Mar 6, 2008

Elmore Leonard’s writing advice

Writing quotation: Novelist Elmore Leonard disapproves of “Thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them. What the writer is doing, he’s writing, perpetrating hooptedoodle, perhaps taking another shot at the weather, or has gone into the character’s head, and the reader either knows what the guy’s thinking or doesn’t care. I’ll bet you don’t skip dialogue.”

Writing tip: I’m not 100% sure what “hooptedoodle” is, but I can guess. Elmore Leonard is talking about those neverending paragraphs of prose that don’t add much to the action and that lose most readers fairly quickly. Instead, dialogue and short bursts of information should weed our writing so only the most important, vibrant stuff remains.

The above paragraph probably has 20 unnecessary words. Though my blog may not show it, I have learned to write tightly through my magazine writing. When they give me 200 words to summarize a long-term scientific experiment that described multiple important findings and a list of possible implications as well as future plans, I had to learn to write short and snappy prose.

Again, the above paragraph has about 20 extra words. The best way to apply Elmore Leonard's writing advice is to edit until you use one word instead of three to make your point.

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