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Thread: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

  1. #71
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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    I thought it was obvious that the list of 10 rules was the kind of thing that one of Leonard's characters would do, not Leonard himself. And his characters mainly were the anti-establishment types.

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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    I hate it when someone says something is obvious, and it is, and I didn't get it.

    At least this this thread about being brief as a writer didn't turn into a pithing contest.


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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    In ten years, novels may very well open like this.

    Man ride desert for big search of footprint. Maybe shoot now him for justice. Big Dan!
    There are two kinds of boaters: those who have run aground, and those who lie about it.

  4. #74
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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    Jesus swept.


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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    The horse plodded slowly though the dusty desert sand, its rider hunched and not moving. Up ahead lay the small town of Deadwood, its faded structures barely visible through the shimmering heat.

    The man on the horse squinted his eyes to look at the town, as an old dog barked. This was his last chance, he thought, to set his life on another track.

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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Mahan View Post
    Jesus swept.
    and then the murders began
    Simpler is better, except when complicated looks really cool.

  7. #77
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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    First sentence of a novel should make you curious:


    “Chris Mankowski’s last day on the job, two in the afternoon, two hours to go, he got a call to dispose of a bomb.”
    ITS CHAOS, BE KIND

  8. #78
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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    Quote Originally Posted by Breakaway View Post
    In ten years, novels may very well open like this.

    Man ride desert for big search of footprint. Maybe shoot now him for justice. Big Dan!
    Plenty of good writers alive today. I doubt they'll all be dead in 10 years...

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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    A few things I practice:

    Don't stack modifiers (adjectives, adverbs). One should be enough.

    Try to replace modifiers with a strong verb.

    Read your first draft aloud and mark anything that seems awkward.

  10. #80
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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Bow View Post
    First sentence of a novel should make you curious:
    Typical Leonard.

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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    The first sentence of Get Shorty puts me off. Maybe all the Godfathers and Goodfellas and Sopranos have worn out my admittedly slight interest in goombah jargon and the thought processes of mobsters. But I feel no curiosity whatsoever. Zip, zero, zed.

  12. #82
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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    Others have posted bits of work, so I'll post this. In 1996 I'd published heaps of poetry and was trying to write fiction, with little success. I'd placed a few short stories in outdoor and climbing mags, but hadn't cracked the literary journals. I admired Peter Matthiessen's work and had met him in Jackson, Wyoming, when he gave a reading. He dropped a note that he was teaching a workshop on writing fiction at the Atlantic Center for the Arts and invited me to apply. The week's assignment was to write a short story set at the Atlantic Center and surroundings. I used my room and my sense of being confined.

    Peter liked the story, but noticed that the strong rhythm and sentences of similar length made it read like blank verse. He urged me to break it up and vary the sentence structure so it felt more like prose. I'd never have figured that out on my own. In any event, it was the first fiction I placed in a topnotch lit journal.


    White Butterflies

    The doctor is good. She speaks as if I were going to answer and then pauses, her head inclined, before she speaks again. Her hair is long, bound at the nape, and it shines like dark, burled wood. She probably charges more than I care to guess, but everything is in the sponsor's hands.

    The room is white, except for the window. The blinds have four white strings that lift or drop them, and a hexagonal wand of clear plastic that orients them to the earth or sky. Beyond the glass, each day is green and close. Night is stiff palmetto leaves rattling in the window light.

    I fell asleep in Kathmandu, my forearms weeping, black, and split up to the elbow joint, and woke up here, in a guarded compound on Florida's east coast, without my hands. The cables and the brace keep me immobilized. My feet, they say, will carry me again, and the broken vertebrae will knit, but it takes time.

    No one will ever love me again. That's a smaller darker pain, barely visible in the glare, like a sunspot. But at least the doctor knows, in kindness, when to leave the room. The nurses feed me; they change my tubes; they sponge me in my steel web; they wipe me. But they will not meet my eyes, or speak, and when they're done, they leave.


    —The North American Review
    , 282:3/4 (1997).

  13. #83
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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    Good stuff, Chip!

    Jeff C
    Donít expect much, and you wonít be disappointedÖ

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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    This is really good; I can see why it found a home in a good journal!

    Quote Originally Posted by Chip-skiff View Post
    White Butterflies

    The doctor is good. She speaks as if I were going to answer and then pauses, her head inclined, before she speaks again. Her hair is long, bound at the nape, and it shines like dark, burled wood. She probably charges more than I care to guess, but everything is in the sponsor's hands.

    The room is white, except for the window. The blinds have four white strings that lift or drop them, and a hexagonal wand of clear plastic that orients them to the earth or sky. Beyond the glass, each day is green and close. Night is stiff palmetto leaves rattling in the window light.

    I fell asleep in Kathmandu, my forearms weeping, black, and split up to the elbow joint, and woke up here, in a guarded compound on Florida's east coast, without my hands. The cables and the brace keep me immobilized. My feet, they say, will carry me again, and the broken vertebrae will knit, but it takes time.

    No one will ever love me again. That's a smaller darker pain, barely visible in the glare, like a sunspot. But at least the doctor knows, in kindness, when to leave the room. The nurses feed me; they change my tubes; they sponge me in my steel web; they wipe me. But they will not meet my eyes, or speak, and when they're done, they leave.


    —The North American Review
    , 282:3/4 (1997).
    But...

    Quote Originally Posted by Chip-skiff View Post
    A few things I practice:

    Don't stack modifiers (adjectives, adverbs). One should be enough.


    "my forearms weeping, black, and split"

    "
    a smaller darker pain"

    "
    four white strings"

    "
    dark, burled wood"

    Quote Originally Posted by Chip-skiff View Post
    Try to replace modifiers with a strong verb.
    "Her hair is long"

    "
    each day is green and close"

    "
    That's a smaller darker pain"

    "Night is stiff palmetto leaves rattling"

    Please understand, NONE of that is intended as criticism of the writing! That's excellent prose.

    I think what it shows is how little attention good writers pay to "rules"--even rules they invent themselves. And it shows, too, that there's a pervasive suspicion about being overly florid among writers. So we get rules like "use strong verbs" as if "is, are, am, was, were" weaken a story, or rules like "when you find an adjective, shoot it." So while many writers seem to feel an attraction toward these rules, they don't really follow them.

    Because every technique has its place. An "is" verb has a different aesthetic, creates a different effect, than a "strong" verb. And strings of modifiers and cumulative sentences stuffed full of adjectives and participles and what-not can be very effective. So can a single spare adjective, or none at all.

    Do you lean toward the terseness of Raymond Carver, or the wordiness of Faulkner?

    Good writers, I'd argue, are aware of the differing effects made possible by different word choice and different syntax. They may invent "rules" to help steer themselves into a particular aesthetic, or to help them curb a tendency they'd like to reduce, or whatever. But they know very well that rules ain't rules.

    (To get there, of course, they have to know syntax and sentence structures and rhythms at a deep, intuitive level--there are DEFINITELY rules in syntax, and good writers know when they are breaking them, and why).

    Anyway, great writing, Chip--congrats on the publication (long time ago, I know, but still).

    Tom





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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    Quote Originally Posted by Chip-skiff View Post
    His horse, a buckskin dun with a pale gold coat and a black mane and tail, had a pronounced limp.

    Redundant. Buckskin is a color already and a dun has a dark stripe down the middle of the horse, dark mane and tail.

    He slumped in the saddle, leaning forward,
    Is it possible to slump backward ?

    As the conjoined shadow of horse and rider
    Conjoined ? Eeeeuw please, this is a western ! just strike that, yuck

    glare of the bright sun revealed a trail: hoofprints in the pale, dry dust, and also splashes of bright, red blood.
    Excessive commas ! A comma is shorthand for 'and", do we need so many ands in here ? and 'bright" sun ? in the desert is there any other kind ?

    Sometimes all you need is logic


    Here's a bare-bones edit:

    Way better. Sorry, couldn't help myself

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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    Quote Originally Posted by HRDavies View Post

    Redundant. Buckskin is a color already and a dun has a dark stripe down the middle of the horse, dark mane and tail.

    Splitting hairs. ďBuckskin dunĒ (aka dunskin) is a legit horse description. Further describing the coat and point colors may be ďredundantĒ but not all readers would know or visualize the colors by Ďbuckskiní or Ďduní alone. Later in the story the color descriptors wouldn't be needed.

    I agree that ďconjoinedĒ seems awkward.

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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    Quote Originally Posted by HRDavies View Post
    Is it possible to slump backward ?


    Yes.

    Quote Originally Posted by HRDavies View Post
    Conjoined ? Eeeeuw please, this is a western ! just strike that, yuck
    Agreed.

    Quote Originally Posted by HRDavies View Post
    A comma is shorthand for 'and", do we need so many ands in here ?


    Well, no. Just: no. A comma is most definitely NOT "shorthand" for 'and'." Commas imply rhythm. They steer the reader toward hearing the line the way the writer wants it to be heard.

    You don't "need" any commas at all if mere comprehension is the only goal, and you write only simple sentence structures that don't need punctuation to make meaning clear. But for good writers, mere comprehension is NOT the only goal.

    Tom
    Last edited by WI-Tom; 12-02-2022 at 10:15 AM.
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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    Quote Originally Posted by HRDavies View Post
    Sorry, couldn't help myself
    Obviously. Go ahead and post an example of your work.

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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    Quote Originally Posted by Chip-skiff View Post
    Obviously. Go ahead and post an example of your work.
    At least there's no yellow palominos in it. Or spotted appaloosas. Or male stallions

    @WI-Tom, are you a yoga adept ? I can barely slump forward. Gotta photo of the aft-bending variety ?

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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    Quote Originally Posted by HRDavies View Post
    @WI-Tom, are you a yoga adept ? I can barely slump forward.
    Nope. But I can read a dictionary, and understand it.

    slump
    1. sit, lean, or fall heavily and limply.
    "she slumped against the cushions"
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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    Quote Originally Posted by WI-Tom View Post
    Nope. But I can read a dictionary, and understand it

    1. sit, lean, or fall heavily and limply.
    "she slumped against the cushions"
    Ah ! gottit ! this cowboy was riding an Indian horse with a howdah !

  22. #92
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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    As long as this thread continues to slowly circle the drain...

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Bow View Post
    3. Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue.
    I try to always find ways to avoid saying "said". If you describe the scene well enough, I like to have the dialog carry itself. You can drop a "said" rarely so the reader doesn't lose the identity of the speakers, but too many become like a sludge the reader needs to push through and everything slows down.
    "Where you live in the world should not determine whether you live in the world." - Bono

    "Live in such a way that you would not be ashamed to sell your parrot to the town gossip." - Will Rogers

    "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others." - Groucho Marx

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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    Quote Originally Posted by twodot View Post
    Yes.
    No.

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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    Quote Originally Posted by twodot View Post
    You're seriously going to use wikipedia as an authority on english style and punctuation ? You can do better than that.

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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    You still haven't posted your work.

    Proof in the pudding, wot?

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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    I am hearing local fm radio for 3 or 4 years carrying ads for "podcasts" not novels. Mostly true crime genre which was the big genre in the last days of paperbacks (after 2 years of COVID and with the looming food shortages, my local Krogers' grocery store finally reinstalled its small magazine rack and book stand which had been commandeered for parking lot delivery during the plague).

    Maybe written fiction starts to be more like spoken narrative dialog as authors bypass print publishers and "publish" audio recordings of themselves telling a story. The printed version would be artificial intelligence transcribed after thought. So speaking Midwestern American English which also used to be practically the same as 1970's BBC new anchor English would give the "writer" an advantage in the marketplace.

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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    Quote Originally Posted by Chip-skiff View Post
    You still haven't posted your work.
    The plane landed then we sat at the gate for half an hour and stewed. Perhaps it was an early lesson in frustration. When the hatches opened we rushed out to a desolate airport, the hallways cordoned off with crime scene tape. We wandered from station to station, where we'd clump up under the direction of minions in white paper suits and white masks, only the eyes showing they could be human. Luckily the eyes were friendly and helpful, with the exception of one whose job was to probe the brain with a foot-long cotton swab.

    After a couple hours of this we received a final qr code pasted to the back of our passports then split up for different destinations in the city. Zhabei Holiday Inn was as desolate as the airport with the walls and floors mimicking a Dali painting from multiple daily applications of disinfectant. Fortunately the rooms had been spared. Nothing left to do but mark the passage of days with unopened boxes of irradiated milk from breakfast. Day one over, seven to go …

  28. #98
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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    Quote Originally Posted by HRDavies View Post
    You're seriously going to use wikipedia as an authority on english style and punctuation ? You can do better than that.

    Wikipedia is a reliable source of general knowledge. If you have evidence of it being otherwise, please post it.

    Kevin
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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    Quote Originally Posted by Breakaway View Post
    Wikipedia is a reliable source of general knowledge. If you have evidence of it being otherwise, please post it.
    You're kidding right ? Wikipedia is whatever anyone on the planet wants to put into the article. Perhaps after a time the subject averages out to something rational but no, you really cannot depend on wikipedia ! Sometimes it's okay, many times definitely not !

    But all I was really tryng to do was get an argument started about the Oxford comma

  30. #100
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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    I love Wikipedia. I use it as much as the Google alternative search engine I use regularly. One of the things that is nice about it, is the fact that it is written and updated by more or less anonymous users who are pros in the various applicable disciplines rather than hired editor-writers. It's egalitarian sources and it's open source nature ensure it's content is current and generically authoritative. And trustrworthy; if Wiki describes it, what you're getting is a member of some group of self-appointed and curated experts in the particular field.

    What I don't like about it, is on me, the fact that I am poor and don't have the financial wherewithal to support it directly as that is how it stays relevant and alive. Along with the other open source, freeware I depend on, like Linux and Firefox. If I had to pay a subscription or buy that software I'd be sitting here in the dark musing on the downfall of western civilization all by myself. And I've already seen quite enough of my own navel.


  31. #101
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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    Quote Originally Posted by HRDavies View Post
    You're kidding right ? Wikipedia is whatever anyone on the planet wants to put into the article. Perhaps after a time the subject averages out to something rational but no, you really cannot depend on wikipedia ! Sometimes it's okay, many times definitely not !

    But all I was really tryng to do was get an argument started about the Oxford comma
    In other words, you have no evidence. Is that correct?

    Kevin
    There are two kinds of boaters: those who have run aground, and those who lie about it.

  32. #102
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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    Quote Originally Posted by HRDavies View Post
    The plane landed then we sat at the gate for half an hour and stewed.
    Clumsy. I'd say "incorrect" but I'm not really a prescriptivist. That said, any prescriptivist would tell you that this is a run-on. Two independent clauses joined together without the standard niceties of conjunctions or punctuation. Clumsy writing. Yes, writers sometimes write run-ons, on purpose. It rarely works. It doesn't work here.

    Quote Originally Posted by HRDavies View Post
    We wandered from station to station, where we'd clump up under the direction of minions in white paper suits and white masks, only the eyes showing they could be human.
    Clumsy. Leaving out the "that" after "the eyes showing" is potentially confusing to readers, who might read "they could be human" as another independent clause, creating another clumsy run-on. Which, after all, this writer has already proven capable of. And "minions" is overwritten.

    Quote Originally Posted by HRDavies View Post
    Luckily the eyes were friendly and helpful, with the exception of one whose job was to probe the brain with a foot-long cotton swab.
    Terminally clumsy. Friendly eyes? OK, maybe. But "helpful" eyes? I don't think so. And there is apparently one eye whose job it is to probe brains? How does an eye probe brains? Or even (as I assume this passage is trying to say) perform a nasal-swab COVID test?

    Quote Originally Posted by HRDavies View Post
    After a couple hours of this we received a final qr code pasted to the back of our passports then split up for different destinations in the city.
    This one's a bit more subjective, but the lack of a comma after "passports" doesn't work for me. It's clumsy. Not a good rhythm.

    Quote Originally Posted by HRDavies View Post
    Zhabei Holiday Inn was as desolate as the airport with the walls and floors mimicking a Dali painting from multiple daily applications of disinfectant.
    Borderline incomprehensible. I have no idea how multiple daily applications of disinfectant helps walls and floors mimic a Dali painting. Nor which painting it is. And the "from" construction is awkward and doesn't quite say precisely what the writer thinks it says. Also, because of the lack of a comma after "airport," it's not really clear whether it was the airport with the magical Dali-painting walls, or the hotel. Or both.

    Overall, pretty clumsy. Might get decent marks in high school, for a first draft anyway.

    I've certainly seen enough to know that you're not anyone whose advice about writing I'd value.

    Tom
    Last edited by WI-Tom; 12-03-2022 at 01:04 AM.
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  33. #103
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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    Quote Originally Posted by HRDavies View Post
    Ah ! gottit ! this cowboy was riding an Indian horse with a howdah !
    As I said, I can read a dictionary. And understand it. No need for a backrest to "sit, lean, or fall heavily and limply."

    (You're not very good at this--maybe you should quit before you get even farther behind).

    Tom
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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    Quote Originally Posted by WI-Tom View Post

    (You're not very good at this--maybe you should quit before you get even farther behind).

    Tom
    This is kind of a clumsy troll, dont' you think?

    I jest.



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    Default Re: Elmore Leonardís 10 Rules For Novel Writing

    Quote Originally Posted by WI-Tom View Post
    Overall, pretty clumsy. Might get decent marks in high school, for a first draft anyway.

    I've certainly seen enough to know that you're not anyone whose advice about writing I'd value.
    Your turn, kiddo. And I hope you have kevlar underwear

    Quote Originally Posted by Breakaway View Post
    In other words, you have no evidence. Is that correct?
    Do you know how it works ?

    For evidence, there's a couple of subjects where I am fairly knowledgeable - have cut gears for fifty years so understand machining and gear cutting and design a little bit. You can't get past the first sentence in the wikipedia article wthout tripping over false statements. Wiki is okay for a general overview of many subjects but as for being truly correct, sadly no no a thousand times no.
    Last edited by HRDavies; 12-02-2022 at 10:38 AM.

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