Writer’s Desk: Clancy’s Rules


The late and arguably great Tom Clancy—born this past week in 1947—was never going to be remembered as a stylist. The characters in his techno-thrillers like The Hunt for Red October and Patriot Games generally talked alike (unless they were villains) and he was never good at setting a scene.

However, before bestseller bloat started turning his ever-denser plots into 1,000-page bores, he could crank out a perfectly good wargame scenario for the kind of readers who liked theorizing over who would win in a firefight: Delta Force or Spetsnaz?

Here are some of Clancy’s rules for writing and life. Take them as you will:

  • Tell the story
  • Writing is like golf
  • Make pretend more real than real
  • Writer’s block is unacceptable
  • No one can take your dream away

Perhaps not to everyone’s liking. But, then, not everyone has written the (still very readable) Red Storm Rising, which was seen as so plausible a World War III scenario at the time that Reagan read it to prep for his Iceland summit with Gorbachev.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s