Monday was my last day with my hand in a cast, and I was ever so happy to get rid of the bandage. I was also looking forward to get down to writing again these last five weeks have been difficult, I kind of lost my focus. Even though I had prepared myself to the fact that my hand might not be “good as new” I was fairly disappointed Monday night. I could barely move my fingers, and the acing was increasing. I was still bleeding from the two operation wounds, and I was feeling quite miserable. So I had to do something that could make my world better: I started writing again. Yes.
Well, the first night, I wrote 27 words. And I decided on my main characters names and age. Tuesday I wrote about a 100 words, and renamed my main characters. Yesterday I cut about thirty words of what I had wrote the previous day, and I went back to the original chosen names.
Today I’ve written close to 1500 words.
What happened? Well, I understood I was afraid of using my hand, and mostly unable to do so. So I needed something else to inspire my writing, and I went back to reading some of the advices that are offered us on the internet.
My new book is a children’s book. So it might seem strange that I turn to Elmore Leonard for advice, but that was my intent. To challenge myself and my writing!
There is no greater writer of crime fiction than Elmore Leonard, and no one who has more resplendent energy. Leonard has had the classic career of a market-oriented novelist, and he really knows what he is talking about.
HERE ARE HIS RULES:
1 Never open a book with weather. If it’s only to create atmosphere, and not a character’s reaction to the weather, you don’t want to go on too long. The reader is apt to leaf ahead looking for people. There are exceptions. If you happen to be Barry Lopez, who has more ways than an Eskimo to describe ice and snow in his book Arctic Dreams, you can do all the weather reporting you want.
2 Avoid prologues: they can be annoying, especially a prologue following an introduction that comes after a foreword. But these are ordinarily found in non-fiction. A prologue in a novel is backstory, and you can drop it in anywhere you want. There is a prologue in John Steinbeck’sSweet Thursday, but it’s OK because a character in the book makes the point of what my rules are all about. He says: “I like a lot of talk in a book and I don’t like to have nobody tell me what the guy that’s talking looks like. I want to figure out what he looks like from the way he talks.”
3 Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue. The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in. But “said” is far less intrusive than “grumbled”, “gasped”, “cautioned”, “lied”. I once noticed Mary McCarthy ending a line of dialogue with “she asseverated” and had to stop reading and go to the dictionary.
4 Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said” … he admonished gravely. To use an adverb this way (or almost any way) is a mortal sin. The writer is now exposing himself in earnest, using a word that distracts and can interrupt the rhythm of the exchange. I have a character in one of my books tell how she used to write historical romances “full of rape and adverbs”.
5 Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. If you have the knack of playing with exclaimers the way Tom Wolfe does, you can throw them in by the handful.
6 Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose”. This rule doesn’t require an explanation. I have noticed that writers who use “suddenly” tend to exercise less control in the application of exclamation points.
7 Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly. Once you start spelling words in dialogue phonetically and loading the page with apostrophes, you won’t be able to stop. Notice the way Annie Proulx captures the flavour of Wyoming voices in her book of short stories Close Range.
8 Avoid detailed descriptions of characters, which Steinbeck covered. In Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants”, what do the “American and the girl with him” look like? “She had taken off her hat and put it on the table.” That’s the only reference to a physical description in the story.
9 Don’t go into great detail describing places and things, unless you’re Margaret Atwood and can paint scenes with language. You don’t want descriptions that bring the action, the flow of the story, to a standstill.
10 Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip. Think of what you skip reading a novel: thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them.
My most important rule is one that sums up the 10: if it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.
I’ve found this article on http://www.guardian.co.uk
Thank you Elmore Leonard, I’m writing again 🙂