Great Advice!

Elmore Leonard has some great writing advice HERE.

(Click HERE if you don’t know who Elmore is. I guarantee you’ve read, or seen, his work at some point in your life. And if not, you could always tune into the FX network tonight to watch his latest series, Justified,)


9 thoughts on “Great Advice!

  1. The advice about no computer and no email is getting old. I once heard an old fart comment something like “there’s never been a memorable book written on a computer”. That was probably true 20 years ago, but so outdated now. Hundreds of great books have now been written on computers.

    What old farts like this don’t realise is that advice now applies only to a small percentage of people who haven’t yet grasped writing on computers. For the rest of us, get a computer, get email and write your little hearts out because if you don’t you have even a slimmer chance than the rest of us of ever getting published.

    As for the rest of the advice, it’s sound. I use ‘said’ more than any other dialogue tag and don’t fill my work with ‘ly’ words. Outlines are limiting, so use them sparingly (see, sometimes an ‘ly’ word is necessary. lol

    • Diane,

      I don’t think you know exactly who you called “old fart”. He’s 86 years old, and people gobble up his writing and seminars as fast as he can put ink to page.

      Stephen King even called him “The Great American Writer”.

      Elmore is responsible for a staggering amount of fantastic writing, which includes (but isn’t limited to) the following…

      Get Shorty
      Out of Sight
      3:10 to Yuma
      Mr. Majestic
      Rum Punch (later filmed as Jackie Brown)
      The Tall T
      The Big Bounce
      and the current series on the FX network, Justified.

      In addition, he’s written a wide range of fiction, several of which have been turned into either films or television shows.

      Look him up on Wikipedia and I’m thinking you’ll rethink your reference to him.


      • Oh, so I was right: he is an old fart. 🙂

        And people like him can easily say writers should stick with pen and paper and not use a computer because people like him can either pay someone handsomely to enter his stories into the computer or his publisher doesn’t mind the extra expense of hiring someone to type his stories because of the money he generates. He’s made it big, so he has this luxury. New writers don’t.

        If new writers took this advice and avoided computers, they’d handicap themselves. The majority of publishing companies want copies on CD, too. They don’t want to hire someone to enter the manuscript into the computer. That’s the writer’s responsibility now. They also want you to market your book and build a platform; it is what we are doing by blogging. Perhaps this Elmore fellow has hired a crew to do this for him.

        Imagine for a moment if you did not use a computer and email. How limiting would your world be compared to the rest of the writers who embrace them?

        The rest of his advice was sound and can be found many places on the web. It’s nothing new. I’ve been reading it for years from various sources. However, the “no computer, no email” thing was toted a decade ago. I laughed at it then and I laugh at it now. It doesn’t mean you can’t write stories longhand, but you better know how to enter them into the computer or you just put a million other writers in front of you in the line to the publisher.

  2. Thanks for posting this link, Christi. I find myself wanting to use words other than ‘said’ (as so many authors do), yet I, too, find these words distracting. Great blog.

  3. CL,

    I am a huge fan of Elmore Leonard’s new series on FX called Justified (it’s on tonight if you wanted to give it a try. It’s the third season and each episode is better than the last).

    I really wish I could have been at the seminar Janet referrenced in her blog post. Seeing Elmore in person would have been amazing!

    You would have loved to see my earlier writing before I figured out NOT to use all the “ly” words as descriptors for the way my characters were speaking. Now, thankfully, I’ve learned to reflect their “tone” in the dialogue.

    Thanks so much for visiting, and leaving a comment.


  4. Another longhander!!! Woohoo!!! 😀 You know how I feel about getting stuff on the paper directly out of you brain. I really think it’s the best way to get the raw story out. Maybe not for everyone but I’ll NEVER use a computer first. Too much temptation to backtrack and ‘fix’ things.

    And I disagree with Diane from the standpoint that I don’t think Elmore Leonard was saying ‘Don’t ever touch a computer or utilize email’ I think he was more getting at the idea that he keeps it simple when he’s writing (probably a first draft) of anything or getting the idea down. Now maybe he personally doesn’t ever use email, but I still don’t think he said what he did in any attempt to say that email is ‘bad’ for everyone or anything.

    Anyway, great post, totally made me smile. And inspired me so that now I want to write THIS INSTANT and I’m at work. *whiny face*

    • Artemis,

      I’m sitting at my computer, and as I type this I looked over at my STACK of notebooks that I always use to start something off with. I find paper and pen to be so incredibly freeing when I’m in the creation stage of an idea since I’m a lover of diagrams, long arrows that connect different sections of text, and notes in the margins. I’ve found I can’t be as free when I’m using a computer.

      I agree with you about thinking Elmore wasn’t stating “Don’t use a computer/email…ever”. Instead, I think he was thinking like my above paragraph and how freely ideas can come forth when they’re not tied to a blank screen.

      I’m so glad you’re feeling better!


  5. Christy, I agree with yours and King’s and thousands of other assessments of this icon.

    About Diane, we need to always feel bad for those who are culturally deprived. Or, tell me how old she is and if she had her first story published by age 25? He’s been writing sucessful novels and movies for 61 years!!

    If he likes to write his stories on stone tablets and thinks typewriters are the hand maidens of the devil, who cares.

    By the way Diane, an OLD FART can be any age … or what I would call a YOUNG FART 🙂

  6. Florence,

    I saw a really cool segment on a tv show over the weekend about how typewriters have become cool again. Somewhere on the east coast (oh how I wish I recalled the name of the show, and town this happened in) they have a large room packed with typewriters that you can use. They showed young kids, college kids, and grownups all using them with great joy.


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