Crime writer Elmore Leonard died a two days ago. A radio journalist said Leonard’s novel output averaged one book every 18 months. Incredible.
In honor of Leonard, a member of my writing group came to last night’s meeting with copies of Elmore Leonard’s Ten Rules for Writing. His goal as a writer was to remain invisible, to let the reader enjoy the story without sensing the writer is trapped in the book.
I won’t share them all, but here are a few nuggets and my comments.
Never open a book with weather. There’s a reason writers and readers laugh at the line, It was a dark and stormy night. They laugh because it’s awful.
Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue. He cried. She muttered. He blasted. She raged. Those types of dialogue tags insert the writer into the character. No reader wants the writer interfering with the novel she’s enjoying.
Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip … If it sounds like writing, rewrite it. His quote: I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative. It’s my attempt to remain invisible, not distract the reader from the story with obvious writing.
Farewell to Elmore Leonard, the invisible writer.