is this: that the words employed shall be such as to convey to the reader the meaning of the writer.” Toward that end, use familiar words—words that your readers will understand, and not words they will have to look up. No advice is more elementary, and no advice is more difficult to accept. When we feel an impulse to use a marvelously exotic word, let us lie down until the impulse goes away.


Don't Look Back Until You've Written An Entire First Draft

Don't look back until you've written an entire draft, just begin each day from the last sentence you wrote the preceding day. This prevents those cringing feelings, and means that you have a substantial body of work before you get down to the real work which is all in . . . the edit.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Take up plumbing or electical wiring.

There is a scene in Stanley Ellin’s first novel, The Winter After This Summer, in which a young guy being tossed out of college stops by to have a last drink with a favorite professor, and the older man says to the kid, “What are you going to do now? What do you want to be?” And the kid thinks about it for a moment and replies, “Well, I don’t want to be a writer.” And the professor toasts him, saying, “That’s good. There are already too many people around who mistake a love of reading for a talent for writing.” And that is my advice to young writers, too. Forget it. Take up plumbing or electical wiring. The money is vastly better, and the work-hours are more reasonable, and when your toilet overflows, you don’t want Dostoevski coming to your house.

     So when I teach workshops, or lecture to “writers’ groups,” I do my best to discourage as many as possible. This is in no way an attempt to lessen the competition, because I truly, deeply believe that writers are not in competition with each other. What I write, Joyce Carol Oates can’t write; what Ms. Oates writes, Donald Westlake can’t write; and what Kafka did has already been done, all that Hemingway bullshit about “pulling against Chekhov and that all time fast gun heavyweight puncher Tolstoy” notwithstanding. (Hemingway meant, it is now generally accepted, not that one had to go mano-a-mano with any other writer, but that in the words of John Simon—”there is no point in saying less than your predecessors have said.”)

     In the burning core of what I believe to be true about the art and craft of writing, I know that one cannot discourage a real writer. Like von Kleist, “I write only because I cannot stop.” And that is the way of it for a real writer, not for the fuzzyheaded dreamer or parvenu who think’s it’s an easy way to make fame and fortune. You can break a real writer’s hands, and s/he will tap out the words with nose or toes. Anyone who can be discouraged, should be.  They will be happier and more useful to the commonweal as great ballerinas, fine sculptors, sensitive jurists, accomplished historians, imaginative historians.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

One Thought Per Sentence

One maxim that my students find helpful is: One thought per sentence. Readers only process one thought at a time. So give them time to digest the first set of facts you want them to know. Then give them the next piece of information they need to know, which further explains the first fact. Be grateful for the period. Writing is so hard that all us, once launched, tend to ramble. Instead of a period we use a comma, followed by a transitional word (and, while), and soon we have strayed into a wilderness that seems to have no road back out. Let the humble period be your savior. There’s no sentence too short to be acceptable in the eyes of God.


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Imagine Your Readers Over Your Shoulder

We suggest that whenever anyone sits down to write he should imagine a crowd of his prospective readers (rather than a grammarian in cap and gown) looking over his shoulder. They will be asking such questions as: “What does this sentence mean?” “Why do you trouble to tell me that again?” “Why have you chosen such a ridiculous metaphor?” “Must I really read this long, limping sentence?” “Haven’t you got your ideas muddled here?” By anticipating and listing as many of these questions as possible, the writer will discover certain tests of intelligibility to which he may regularly submit his work before he sends it off to the printer.


You Have to Sit Down and Work

It’s a job. It’s not a hobby. You don’t write the way you build a model airplane. You have to sit down and work, to schedule your time and stick to it. Even if it’s just for an hour or so each day, you have to get a babysitter and make the time. If you’re going to make writing succeed you have to approach it as a job.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The most important things are the hardest things to say.

The most important things are the hardest things to say. They are the things you get ashamed of because words diminish your feelings - words shrink things that seem timeless when they are in your head to no more than living size when they are brought out.

Stephen King.

The Hardest Thing About Writing Is Not Writing

The hardest thing about writing, in a sense, is not writing. I mean, the sentence is not intended to show you off, you know. It is not supposed to be “look at me!” “Look, no hands!” It’s supposed to be a pipeline between the reader and you. One condition of the sentence is to write so well that no one notices that you’re writing.


Sunday, February 6, 2011

The First Draft

The only true creative aspect of writing is the first draft. That’s when it’s coming straight from your head and your heart, a direct tapping of the unconscious. The rest is donkey work. It is, however, donkey work that must be done.

Write & Review is a wrting website that I help run. It has a relaxed and friendly atmosphere and welcomes new members with open arms; so if you're looking for constructive criticism, some inspiration, or would just like to chat to people who share the same interests as you, take a look. 

Saturday, February 5, 2011

If You Walk in the Mist, You Get Wet

If you read good books, when you write, good books will come out of you. Maybe it’s not quite that easy, but if you want to learn something, go to the source. Basho, the great seventeenth-century Haiku master said, “If you want to know about a tree, go to the tree.” If you want to know poetry, read it, listen to it. Let those patterns and forms be imprinted in you. Don’t step away from poetry to analyze a poem with your logical mind. Enter poetry with your whole body. Dogen, a great Zen master, said, “If you walk in the mist, you get wet.” So just listen, read, and write. Little by little, you will come closer to what you need to say and express it through your voice.


I spent last night asleep on the floor of the Accident and Emergency department.

I spent last night asleep on the floor of the Accident and Emergency department.
No, this is not a line from one of my dark fictional pieces it is true. Our local GP advised us to take our daughter to the hospital after a visit to him. She was suffering with dizziness and a loss of balance; he said that in eight years he had never seen it this bad in someone so young.
Many doctors saw her and they decided to keep her overnight for observations. The hospital was so overrun that it was 1am before we were given a trolley for her to sleep on overnight, as a bed was not available in the children’s ward, eleven hours after we first arrived. A&E is not designed to keep people long-term, only one parent is allowed to stay with a child, causing much upset with many of the other parents. My wife went home as I said I would stay with out daughter overnight. I had a choice of a chair that was not designed to be sat in for any length of time, never mind sleep in. After an hour or so, I opted for the floor. There I was lying on my daughter’s dressing gown, with a jumper rolled up as a pillow and my jacket as a blanket; it was a long cold night.
When morning came, my daughter was one of sixteen children lying on trolleys waiting to be allocated a bed on the wards.
This piece is not a moan at the conditions my daughter or I had to put up with, but as an admiration for the nurses and doctors of that hospital.
The department is under staffed and budgets have been cut beyond belief. The A&E department was so overrun by patients, all I could do was watch as the small number of nurses ran around from patient to patient; trying to do way too much for any human being in any working environment.
Adults who had been there for hours giving up their seats for those who needed it more, a real spirit formed between many. Unfortunately there was also those who believed they were the only people there and wanted all the attention of the nurses. Funny enough these were the people the doctors did not require to stay overnight.
My daughter ended up staying two nights, we moved from A&E to a day ward, and eventually on to a children’s ward. However, her journey did not end there, as the next night of A&E patients were now lining up for beds. We were asked if we would mind moving again, this time to the children’s day ward. They needed more space for a few sick babies; my daughter was not bothered about being moved so we did not mind.
As we passed from ward to ward and met many nurses, all they could do was apologise for the situation, it was not their fault, they were in no way to blame. Every one of them we met were still so pleasant and helpful, a wonderful credit to the nursing profession when you considered the conditions that they have to work under day after day.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Don't Be Bullied By Punctuation

When speaking aloud, you punctuate constantly—with body language. Your listener hears commas, dashes, question marks, exclamation points, quotation marks as you shout, whisper, pause, wave your arms, roll your eyes, wrinkle your brow. In writing, punctuation plays the role of body language. It helps readers hear you the way you want to be heard. Careful use of those little marks emphasizes the sound of your distinctive voice and keeps the reader from becoming bored or confused. . . . [Punctuation] exists to serve you. Don’t be bullied into serving it.

Stories Must Have Life At The End

Life goes on, and for the sake of verisimilitude and realism, you cannot possibly give the impression of an ending: you must let something hang. A cheap interpretation of that would be to say that you must always leave a chance for a sequel. People die, love dies, but life does not die, and so long as people live, stories must have life at the end.