If it sounds like writing, rewrite it

I launched a new look-and-feel for my blog and I stopped writing. Ironic, isn’t it?

The lack of new posts is one part writer’s block and one part overloaded schedule. For inspiration, I reread my own advice in Writing Better and was reminded of the fourth rule: learn from the masters. What do the greatest writers say about writing?

Of course, I’ve written about the subject before in Writing Tips from Famous Authors. William Zinsser reminds me:

If writing seems hard, it’s because it is hard. It’s one of the hardest things people do.

True but unfortunately not much comfort.  Luckily, after a bit of surfing, I stumbled upon this archive of more than 60 famous authors exploring literary themes – mostly they write about writing. E L Doctorow, Joyce Carol Oates, John Updike, and even Kurt Vonnegut.

If you enjoy writing, all of them are worth a read but I found myself coming back to Elmore Leonard’s 10 rules designed to help an author remain invisible when writing a book. Leonard, who died earlier this year, was called THE great American writer by Stephen King. My favorite piece of advice from Leonard’s list is his last:

Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

In case you skipped reading the whole list, Leonard sums up his advice like this: “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”

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4 Responses to If it sounds like writing, rewrite it

  1. Vijay November 4, 2013 at 12:56 am #

    I took a little vacation several weeks ago and read my posts this year – it definitely came across as “writing” as you explain above . But instead of rewriting , I chose the easy way out by not writing anymore . I haven’t opened wordpress editor in about 6 or 7 weeks .

    But having read your post here , I am going to read the links you shared about writing and see if it is worth blogging again

  2. Mcylkowski November 4, 2013 at 8:41 am #

    Excellent advice and thanks for the NYT’s archival reference.

  3. Mike Cieri November 4, 2013 at 12:02 pm #

    Great comments on writing. From a reader’s perspective I agree with Leonard’s 10 rules. Have to always consider the reader when writing something and the rules listed in the article are perfect for that. I have always had a book idea and when I find time to seriously consider writing it, these rules will help guide me through the process.

  4. Jennifer Lankheim February 20, 2014 at 11:56 am #

    I am presently writing something about you, and while looking to capture the URL of a different posting of yours, happened upon this one. I’m shamed to admit I was unaware of Elmore Leonard and his ten rules. (I did, however, forget everything I learned in journalism school, which should redeem me a bit.) Leonard’s unspoken or aggregate eleventh rule, also this post’s title, has always been the one and only rule I apply to my writing, though my phrasing is different: If you wouldn’t say it like that, don’t write it like that. And while I may be in the minority in that I actually do say things like “happened upon,” I believe if it were somehow possible to enforce adherence to just this one rule, a seemingly miraculous cure to whatever ails 90 percent of business writing would manifest.

    In other words, isn’t it great when you find out someone actually shares your opinion about some weird thing you’ve always felt strongly about, but never mention so as not to derail conversations?

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