The title today comes from the mouth of one of the best-regarded modern writers. He had a way with words! Here are some more Elmore Leonard quotes for all you writers, beginning with his famous 10 writing rules:
“There are some people who have been reading me for years, and they keep saying kind things about the writing. That’s what you’re writing for, to get people to respond to it.”
“It doesn’t have to make sense. It just has to sound like it does.”
“It’s my attempt to remain invisible, not distract the reader from the story with obvious writing.”
“My most important rule is one that sums up the 10. If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”
Elmore Leonard is famous for many things: his Raylan Givens book series that became the TV series, "Justified."; Get Shorty and The 3:10 to Yuma; and for writing spare and elegant prose across his 52 novels and short stories in westerns, crime fiction, and suspense thrillers.
He is a great one for writing quotes. So pithy and direct. So on-point. His writing rules are among the most shared of his quotes. The last one being the most shared: leave out the parts readers skip.
Ha! A genius statement. But, I wonder, how do I know what those parts are? A quick Internet search turned up some elements.
1) Fast pacing is necessary. If not, re-write a scene or leave it out.
Pacing involves a balance of tension, energy, and calm. No book can be breakneck in every sentence. That kind of book would be like the plot heavy/character absent action adventure movies where something blows up every three minutes interspersed with car chases. Stock characters with no growth. That’s not your book!
2) Snappy dialogue is necessary. If not, rewrite or leave it out.
Dialogue advances plot or reveals character. Examine the dialogue you wrote. If it does neither, dump it or re-write. Even better if you can get your dialogue to do double-duty.
3) Setting should set the scene not dominate it. If not, rewrite or leave it out.
Literary fiction is the place for extended and rich scene setting. In the books most of us write most of the time, the job of the scene is to anchor the actions and characters. Checkov famously said, “If a gun is on the mantle in the first act, it must go off in the third.” Examine each part of your scene setting. What is necessary to advance the plot.
4) Word choice must be appropriate to characters. If not, rewrite or leave it out.
I get called on this one all the time by my crit partners. If a word stops the reader, it’s got to go. Words should be like caramel flowing over ice cream, smooth and easy.
Oh, there are more stoppers that should be eliminated in my writing (and yours), but this bunch ought to get you started toward a cleaner, sharper manuscript with less skipping by your readers. Thanks, Elmore!
Bloggers need readers. If you found this pertinent, perhaps you could share on social media.
Facebook: Elmore Leonard’s writing advice was the inspiration for this post on leaving out the parts readers skip. Check out Sharon Arthur Moore at http://bit.ly/2wefJQ9
Twitter: Elmore Leonard said leave out the parts readers skip. How do you know what those are? @Good2Tweat has some ideas http://bit.ly/2wefJQ9