Monday, February 6, 2012

Easy On the Adverbs; Hard On the Bad Guys

"In an essay that appeared in The New York Times in 2001, 'Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle,' Elmore Leonard listed his 10 rules of writing. The final one — No. 11, actually — the 'most important rule . . . that sums up the 10,' is 'If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.'
     It’s a terrific rule. In fact, I liked it so much that I passed it on to a creative-writing class I once taught. However, there’s more to it, which I didn’t pass on: 'Or, if proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the ­narrative.'
     Jazzy prose that occasionally lets go of 'proper usage' is Leonard’s trademark. He’s a stylist of forward motion, placing narrative acceleration above inconveniences like pronouns and helping verbs. While this creates in most readers a heightened sense of excitement, newcomers may find the transition from complete sentences daunting; it may take a little time to accept Leonard’s prose before you allow it to do its work on you. I’ll admit to having to make such an adjustment when beginning Raylan. At the same time, I’m also a novelist who lives in fear of my copy editor; being such a coward, I can’t help respecting Leonard’s grammatical bravery."
— Olen Steinhauer, The New York Times

Buy all of Elmore Leonard's books here...

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