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When we become Miss Wilkinses, we may not only dictate to our ideas, but also to our editors. In the mean time, we must consult, to a certain extent, popular taste.
The "happy-ending" constituents argue that there is enough misery and unhappiness in the world without writing about it. People read, they claim, for diversion. All this may be; but while the natural-ending element by no means encourages or advises, and, indeed, condemns, unnecessary depression or chronic melancholia, and while it is willing to make all reasonable concessions, it insists, at the same time, that the representation of life sometimes demands an unhappy termination; that art is nature, and that nature is often sadness.
SAN FRANCISCo, Calif.
Alice Yates Grant.
II. They Don't.
May it be permitted to a layman to inquire why the great majority of the writers of short stories in our leading magazines consider a tragic culmination to be indispensable to their productions?
Doubtless it is proof of our modern develop ment of taste that both writer and reader are satisfied with the old system of story telling, which was but to portray the troublous course of true love, with a wedding at the close, and the sanguine inference that the lovers "lived in peace forever after." But why, in the reaction from centuries of such tales, short and long, should the pendulum swing to the extremest opposite? Must such a surfeit of final blisses beget the necessity of endless terminations of pathetic type?
It is comparatively seldom now that the magazine reader gets one cheering reflection, one hopeful impression, one inspiring picture from that galaxy of modern tales emanating from our brightest authors.
At this rate, the touch of disparagement or satire, the pall of resignation or despair will. soon become the insignia of membership in this too sophisticated coterie of letters.
Now the average reader who leads an average life sees quite enough of unrewarded labor, of thwarted ambitions, of weary disappointments, and endless combinations of fruitless
patience, unmerited punishments, and unconsummated loves without having it all reflected upon him from the very agents to which he looks for amelioration of life's bitterness. If not to light literature, then where shall he turn for a soothing or inspiring suggestion of brighter destiny? To be sure, the story-teller's art is supposed to be the mirror of real life, but why not reflect the high lights as well as the shuddering glooms? Besides, the most prosaic art may idealize somewhat.
We all know the story of the two actors who had a contest to see which one could imitate a pig in the most natural and life-like manner. One, in the judgment of all concerned, was far more successful than the other, when the defeated candidate opened his capacious coat and proved it to be a veritable pig whose too prosaic squealing had lost him the contest.
"When I was young my strain was sad," says "Grace Greenwood," "but now I'm old my strain is glad," she adds, — and this is the natural evolution of the human taste. In youth, with the disenchantments of experience practically unknown, we revel in the "grand, gloomy, and peculiar." When youth is past, who wants to be eternally reminded that our illusions, aspirations, and all the rest are smoking on the altar-fires behind us?
For heaven's sake, gentlemen, give us something brighter! Let it be absurd, fantasticwhat you will! even to plebeian cheerfulness, and we will take the tonic draught with gratitude.
Simple human nature, defeated of its instinct of worship and its hunger for perfect loves, does not desire the wet handkerchief of sympathetic experience held eternally to its eyes. Avaunt, with your harrowing heartaches, your processions of perplexities and disappointments, your hopeless catastrophies, and tragic culminations of all sorts and shades! Get hence, every raven's wing that makes darker by a thought the already black dome under which this old world of ours, blind with agony, reels on to unknown futures! Picture life a little sweeter than it is. Squeal more ably than Mr. Pig himself could do.
Jessie Wilson Manning.
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about any literary work on which they may be engaged. The chief object of THE WRITER is to be a magazine of mutual help for authors, and its pages are always open for anything practical which may tend in this direction. Bits of personal experience, suggestions regarding methods, and ideas for making literary work easier or more profitable are especially desired. Articles must be short, because the magazine is small.
The sixth bound volume of THE WRITER, with full index and title-page, will be ready for delivery about January 25. It will contain more than 230 pages, and will be neatly bound in cloth, in style uniform with the preceding volumes. A complete set of bound volumes of THE WRITER is something that no writer's library should be without. Nowhere else can be found so many practical, helpful articles and suggestions regarding the best and most profitable methods of literary work. It will not be possible always to secure a complete bound set of THE WRITER, for the supply of some of the volumes is so small that already the price of single volumes has been advanced, and the supply is sure to be exhausted at no distant day. Those who would like complete sets of the magazine, therefore, will do well to send in their orders now. The purchase of a set will be a good investment, for complete sets of the magazine are sure to increase in value as the years go by.
The price of Vol. VI. of THE WRITER, for 1892-93, will be $1.50. The price of a complete bound set of the six volumes of the magazine will be for the present Nine Dollars, or, with a subscription for THE WRITER for 1894 added, Ten Dollars. No better present could be given to any literary worker. The prices of volumes of THE WRITER ordered singly are: Vol. I. (1887), $2.00; Vol. II. (1889), $1.50; Vol. III. (1889), $2.00; Vol. IV. (1890), $1.50; Vol. V. (1891), $1.50; Vol. VI. (1891-92), $1.50. Those who desire to complete their sets should send their orders now, before it is too late.
A few complete sets of THE AUTHOR which was merged with THE WRITER at the
beginning of 1892 - may still be had. They comprise the three bound volumes for 1889, 1890, and 1891, which will be sold separately for Two Dollars each, or together for Five Dollars. These volumes of THE AUTHOR CONtain a fund of information about authors and literary work to be obtained nowhere else, and, like the volumes of THE WRITER, they are sure to be enhanced in value as time goes on. The number of complete sets available is comparatively small.
What better investment can any writer make than to spend fifteen dollars for a complete set of the bound volumes of THE WRITER and THE AUTHOR, together with a subscription for THE WRITER for 1894, either for himself or as a useful present to a literary friend?
"There is little excuse for a man's correspondence or other literary accumulations to lie carelessly around the house or library when a letter file with index can be purchased for less than twenty-five cents," says the American Stationer-and the American Stationer is right. The literary man, especially, cannot afford not to take advantage of the inexpensive helps to order and classification which he can get at small expense. Pigeon-holes, a box of envelopes for filing purposes, desk drawers suitably sub-divided, scrap books, and a simple indexed letter file for correspondence are within the reach of every one, and they are all invaluable helps to literary men. Editors, particularly, need such conveniences for the orderly performance of their daily work. It is chiefly because editors are so unsystematic that writers have reason for complaint.
Certainly no magazine editor ought to encourage the "thirteen" superstition by always sending back all his rejected manuscripts on the thirteenth day of the month.
W. H. H.
HUDDLE YOUR IDEAS.
Nobody cares what first aroused you to your theme. No one cares whether you were at your baize-covered desk or sawing wood when your topic, like a stiff gale, rushed into your mental
sails, and made them belly with fresh ideas. Few readers will seek to know where you were stationed when the coy subject came buzzing into your mind, and formed itself into a conviction, and how you impaled it with your trenchant pen before it could vanish into forgetfulness.
Plant your ideas thick, but not two in a hill. Don't imagine that they should be set through your article like sentinels - with considerable space between. Close up the ranks; your ideas won't suffocate. The average reader has the capacity to scoop them up where they are thickly settled, without milestones explaining their distance and locality.
Huddle your thoughts into short, pithy paragraphs. Don't smother them with verbiage, until they dwindle into faint shadows, flitting through a forest of big words.
This is merely the faint outline of an ideal conception, which is as unapproachable as the horizon, and which mocks me with its impossible beauty; but it is a standard at which all who write for the press should aim. BROOKLYN, N. Y.
HOW NOVELISTS INTRODUCE CONVERSATION.
She "began," "asked," "said," "remarked," 'suggested," "answered," "explained," "murmured," "admitted," "interposed," "sighed,” "babbled," and "fluttered."
The reader may be curious to know in what occupation the female represented by the pronoun was engaged, that such a collection of diverse verbs should be necessary to explain her actions. These, however, are merely some of the words used by William Dean Howells for the purpose of introducing conversation in one of his recent works.
As is well known, the dialogue in a novel adds greatly to its charm; and if it is well written, it will hold the reader's attention even better than an exciting description.
The verb employed must be, as a rule, in the past tense, and the most convenient and expressive one is "said"; but the constant repetition of this word becomes monotonous; although many authors of reputation are seemingly not
afraid to use it, and sprinkle their pages liberally with "saids." The careless reader becomes so used to its appearance that often the repetition is not noticed. The next time you pick up a story, just count the number of times the word occurs, and you will probably be surprised at its frequency.
To avoid tautology, a number of other words prove of great value to the writer, and his "Unabridged" is compelled to yield up appropriate terms in which to introduce the speech of his characters.
Charles Dickens made the conventional "said" do useful service. For example, on one page of "Pickwick " we find this word employed seventeen times-seven times in successive remarks.
Among other words used by the great novelist are the following: "Inquired," "replied," "exclaimed," "echoed," "urged," "whispered," "observed," "nodded," cried," "resumed," "continued," "responded," "rejoined," "suggested," "remonstrated," "ejaculated," "soliloquized," "growled," "screamed," and "roared."
Very often no explanatory words are necessary to show which person is speaking, and the dialogue continues in this way, until at last it is necessary to jog the memory by introducing a
"Now, I call that real pretty," said she, smiling at me over her gold-bowed spectacles"It's as good as that piece I read last Sunday in the "- but never mind about the name; I will be merciful and spare the tender feelings of the paper in question, albeit its editor never spared mine" Why don't you get it printed?"
Dear, simple soul! How could she know why I did n't? that was too much for even me, grown worldly wise.
I did not tell her that I had already sent it to nine editors, and that whatever the reason was why I had n't got it printed, it was certainly not because I had n't tried. No, I could n't tell her that; it would have terribly shaken her faith in me, and without the slightest reason, as my brother and sister rhymers can sadly testify.
[The best magazines usually either accept or decline a manuscript within a month from the time of its receipt. A delay of two months in reaching a decision is not uncommon. If a writer has heard nothing from a mauuscript two months after he submitted it, it will do no harm for him to make inquiries regarding it.. It is not right, of course, for an editor to keep a manuscript a year before accepting or returning it. Sometimes, however, such things are done, either through carelessness, unbusinesslike methods, or even absolute inability on the part of the editor to keep up systematically with the
daily work of his position. The large magazines, which receive the most manuscripts, are forced to make provision for handling them systematically, and so give contributors the least trouble. The periodicals that are most likely to delay decisions are the small publications, which cannot afford to pay a salary to a manuscript clerk, and which are cramped generally in their resources. In the case of such periodicals, the task of caring for manuscripts received falls usually upon the editor. Most literary men are unbusinesslike, editors no less so than the rest. The result is that the overworked editor delays decisions and mislays manuscripts in a most exasperating way, and contributors suffer accordingly. All this will be changed when the time comes, if it ever does, when the demand for manuscripts is greater than the supply, and so writers are in a position to dictate terms to editors, instead of having to put up with what they can get, as they must now. - W. H. H. ·]
When a writer has a book to submit, is it not advisable to write to a number of publishers at once ? Writing to each one consecutively might consume a whole year, and still that book would not be placed, or even examined.
M. B. C.
[ It might seem at first thought that a writer with a book manuscript to sell could save a great deal of time by writing simultaneously to every publisher for whose use the manuscript should seem suitable, describing it, and asking each publisher addressed if he would like to examine the manuscript with a view to publication. There are practical objections, however, to this plan. In the first place, it is not easy to describe a manuscript so as to give an adequate idea of it, and in many cases the author's description would work him an injustice: the publisher might conclude that he did not care to look at the manuscript, and write to say so, whereas, if the manuscript itself had been submitted to him for examination, he might have been attracted by it, so as to make an offer for its publication. In the second place, it is not easy to deal with more than one publisher simultaneously, unless the author has more than one copy of the manuscript to be submitted. If, for instance, five publishers out of fifty should reply to the author's letter of inquiry that they
would be pleased to examine his manuscript, he would have to have five copies of it to send out, or else he would have to send four letters of explanation that might tax his ingenuity. If he had the five copies required, moreover, and should send them out simultaneously, he might - possibly be embarrassed by having three of the publishers write to him accepting the manuscript in which case he would have tomake himself unpopular with two of them, at least. All things considered, the slower method of approaching one publisher after another with the manuscript itself, instead of with a letter describing it, seems to be the safer and the better one. It takes time to do this, of course, but Rome was n't built in a day, and even Chicago dates clear back to 1831. — W. H. H. ]
Is it not possible that even so able a scholar as J. H. Long has made a mistake, when, in his "Slips of Tongue and Pen," he recommends the use of "iced water " and "iced cream," in preference to the more popular terms, "ice water" and "ice cream"? seems to me that the two words are scarcely in parallel case. The use of the word "iced water" is, no doubt, correct; but is not "ice water" equally so, meaning, as it does, a kind of water, and established by custom? cream," however, is to my mind incorrect. The word used in this form should convey the idea of cream set upon ice to cool, or of cream with lumps of ice floating in it; and not, in any sense, the popularly accepted meaning of cream frozen into ice.
E. N. B.
[Strictly speaking, "ice water "is water made by melting ice, while "iced water" is water cooled by ice. As a matter of fact, however, in America at least, "ice water and "ice cream are both names too firmly fixed in popular use to be changed by any criticism, and it seems hardly worth while even to attempt to make any distinction between them although if Americans would use ice water (literally) less, and iced water (literally) more, the American stomach would unquestionably be a great deal better off. W. H. H.]
THE SCRAP BASKET.
I was interested in an article concerning writers' methods in THE WRITER for October, and pleased to learn that I had long ago discov