Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Author, Elmore Leonard on Writing and His Career

“My most important piece of advice to all you would-be writers: when you write, try to leave out all the parts readers skip.” Elmore Leonard, Author

I don’t know if you’ve read Elmore Leonard’s books but if not, you’ve probably seen one or more of his movies.

He is one of the best writers when it comes to dialogue. His dialogue is so real, street-smart, down and dirty. He’s very talented. His writing over the years has covered various genres: Westerns, crime novels, thrillers, mysteries, short stories and screenplays. Elmore Leonard was recipient of the 2008 F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Award (videos below)

I had the honor of meeting him several years ago at the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference where he had spoken. It was either 1983 or 1984. A little while after his talk he was sitting in the lobby quietly autographing a box of books. I had three of his books to be autographed and he invited me to join him, and we had a nice conversation. He was very laid-back, soft spoken, and modest. I liked him very much.

This month’s AARP Magazine has an article “Making it Up as I Go Along” by Elmore Leonard about his writing career. As a writer I really identified with it.

“At the time I begin writing a novel, the last thing I want to do is follow a plot outline. To know too much at the start takes the pleasure out of discovering what the book is about.”

“I think of characters who will carry a story. The plot comes out of the characters, their attitudes. How they talk describes who they are. Dialogue, in fact, is the element that keeps the story moving. Characters are judged as they appear. Anyone who can't hold up his or her end of a conversation is liable to be shelved, or maybe shot.”

Leonard writes with pen and paper, and then types it when it is what he wants. He does not use a word processor. Although I do identify with that as I once wrote that way, I cannot imagine going back to a typewriter.

He commented on how the characters let him know where the story is going next. How true that is. I love it when the characters take over the story and tell it their way.

I had commented on that to a friend the other day in wrapping up my new novel. Yes, I finished writing my Civil War period novel. It turned out bigger than I thought it might because those characters still had more to say. I have not yet gone into postpartum depression but that may come in the near future after I come down from cloud nine! I am very happy with the book. It is damn good, even if me and my characters wrote it—and say so. LOL.

Sometimes I swear I am channeling those people from the past. At least I wasn’t around the Civil War in this lifetime.

Previous life? I think so.

Interview Part One

Interview Part 2:

For more Leonard Interview videos



Silver said...

Can't imagine working on a typewriter..you're right!! But great minds and eccentricity.. probably has a strong correlation!

Pat said...

A BIG congratulations on finishing your book! What an accomplishment! I have to get my mo-jo working, or get focused again. One book I started - I'm into it 170 typed pages - then stopped. Another book I've started, feel good about, then put aside. I need the tenacity to finish something. I certainly have the time!

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

Great stuff on Elmore Leonard. He's the master of dialogue, for sure!