As many of you are aware I am perfecting that new talent of binge watching television series. I figured since I am not good at physical activity unless I pay for a class, which still gives me lots of leftover time, I would take on this new challenge of learning to be a discerning binge watcher.
I am certainly not there yet. I did polish off nearly all of Breaking Bad, all of Suits and Dexter. I have completed all of Downton Abbey and House of Cards. These last two are taking some time to film more episodes so I can get back to them later. I am almost finished Season Three of Walking Dead although I am not sure if one can count episodes that are "watched" with my hand over my eyes for half of the show. Jury is out on that one. I am calling this binge watching my class time. I am learning how other writers get our attention and keep it over time. (may be kidding myself here)
One series that I did swallow up all that was available on Netflix and have gone on to pay $3.00 an episode is Justified. Not everyone's cup of tea but I am so invested with the characters of Raylan and Boyd that I can't quit them just yet.
Which brings me to what caught my attention when I was reading the credits in the first season. The series is based on a short story by Elmore Leonard and I had encountered him in my search to be a crime fiction writer.
Elmore Leonard started out writing westerns, then turned his talents to crime fiction. One of the most popular and prolific writers of our time, he’s written about two dozen novels, most of them bestsellers, such as Glitz, Get Shorty, Maximum Bob, and Rum Punch. Unlike most genre writers, however, Leonard is taken seriously by the literary crowd. (Notice this last little slam against us lowly mystery writers!)
Elmore gave an interviewer the following ten tricks for good writing and I have seen these reproduced a lot in "how to " writing books. I love them all and do try to follow them but the one that I love the most is # 10. Leave out the part that readers tend to skip. Now I wish I knew which part that was. I know what I skip in books in my quest to get to the end, to find out what happens or who did it or who is redeemed or killed off in the end. I skip anything that I don't think will advance the plot. But I know other readers who love the description of places, things, and people when they read. They savour these on the way to the end. So the best I can do at this point in my stories is to leave out the parts that I tend to skip when reading and to hope there are lots of other readers out there like me.
Then again maybe he says it best in his summary of the ten. "If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it."
Ten Tricks for Good Writing: Maybe after reading these you will begin to notice how the authors of the books you read either follow his advice or don't.
What’s Leonard’s secret to being both popular and respectable? Perhaps you’ll find some clues in his 10 tricks for good writing: *
- Never open a book with weather.
- Avoid prologues.
- Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue.
- Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said”…he admonished gravely.
- 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."
- Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
- Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
- Don't go into great detail describing places and things.
- Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.
My most important rule is one that sums up the 10.
If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.
* Excerpted from the New York Times article, “Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle”
What parts do you skip?
What parts do you skip?