“If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it,” E. Leonard

310toYumaCrime and Western novelist Elmore Leonard passed away today and while I know him from his novels-turned-films, including the original and remade 3:10 to Yuma, I have not explored his writing…

But I will now based on a great 2001 article he wrote for the NY Times. Leonard offers his tips picked up along the way and focuses on remaining “invisible” as the author, as exemplified here, “if it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”

I may not follow all of his advice (yes, all due respect to a novelist who is actually published, I’ll take my chances), but it seems he forgives breaking some of his rules as he explains with Steinbeck’s Sweet Thursday, Hooptedoodle chapters.

Leonard’s 10 Tips In Brief:
1. Never open a book with weather.
2. Avoid prologues.
3. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.
4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said”.
5. Keep your exclamation points under control.
6. Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose”… advice also given by my 7th grade English teacher as related to “all of a sudden.”
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.


"...he who does not ask remains a fool forever." ~Chinese proverb

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