I don’t read as much as I did when I was young and full of life – this full life evidenced by the fact that I spent a lot of time in my bed reading – but I still read books. This makes me super smart and better than people that watch TV or play sports. Book snobbery amuses me. Most books are trash.
I used to read when I took breaks at work back in the days when I went into an office for work. People would often come up and take the book out of my hands to look at it. Or they would ask me what I was reading and then 100% of the time follow up with “Never heard of it”. It was super annoying. Why would you start talking to someone who was reading?
Even though I read a lot because I am super smart there aren’t many authors I like. I have a bad habit that when I find an author I enjoy I read a bunch of their books in succession and then I don’t like them anymore because here’s a spoiler – most authors write the same book over and over with variations.
One author I do like is Elmore Leonard. I don’t remember where we are in the cycle of authors being hated and then loved and then hated again with him but a few years ago people liked him. I think now he’s on his way to hate land.
I saw a tweet the other day that told me about Elmore Leonard’s 10 rules for writing. I thought I’d talk about that because I’m running out of steam for the current story and still want to write. So this is it. I’m not trying to give advice, these are just my thoughts about these rules. In the words of Bender Bending Rodriguez “I never wanted to hurt anyone, or help anyone.”
Never open a book with weather
That does seem kind of hackey. It was a dark and stormy night. I wonder where that came from. Apparently it’s from an old book called Paul Clifford. I should read it, that would give me all kinds of snooty book cred.
I can’t explain why exactly but I also find prologues annoying. Probably for the same reason I don’t like the “three weeks earlier” storytelling device.
Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.
This probably relates to the secret eleventh rule, it makes you sound “writery”.
Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said”…he admonished gravely.
This one I find interesting. These rules are part of a whole book on how you should write stuff. I wonder if there’s more explanation. I’ve be curious to know more about this one. I do it ALL the time in my super awesome writing.
Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.
Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”
I’m interested in this one also. I suppose the idea is that most things just happen, it’s not really sudden? “Suddenly” this thing happened. Or did it just happen? What made it sudden? This one is amusing because people say this IRL not infrequently. “There I was at the bank and suddenly all hell broke loose!” I write reality sir.
Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
No problem here, I don’t really know any. I wonder if this is because you don’t want to annoy people who don’t understand that dialect or for a more writery reason like it’s dumb.
Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
Heck yeah buddy, I don’t describe shit! I’m terrible at describing things.
Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
Seems like this could have been combined with the one above
Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.
This one is funny because it’s actually necessary. I would say only twice in my life have I actually tried to write something “for real”. One was a movie script and the other was a novel. In both of these experiences I found myself with really weak sections because I was writing stuff just to bridge from one thing to another. I’d have plot thing A and plot thing C and then I’d try to fill in some crap for B and it was always terrible. I think if you’re writing something just to write it and it has no value itself get rid of it. Although I say that have never finished either of those works so its easier said than done eh?
Then there’s a secret 11th rule –
My most important rule is one that sums up the 10. If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.
Here’s a story about this rule. My first Ela story, the worst of the bunch, I re-wrote the opening scene three times and I never got it “right” because it always sounded “writery”. I think that’s different from purple pose but it’s a real thing. Maybe overwritten is what I mean.
In wrestling there’s a term “overbooked”. See matches are “booked”- who’s going to win, what the story is supposed to be, generally what’s going to happen. “Overbooked” is when there’s just too much stuff thrown in. It often happens when they’re trying to “protect” someone. Wrestler X has been built up to lose the title in a big match but now Wrestler X is going to be in a new movie and the studio doesn’t want them to lose on TV but you promised Wrestler Y they were going over and it’s in their contract so . . . a bunch of stupid shit happens.
But it’s wrestling, isn’t it all stupid? Yes, but also no. Wrestling is storytelling and good stories pay off. Some people, you know the ones I mean, will tell you that the reason wrestling sucks now is that the very simple story of “bad guy is bad, eventually good guy triumphs” doesn’t happen anymore. Bad guys don’t sell merch so instead you have a bunch of cosplayers who randomly win and lose based largely on non-wrestling things.
And overbooked match is, in essence, one that doesn’t pay off the story. Like the end of Lost.
Example, SummerSlam 2009. John Cena beats Randy Orton by DQ, which is already kind of bullshit because DQs are lame. But then the match is re-started because of reasons? A fake DQ is actually kind of okay, because now the good guy is going to win for real! But no, Randy leaves and we get another DQ. Super lame. But then the match is restarted again for no reason! This better be it. Uh-uh! Randy wins with bad guy trickery! But then the match is re-started because another referee saw him cheat. Because unlike every other match for 200 years this one has instant replay? Now John is going to win, but instead a “fan” runs into the ring for another DQ. But the match is started again and Randy wins quickly.
This is overbooking. John Cena was supposed to win by the “story” but instead that couldn’t happen for some reason so they tried to snow it under a bunch of stupid stuff. I suppose in a way it works. No one remembers that there was no payoff. Everyone just remembers that the match sucked.
I don’t know what overwriting is exactly, but it’s first cousins with overbooking.