Even if you’ve never heard of Elmore Leonard, you’ve probably seen a movie or TV show inspired by his work. His short story “Fire in the Hole” inspired the tv show with the best theme music ever. (One of the reasons I picked Elmore for E was so I could work this video into one more post before Justified ends.)
Also written by Leonard and adapted for the screen: 3:10 to Yuma, Last Stand at Saber River, Valdez is Coming, Jackie Brown, and Get Shorty, to name but few. He was born in New Orleans in 1925 and his family moved to Detroit in 1934. He started writing pulp westerns in the 1950s and moved into crime fiction in the late 60s.
His writing is distinctive for its minimalist style, realism laced with dark humor, and sparkling dialogue. He’s one of the few writers I’ve ever encountered who could give me 160 pages and convince me by the end that I’d just read a novel. He died in 2013, having written 47 novels.
I find him inspiring because he started his career in the 50s and didn’t really break out until 1985. That’s a lot of persistence right there, though he did have some early successes to keep him going. Also inspiring: he believed in helping other writers along. Here are his ten rules of writing, from a book with the same title he published in 2007.
Leonard originally published these rules July 16, 2001, in the Arts section of the New York Times. You can read the original article, with his discussion of each of the rules, here.
- Never open a book with weather.
- Avoid prologues.
- Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue
- Keep your exclamation points under control.
- Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”
- Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
- Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
- Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
- Try and leave out the part that readers tend to skip.
The most important rule, that sums them up: “If it sounds like writing, rewrite it.”
For more book blogging, see our Books and Lists categories. Or you could take your chances with a random post from our extremely diverse archives. For an awesome writing blog, try Write On! Sisters. They are also doing the A to Z thing.
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