Dear Mr. Murray:

I have read "Provincial Honeymoon" with care, and you will believe that my attitude was, and is, one of genuine eagerness for your welfare. I want you to be happy in achievement; and what I shall have to say will be prompted by that desire, backed by my belief in your ability.

In the first place, you write remarkably well, and I am sure your technique will be adequate for anything you may conceive clearly and with enthusiasm. Your understanding of character is notable, and you have a gift for presenting your people in a simple way that makes them real. In fact, all the way through the book it seemed to me that you were remembering, and not creating, these people. The same is true of all the incidents. Furthermore, a fine quality of mind and heart is to be felt throughout the story.

This is "all to the good" surely--an excellent equipment for the things you are going to do.

Nevertheless, the measure of success you have achieved here is not in keeping with either your desire or your ability. The fault is not a matter of detail; it is fundamental, being a lack in the original conception of the whole. You have a wealth of vividly realized character for material, but it lacks purposeful organization. It is not dealt with creatively. Life presents an apparent chaos of people and events moving in tune. The creative act is that of tracing design in the apparent chaos to the end that the whole may be illuminated with emergent meaning.

I feel no patter in your story, no dynamic scheme. This is underlined because it is the vital point. Your characters come and go, do this and that. They are all certainly quite recognizable people, and things they do are quite as recognizably things they doubtless would or could do. But if verisimilitude were enough, there would be no need for creative art. You have made with skill a faithful copy of the phase of life you have chosen to record, and it is the obvious you have recorded. The meanings that attach to the record are those which you, as author, have appended in the form of commentary. I am aware that this method of presenting life has been employed with what passes for great success by certain authors in our day; but the morbid popular interest in sordid character and scandalous incident was involved in such "success". Were your incidents sufficiently shocking, you too could "succeed" with such a method. But not one character or incident in the whole book is even slightly sensational. To be offensive in any way is not among your gifts--a matter of great satisfaction to both of us, I am sure.

Were you one to develop character on a grand scale, your method might seem sufficient; but in that case your characters would be conceived in accordance with a very definite dynamic scheme, which in turn would give dramatic impulse to the sequence of incidents whereby the developing character would be revealed.

There is an inevitable self-completion in the creative process. The creative power moves in such a way as to return upon itself. A graph of the creative process would approximate a circle. A graph of the movement of your story would be a line with slight irregularities, and with perhaps an abrupt upward turn at the end.

I do believe that you will readily grant the justice in this abstract statement of my objection to the book. Having done so, you may ask what concrete suggestion I have to make. I would say that when you have conceived a theme for another novel, you should give

yourself to dreaming out a plot suitable to the development of that theme; that you should continue your dreaming until you feel the whole story complete, and a self-completing, within you--not in every detail, but as an architectural mass, much as one might see a church, from foundation to spire, looming in a thin fog. When your sense of the whole has grown so that to think of it is to feel uplifted and enlarged, then begin to write, and sparing no pains to keep the form you dreamed,
toiling to make the details worthy of imagining the dream.

I think the result may surprise you more than it will surprise your friend.

With every kind thought,

John G. Neihardt
I have written to you only what I know & I have written with the conviction that you [?] strong to endure frustrations; that you [?] above wanting any easy victory; that you are willing & eagerand able to pay whatever may cost to do the necessary price for real achievement.
With every kind thought,

John G. Neihardt
Mr. Byron D. Murray 819 Eleventh St., S. Moorhead, Minnesota