Writing Workshop Lesson 5: Elmore's Rules
If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it. That’s Elmore Leonard talking. He gives more good advice here in his “10 Rules for Writing,” posted on Mystery Ink’s site.
The author has a new one out, The Hot Kid. You can read about it on Leonard’s own weblog.
I like his “Rules” because the first thing he talks about is the writer getting out of the way. Ironic to be talking about that here, since I tend to be a central character in so many of my own stories...but then, I did spend 20 years writing other people's stories first.
Many beginners find it difficult to keep themselves off the page, even when the story isn't about them. I read a news story in the campus daily the other day that was less about the student who died in a car wreck and more about the reporter who knew her and how she felt about the girl's death. The focus was way off. Too me-me-me.
One of my standard assignments asks students to write a story about a “dramatic moment." But they cannot use the pronoun “I” at all.
Tougher than it sounds. But it sure makes for more interesting reading when students have to figure how to convey drama, especially when it happens to them, without I-ing all over the page.
Leonard’s first three rules:
1. Never open a book with weather.
2. Avoid prologues.
3. Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue.
I encourage you to read the rest of his advice. See if you're already following his lead.
How are your writing projects coming along? I’d love to know what you all are writing. If you don’t mind sharing, one of your assignments this week is to post a couple of paragraphs of whatever you’re typing these days – just enough to tease our interest in your work. Be sure you also include a title, if you have one, and maybe a few words to describe whether it’s fiction or non, poetry, comedy, drama, whatever.
“Be bold and all the forces of the universe will collect to aid you,” said Goethe. So if you can constructively critique each other, I’d welcome that, too. Via comments on this post.
And here’s an extra little warmer-upper for this week. From the site of WRAP (Write Around Portland) come these writing prompts to use when you need a nudge into the creative process. How would you finish these openers? (Post your answers in comments here, too.)
The secret of this (object)...
I could tell from her coat...
When I'm alone...
You might think I...
Fall brings me back to...
Do some good writing this week, y’all. Check back tomorrow for a new story (I hope). And come back Thursday for some new Word Snobbery.