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Beyond Elmore Leonard: 10 rules for writing

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Jayson Wold/HarperCollins

(Read caption) Neil Gaiman is very concise: "Find the right word, put it down."

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Take a long walk. Don't be intimidated by Nabokov. Have fun. Don't have children. Prayer might work.

These are among the trenchant bits of advice collected when The Guardian surveyed more than 20 noted writers (including Margaret Atwood, Richard Ford, Jonathan Franzen, Neil Gaiman, Joyce Carol Oates, Ian Rankin, and P.D. James) and asked them for their personal rules of writing.

The project was inspired by Elmore Leonard and his 2008 book "10 Rules of Writing" (which a Monitor reviewer summed up as, "Leave out adverbs, skip description, and keep the writer out of sight.")

Some of the advice offered in the Guardian is strictly practical. Margaret Atwood recommends taking two pencils on an airplane (pens leak and one pencil might break). Geoff Dyer advises against writing in public places – even Parisian cafes. P.D. James – who recently devoted a whole book, "Talking About Detective Fiction," to an analysis of her craft – counsels increasing one's vocabulary. ("We who write in English are fortunate to have the richest and most versatile language in the world," she declares. "Respect it.")


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