Thursday, August 22, 2013

Elmore Leonard's Writing Rules and Alan Massie

Alan Massie writes about Elmore Leonard's writing rules in the Telegraph today.  It's an interesting article - for Alan Massie's take as much as 'the rules' - which were, apparently 'quickly scrawled on a loose piece of paper.'

1.  Never open a book with the weather.  Massie disagrees - mostly this is fine as long as it is not overdone.
2.  Avoid prologues.  Massie agrees - with reservations.
3.  Never use a verb other than 'said' to carry dialogue.  Massie agrees - and points out that even these should be used sparingly.  He says it is important to think about rhythm.
4.  Never use an adverb to modify the word said.   He agrees.  He says they are lazy pointers.
5.  Keep your exclamation marks under control.  Agrees.
6.  Never use the word 'suddenly' or 'All hell broke loose'.  Agrees - show not tell.
7.  Use dialect sparingly.  Generally sound advice, he says.
8.  Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.  Agrees - suggests one line.
9.  Same for places.  Only a qualified agreement with this since some authors are so good at this.
10.  Leave out the parts readers skip.  Massie suggests this should be amended to parts the writer finds boring to write.  

Massie then goes on to consider Hemingway's three pieces of writerly advice:
1.  Don't stop when stuck - always stop when you know what's coming next.
2.  Always read over what you've written (as much is feasible) before writing again.
3.  Don't think about it when not at your desk to give the unconscious a chance to work on it.

Alan Massie's own advice is to always try and hear what the characters are saying.

All useful stuff, I'd say - and an interesting article.  It makes me consider things I'd not considered before, and something to bear in mind for the eventual edit (or diet).


Blogger aliholli said...

Number 10 is a good one haha x

Wed Aug 28, 02:50:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

:-) But a lot harder than it sounds!

Wed Aug 28, 05:26:00 pm  
Blogger Unknown said...

I like number 10, and it's certainly a pointer to your scene dragging. As a reader, I admit to skim reading anything to do with weather and descriptions of landscapes that are more than three sentences long. More can come later - I just don't like great chunks. But it seems to me that writers who are also poets love writing weather and landscape though.

And writing this has made me realise there are a couple of sentences I need to get rid of immediately in the WIP. Off I go!

Fri Sept 06, 07:52:00 am  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

I've just been reading to Ian McEwan's 'Sweet Tooth' and the narrator in that says the same thing. I suppose it depends on how well it's done, too.

Fri Sept 06, 08:33:00 am  

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