Gary Provost

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Gary R. Provost
BornNovember 14, 1944
Boston, Massachusetts, US
DiedMay 10, 1995
Occupation(s)Writer, teacher
Years active1982-1995
StyleHow-To texts for writers

True-Crime YA novels Satire Mystery Celebrity Biography Business Sports Romance

SpouseGail Provost
AwardsSkipping Stones Book Award, National Jewish Book Award

Gary Provost (November 14, 1944 – May 10, 1995)[1] was an American writer and writing instructor, author of works including Make every word count: a guide to writing that works—for fiction and nonfiction (1980) and 100 Ways to Improve Your Writing: Proven Professional Techniques for Writing with Style and Power (1985). He was married to Gail Provost, and together they wrote 3 books.

Life and career[edit]

Provost was born in Boston and grew up in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts.[2] He was the youngest of 9 children, with his other siblings being "scattered about the state in various foster homes or reform schools" [2]Upon leaving school in 1962, Provost hitchhiked across the United States.[3]

In addition to writing books, Provost also wrote columns and celebrity profiles.[2] Additionally, he was a teacher and a writing coach, starting a weekly seminar with his wife Gail. He also spoke at numerous writing conferences throughout the nation.[2] A children's book that Provost wrote with his wife, Gail, titled David and Max, won the 2007 Skipping Stones Honor Award.[4]

One of his most well-known quotes is based of a writing tip he gave, "vary sentence length". The quote, which is often referred to as "Write Music", is:

This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It's like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety.

Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length. And sometimes when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals—sounds that say listen to this, it is important.

So write with a combination of short, medium, and long sentences. Create a sound that pleases the reader's ear. Don't just write words. Write music.[5]

Provost died on May 10, 1995. His death was sudden, and it interrupted his then-ongoing projects, including a book about Humphrey Bogart.[6] Some of his unfinished work has been published posthumously, including "Baffled In Boston" published in 2001, and "The Dorchester Gas Tank" published in 2016.


Writing instructions[edit]

  • The Freelance Writer's Handbook (1982)
  • 100 Ways To Improve Your Writing (1985)
  • Beyond Style: Mastering the Finer Points of Writing (1988)
  • Make Every Word Count (1990)
  • How to Write and Sell True Crime (1991)
  • Make Your Words Work (1991)
  • How to Tell a Story: The Secrets of Writing Captivating Tales (1998) (with Peter Rubie)[dubious ]
  • "Just Say No" published in The Writer's Digest Handbook of Novel Writing (1992)

True crime[edit]

  • Fatal Dosage: The True Story of a Nurse on Trial for Murder (1985)
  • Finder: The True Story of a Private Investigator (1988) (with Marilyn Greene)
  • Across The Border: The True Story of the Satanic Cult Killings in Matamoros, Mexico (1989)
  • Without Mercy: Obsession and Murder Under The Influence (1990)
  • Perfect Husband: The True Story of the Trusting Bride Who Discovered Her Husband Was a Coldblooded Killer (1992)
  • Into Their Own Hands (1994)


  • Finder: The True Story of a Private Investigator (1988, with Marilyn Greene)
  • High Stakes: Inside the New Las Vegas (1994)
  • Bogart: In Search of My Father (1995, by Stephen Bogart)


  • Baffled In Boston (2001) (Published posthumously)[dubious ]


  • The Dorchester Gas Tank (2016) (Published posthumously)[dubious ]


  • Share The Dream (1983)

Pre-teen novel[edit]

  • The Pork Chop War (1982)
  • Good If It Goes (1984, with Gail Provost Stockwell). winner of the 1985 National Jewish Book Award for Children's Literature.[7]
  • Popcorn (1985, with Gail Provost Stockwell)
  • David and Max (1988, with Gail Provost Stockwell). Winner of the 2007 Skipping Stones Book Award.


  1. ^ Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed.
  2. ^ a b c d "About Gary". Retrieved November 22, 2017.
  3. ^ Rousseau, C. A Quote A Day For Writers: January – Getting Started
  4. ^ "Skipping Stones". 2007. Retrieved November 22, 2017.
  5. ^ "write-music". Retrieved February 4, 2024.
  6. ^ "Book Notes". The New York Times. September 27, 1995. Retrieved November 22, 2017.
  7. ^ "Past Winners". Jewish Book Council. Retrieved January 19, 2020.

External links[edit]