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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A singular lifelong style


“I'm not aware of a cadence when writing, but I hear it after. I write in longhand, and that helps. You're closer to it, and you have to cross things out. You put a line through it, but it's still there. You might need it. When you erase a line on a computer, it's gone forever.” – Elmore Leonard

I’ve written about Leonard in the past, but on what would have been his 91st birthday today, I couldn’t resist another bit of reminiscence about one of America’s greatest writers of “realism” in the past century.  A novelist, short story writer, and screenwriter, his earliest novels, published in the 1950s, were Westerns, but he went on to specialize in crime fiction and suspense thrillers, many of which have been adapted into movies and TV shows (Count me as a big fan of his Justified books and TV series).
To call Leonard’s writing “gritty,” might be an understatement,           
 but regardless of how you classify it, it’s excellent.  He shares a segment of America’s culture and dialogue that few other writers have been able to match.  To get a sense of how he developed his works, look at his essay (widely available on the Internet) “Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing.”  In that, the most telling one might be:  “If it sounds like writing . . . rewrite it.”

“Everyone has his own sound. I'm not going to presume how to tell anybody how to write,” he said in an interview shortly before his death in 2013.  “I think the best advice I give is to try not to write. Try not to overwrite, try not to make it sound too good. Just use your own voice. Use your own style of putting it down.”

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