Lessons from Elmore Leonard…

Word count: 271 words

Reading time: About 1 minute

This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help writers. Today I discuss an article written in 2001 by the late Elmore Leonard.

It embarrasses me to admit that I’ve never read a book by Elmore Leonard. Not Raylan, Pronto or Swag. Not even Get Shorty for heaven’s sakes! (I haven’t even seen the movie.) My excuse? I’m not much interested in Westerns or crime fiction.

But  the discourse following the writer’s Aug. 20 death, has made it clear to me that my excuses are not going to survive. I plan to read at least one of Leonard’s books (can you recommend which one?) before the year is out. Many newspapers and bloggers have already linked to Leonard’s “rules of writing,” a practice I will repeat here, if only because I want to be able to find the rule again, easily.

I agree wholeheartedly with these 10 rules, most especially # 3 and 4 regarding use of the word “said” (a topic about which I’ve written myself), and his global directive, “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.” Funnily enough, there’s a sentence in my book 8-1/2 Steps to Writing Faster, Better that sounds to me like writing. I’ve always regretted using it. (To prevent embarrassment, I’m not going to identify it any further.)

Rules, of course, are always begging to be broken. But if you follow Leonard’s you won’t go far wrong.

P.S. Just discovered this funny piece on Elmore Leonard in the Onion. Enjoy!