Wednesday, October 2

Tom Clancy's Writing Wisdom

Tom Clancy And His Perspective On Writing

As you've probably heard, Tom Clancy passed away yesterday. Although I don't generally read books about soldiers or war, I read a few of his and liked them a lot.

I've been reading quotations, things Tom Clancy said about writing, and found them curiously moving. The things he said were perceptive. Humane.

Tom Clancy thought of himself more as a storyteller than a writer. Though I haven't had anything remotely close to Mr. Clancy's success, that's how I think of myself as well.

When I sit down to write I imagine sitting by a campfire telling a story to people who want something interesting to listen to, to think about, before they go to sleep. If my story does that I consider it a success.

What follows are a few quotations that I found especially apt, especially moving. I think I'm going to read, or re-read, one of Tom Clancy's books. If anyone has a suggestion, please leave it in the comments.

Tom Clancy: Quotations

"You learn to write the same way you learn to play golf. You do it, and keep doing it until you get it right. Writing isn’t divinely inspired – it’s hard work."

"What happened to me was pure dumb luck – I’m not the new Hemingway. Of course, fortune does favor the brave. In battle, you forgive a man anything except an unwillingness to take risks. Sometimes you have to put it on the line. What I did was take time away from how I earned my living. My wife gave me hell – ‘Why are you doing this?’ – but she doesn’t complain anymore. I wanted to see my name on the cover of a book. If your name is in the Library of Congress, you’re immortal."

And of course:

"The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense."

Here are more Tom Clancy quotes:
Buzzfead: Tom Clancy On Writing

My next post is going to be either on Lester Dent's Master Fiction Plot or Georges Polti's 36 dramatic situations. I'm not going to do all 36, but I will unpack one of them.

Photo credit: The photograph is from Alan Duke's article (Author Tom Clancy, master of the modern-day thriller, dead at 66) over at


  1. I didn't know that "fiction has to make sence" is his quotation :)

  2. It's interesting you mention that. Here's the discussion on Wikiquote (for the url, see above):

    The difference between reality and fiction? Fiction has to make sense.
    - Attirbuted to an interview on Larry King Live; also quoted in Quotable Quotes (1997) edited by Deborah Deford

    Attributed variant: The difference between fiction and reality is that fiction has to make sense.

    Clancy here expresses an idea evoked in similar statements made by others, all derived from the orignial made by Lord Byron:

    Lord Byron: Truth is always strange; stranger than fiction.

    Mark Twain : Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities, truth isn't.

    G. K. Chesterton: Truth must necessarily be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind and therefore congenial to it.

    Leo Rosten : Truth is stranger than fiction; fiction has to make sense. (attributed)


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