Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Inspiration Tuesday: because Mondays are for chumps

Somehow managed to miss Monday for my Inspiration post, so here we go with
Tuesday.

Last month the writing world lost one of its greats, Elmore Leonard. I'm going to be honest here, I've never read an Elmore Leonard book, but I did see Get Shorty, so that counts right? Right?

Anyway, Leonard was famous for his spare prose and sharp dialogue. And among writers, his 10 Rules for Great Writing:
  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."
  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.
Of course "rules" in the writing world are more like suggestions, so feel free to break any number of these. But if you're breaking more than 4 of them, you probably need to stop and rethink what you're doing, and how you're doing it. Notice that none of these rules have anything to do with actual plot. You can have the most awesomely plotty novel out there, but being too verbose, just for the sake of verbosity, doesn't make a great book.

I have had to learn that lesson myself. I am fully capable of breaking - and have broken - every rule on this list simultaneously. It's a hard lesson to learn, but once I did get it through my thick skull, I found that I am capable of so much more.

1 comment:

  1. I'm guilty of 3, and 4, but I agree wholeheartedly with 1 and 5-10. Prologues I'm on the fence about.

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