Updated: Sep 30, 2019
Editor’s Note: The following post is an excerpt from the upcoming issue of Innovative Editing’s quarterly e-letter, The Genuine Writer Review. This round looks at advice from a few famous fiction writers.
Some of it is worthwhile. Some of it might be a little bit off the word-processor mark, both of which we'll be discussing. But it’s an interesting and informative read one way or the other.
If you’re already signed up for The Genuine Writer e-letter, then you should automatically see a copy in your inbox on Saturday, October 5. If you’re not already signed up, then sorry… you’re out of luck!
Unless, of course, you take thirty seconds, starting with a quick click on the image down below.
Elmore Leonard, who I’ll admit to never having heard of before, appears to have written 45 novels “and nearly as many western and crime short stories across his highly successful career that spanned more than six decades,” according to his Amazon author’s bio.
“Some of his best-sellers,” it continues, “include Road Dogs, Up in Honey’s Room, The Hot Kid, Mr. Paradise, Tishomingo Blues, and the critically acclaimed collection of short stories Fire in the Hole.”
In addition, many of his books and characters have been made into movies over the years, including through Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown.
Now that we’ve established who he was (he passed away in 2013), here’s his first piece of advice: “Never open a book with weather.”
Silly though this may be, my first reaction is to giggle, since it makes me think of Peanuts’ character Snoopy and the ridiculous novels he’s always writing. They oftentimes start with the line, “It was a dark and stormy night.”
As evidenced by that bit of light mockery, it’s true that weather descriptions as openers can be a little bit melodramatic. Maybe even a lot melodramatic.
All the same, I’m automatically wary of any recommendation or rule that uses the word “never” outside of the 10 Commandments.
Go ahead and use “rarely” or “sparingly.” Or tell people that, in 999 out of 1,000 cases – even 999,999 out of a million if you really want – they should avoid doing such and such. Those could all be perfectly acceptable depending on the issue being addressed.
However, when it comes to something as subjective as creative writing, I’m not willing to commit to that kind of religious certainty very often. The way I see it, there are exceptions to almost every artistic rule out there.
And this one is no exception.
Next up in the October edition of The Genuine Writer Review… Steven King's advice to creative writers everywhere. Click here to get your copy.