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Friday, May 5, 2017

Elmore Leonard on Writing

     On August 20, 2013, the famed crime novelist Elmore Leonard died at his home in Bloomfield Village, Michigan. He was 87. In 200l Leonard wrote an article for New York Times entitled, "Writers on Writing: Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle." In this now classic piece, Leonard set out ten basic rules "that I've picked up along the way to help me remain invisible when I'm writing a book, to help me show rather than tell what's taking place in the story..." His ten rules:

1) Never open a book with weather. If it's only to create atmosphere, and not a character's reaction to the weather, you don't want to go on too long....

2) Avoid prologues. They can be annoying, especially following an introduction that comes after a foreword....

3) Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue....

4) Never us an adverb to modify the verb "said"...he admonished gravely....

5) Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words....

6) Never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose."...

7) Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly....

8) Avoid detailed descriptions of characters....

9) Don't go into great detail describing places and things....

10) Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip. Think of what you skip reading a novel: thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them. What the writer is doing, he's writing, perpetrating hooptdoodle, perhaps taking another shot at the weather, or has gone into the character's head, and the reader either knows what the guy's thinking about or doesn't care....

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