Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing


Elmore Leonard is a writer whose books I have enjoyed. A patron returned his book Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing last night and I figured I would grab it and read it. When I got home I began it. Five minutes later....

Suddenly, a fine gray mist coated the bleak Lancaster County farmland! The day had been overcast throughout, the threat of rain as persistent as the nodding of a Bob Baffert bobblehead mounted on a jackhammer manned by a jackhammer operator. As the mist dampened the jackhammer operator's arms and the white ceramic hair of the Baffert bobblehead, the operator switched off the yellow steel Atlas Copco Hydraulic Paving Breaker, looked into the cumulostratus clouds that covered a sky that once was as blue as the jackhammer operator's eyes if he were wearing blue contact lenses and growled "Ya, it looks like da vetter is turnink bad". He was reminded of the days when he pranced across the German countryside! Thinking back to those times, he said wistfully, "Ya, those var de good ole dayz". He knew that those days were long past, that he would never again wear the moss green shorts with the white knit shirt he loved to wear while he scampered across fields, his brown eyes catching the reflection of sunlight off of his equally brown hair! All hell broke loose!

I think I broke all ten of Leonard's rules. Not too awfully difficult to do so. There should be rules, too, as to what constitutes a book. Rule 1, for example, would be, "you may not take an essay that was printed in the New York Times, one that you can still find online, and reissue it as a book". Rule 2 would read, "If you do choose to break Rule 1, don't think you can make the book larger by having some artist draw caricatures of authors and inserting them every few pages. Also, don't insult the readers who paid good money for the book by printing on one side of the page and only printing a paragraph or two each page".

Leonard broke both these rules and it is pretty insulting. He took the essay I linked to, put a paragraph on every page, made every rule heading a single page, printed on one side of paper, added illustrations and turned it into a 90 page "book". Same exact content that you could print out on a single page of paper double-sided from your computer but with some pictures and bound and sold for $15. Absolutely absurd and wrong.

I'm not going to link to the book itself out of moral indignation.

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