Writing advice from John D. MacDonald

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss a blog post about the late author John D. MacDonald…

John D. MacDonald (1916 to 1986) was prolific author of crime and suspense novels, best known for his thrillers, in particular for the critically acclaimed Travis McGee series, and his novel The Executioners

I don’t typically read thrillers (which is not to criticize MacDonald — it’s more to illustrate my own shortcomings). But I was delighted when a reader  emailed me a link to a blog post about MacDonald. Apparently, MacDonald not only produced fiction prolifically, he also wrote regularly about the art of writing.

Here is a brief excerpt from a 1974 piece he produced for The Writer magazine:

The writer is like a person trying to entertain a listless child on a rainy afternoon.
You set up a card table, and you lay out pieces of cardboard, construction paper, scissors, paste, crayons. You draw a rectangle and you construct a very colorful little fowl and stick it in the foreground, and you say, “This is a chicken.” You cut out a red square and put it in the background and say, “This is a barn.” You construct a bright yellow truck and put it in the background on the other side of the frame and say, “This is a speeding truck. Is the chicken going to get out of the way in time? Now you finish the picture.”
MacDonald’s reflections about this scenario are both thoughtful and provocative, and I encourage you to read more of them on the Steve Scott blog. Many thanks to my reader Steve Wellmeier for bringing this blog to my attention.


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