What I Learned By Reading Novels By: Elmore Leonard

Issue #9 * Blog #6-2015 * Read Time: 5 minutes * Section: Author Joseph Clay’s Writing Tips

A writer, must do two things to hone their skills to become successful.

One is to write, subject matter isn’t important, putting words on paper, in a form of a blog, keeping a journal, or working on a novel, just write every day.

The second is just as important as the first. Read, somebody’s work beside your own, in all genres. Reading will improve your craft.

Who better to read than Elmore Leonard who has penned over 45 Novels, along with numerous short stories. Several were made in to movies and shows.

One of those shows, Justified, which I love and is one of my all time favorites.  Justified came from several of Elmore Leonard’s books. Pronto, released in 1993, also a made for TV Movie in 1997. Riding the Rap released in 1995, Fire in the Hole, as an e-book in 2001, then a paperback, reprint edition 2012. The last installment Raylan published in 2012.

The Inglewood Branch of the Nashville Public Library System, only had three of Elmore Leonard’s books in on this particular Saturday. I checked out Fire in the Hole, When the Women Come Out and Dance, and Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing.

But before we go any further let me say with all due respect to Elmore Leonard, I don’t care for his writing style. It’s hard to explain, but there’s something about it, which aggravates me.

I think it may be the paragraphing structure, how the dialogue is intertwined in it. Don’t misunderstand me, his dialogue is great, the best in the business, I’m just use to seeing it on a line by itself.

He is also known as the man who waste no words, I understand that, but setting a scene to me is important, but once again I’m new at this.

Even though I didn’t like his style that doesn’t mean I didn’t learn anything.

This is what I learned from Elmore Leonard after reading two of the three books. Why the third wasn’t read is explained below.

Look at these book covers. Do they look the same to you?

When the Women Come Out and Dance and Fire in the Hole  both are a collection of the same 9 short stories.


• Sparks
• Hanging Out at the Buena Vista
 Chickasaw Charlie Hoke
• When the Women Come Out and Dance
• Fire in the Hole
• Karen Makes Out
• Hurrah for Capt. Early
• The Tonto Woman
• Tenkiller 

[Bloggers Note: Some of you may already have know this, but I didn’t.]

Once the TV series Justified took off they re-released the short stories with a different cover which would capitalize on the TV show.

What I found strange is they didn’t rearrange the stories so that the title of the book is the lead short story. As you can see When the Women Come Out and Dance is story 4 and Fire in the Hole is 5.

I plan on writing a collection of short stories. Then if I don’t have a book ready to publish every 18 months, I’ll re-release the short story collection under a new title. I do believe I’ll rearrange them so the lead story matches the book title.   Once again I have learned something that will help me as an Independent Author. With a collection of short stories you can release and market it, under the different short story titles.

Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing was next on my reading list.

The opening to the book summed up what his rules were all about.

These are rules I’ve picked up along the way to help me remain invisible when I’m writing a book, to help me show rather than tell what’s taking place in the story. If you have a facility for language and imagery and the sound of your voice pleases you, invisibility is not what you are after, and you can skip the rules. Still, you might look them over. – Source Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing Page 3

Elmore Leonard hit on the one thing that I have not got a handle on as of yet in my young writing career. Showing and not telling.

I continue reading, as I wanted to know more.

The 10 rules themselves have merit, and he does give a brief explanation for each. I can see where some will indeed help you show and not tell.

I learned what Hoopte Doodle was as I was reading the rules. I now try and cut all the . Hoopte Doodle out. What is Hoppte-Doodle you ask.

When it was all said and done, the book can be read in ten minutes, I was braking half of the rules.

Sometimes one of the editors will ding me, and sometimes they don’t. However becoming a better writer is my responsibility and I have vowed to try and following them in the future. Below are my 5 rules that I have problems keeping.

#3 Never use a verb other than “Said” to carry dialogue.

#4 Never use an Adverb to Modify the Verb “Said.”

#5 Keep your Exclamation Points under control.

#8 Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.

#9 Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.

I have a bad problem with #8 and #9.

Want to read my reviews of Elmore Leonard’s books. Here are the links:

Other blogs in this category:

I hope you picked up a few pointers from my blog on what I learned from Elmore Leonard.

NOTE: What I Learned By Reading Novels By: Elmore Leonard was original written and posted on February 20, 2015 to Author Joseph Clay’s Official Blog. The blog was transferred to this site on September 12, 2020.

Blogger: Joseph Clay

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