Friday, March 29, 2013

Elmore Leonard and the carpenters.

Some years ago, the writer Elmore Leonard published ten rules for writers. You can find those rules online in dozens of places.

Today, I want to talk about his last rule.

I want to talk about that rule because everyday I get emails and briefs I don't understand.

By all accounts I'm a pretty brainy guy. I have an advanced degree from one of the finest universities in the world and I am a voracious reader and life-long reader.

But I get these missives and I read them or try to and my brain is tied up in knots. I literally can't make sense of the requests on my time or the exigencies of a proposed assignment.

Here's Leonard's 10th rule: Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

In other words, edit like a Cossack through a Jewish shtetl. Mow down everything you can turn your knout to. And leave behind only what matters.

There's an old carpenter's adage that says "Measure twice, cut once."

There should be an old advertising adage that says, "Figure out what to say. Then say it."


Anonymous said...

As someone whose family suffered atrocities by the Cossacks in the early 1900s, the joke falls flat.

David Blum

george tannenbaum said...

You're right, David. Mine, too. A cheap metaphor.

Anonymous said...

Another Michigan guy, Jim Cash (writer of Top Gun and others, now deceased) told me "Cut everything you think you possibly can - then cut 10% more."

Tex Ragsdale