Here’s how your favorites stack up against history’s most popular books.
Elmore Leonard, the recently deceased author of 45 novels, including Get Shorty, Hombre, Swag,Raylan, and Glitz (he died at work on his 46th), was reluctant to write about his own writing. But back in 2001 the New York Times convinced him to make a list of his 10 writing rules:
1. Never use the words ”suddenly” or ”all hell broke loose.”
Leonard writes that this rule doesn’t even require an explanation.
2. Use regional dialect, patois sparingly.
“Once you start,” writes Leonard, “you won’t be able to stop.”
3. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
Leonard cites a Hemingway short story in which the only physical description of a couple introduced as the ”American and the girl with him” is: ”She had taken off her hat and put it on the table.” Enough said.
- Charles Dickens was a proponent of strict routine—and walking. He worked from 9.a.m. to 2.p.m, without fail, and needed complete silence. At 2.p.m. he would go for a 3-hour walk and returned, the book notes, bursting with energy and ideas.
- Maya Angelou likes writing in hotel rooms. She talks about checking into her sparse hotel room and working from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., accompanied by a dictionary, a Bible and a bottle of sherry.