Monday, February 11, 2013

Word Wisdom from Mark Twain

For more than a century after his death, Mark Twain has been known as the father of American literature. Born Samuel Langhorne Clemens in 1835 in Florida, MO., he worked as a typesetter, as a young adulthood, and later began writing local newspaper articles. He went on to pilot steamboats on the Mississippi River and mined for gold and silver out west. He picked up writing again, using the pen name Mark Twain, while in Nevada.

Mark Twain is a riverboat term meaning "two fathoms." Two measurements had to be made when piloting a steamboat to make sure the water was deep enough to get through safely, therefore they would mark two fathoms (twain means two).

His love of the Mississippi River and his childhood spent in Hannibal, MO., inspired him to write The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884). Twain was the first American author to write in the vernacular, or simple everyday language.

Mark Twain continued to write and lecture until his death in 1910. During one such lecture, he said, "To get the right word in the right place is a rare achievement." How true this is! And I'm not claiming to have discovered the secret yet (if I find it, you'll be the first to know). Combining a unique writing voice, along with grammar and a perfect coupling of words is something all writer's struggle with at some point. Discovering the secret is to get published, and that's not an easy thing to do.  

I've kept this quote of Mark Twain's in my mind for the past few weeks as I'm polishing up the first fifteen pages of two manuscripts, along with a synopsis for each, to enter into a contest in hopes of taking one step further down the road in my writing journey. A lot can be said from Mark Twain's simplistic prose, which I've been constantly reminding myself of as I tend to overelaborate my verbs.

What famous quotes have helped you along your journey?

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