Advice from the Masters: Tom Clancy

Mar 28, 2012 | Better Writing

The first Tom Clancy novel I read was also his first, The Hunt for Red October. I was blown away by the mastery of detail in this new kind of book: a techno-thriller. I was impressed with all the technical details about submarines and I didn’t know enough to judge whether Clancy got them right or not. But I’ve know several submariners in my life. What impressed me was that Clancy got the language and tone right. That takes hard work.

That resonates with what Clancy says about learning to write.

“You learn to write the same way you learn to play golf. You do it, and keep doing it until you get it right. A lot of people think something mystical happens to you, that maybe the muse kisses you on the ear. But writing isn’t divinely inspired – it’s hard work.”

There are tricks of the trade, it’s true, but you learn them in with all the other details as you turn out one bit of writing after another, learning from each one.

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