7 writing insights from master storyteller Tom Clancy

The suspense and espionage writer, many of whose books were made into major motion pictures, died Wednesday. Here’s what he had to offer about the craft of writing.

Many in the literary world were rendered speechless today when news broke of the death of acclaimed spy and military writer Tom Clancy at age 66.

The author, whose works include “The Hunt for Red October,” “Clear and Present Danger,” and “Patriot Games,” is being remembered as a “favorite storyteller of the American military.”

CNN praised Clancy “for writing meticulous thrillers focusing on political intrigue and military tactics and technology.”

Through Clancy’s brilliant storytelling, the world got to know CIA agent Jack Ryan, the main character in most of the best-selling novels.

No other American novelist could take 20 pages to describe the intricacies of a wire within an explosive device.

The following quotes from Clancy shed light on his prolific career—and offer insights for writers of all sorts:

“Writing is hard, miserable, lonely work…You have to play to win.”

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

“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.”

“Books and movies are different art forms with different rules. And because of that, they never translate exactly.”

“Fundamentally, I think of myself as a storyteller, not a writer.”

“I was one of the first generations to watch television. TV exposes people to news, to information, to knowledge, to entertainment. How is it bad?”

“Success is a finished book, a stack of pages each of which is filled with words. If you reach that point, you have won a victory over yourself no less impressive than sailing single-handed around the world. Maybe you’ll get published. Maybe you won’t.”

Clancy, a former insurance agent, sold more than 50 million books worldwide.


Ragan.com Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive the latest articles from Ragan.com directly in your inbox.