Quotes On Writing From Elmore Leonard

5 QUOTES ON WRITING FROM ELMORE LEONARD
Categories: Brian Klems’ The Writer’s Dig.
August 20, 2013

We’re saddened to hear about the passing of literary legend Elmore Leonard (I absolutely loved his book Get Shorty when I read it in high school). He was a great writer and will be remembered through his wonderful work for years and years to come. In honor of Leonard’s passing, we’ve pulled five memorable quotes on writing from our Writer’s Digest interviews archive, as we were fortunate to get to speak with him several times over the years. Here they are.

“… The writer has to have patience, the perseverance to just sit there alone and grind It out. And if it’s not worth doing that, then he doesn’t want to write. …” (1982)

“A writer has to read. Read all the time. Decide who you like then study that author’s style. Take the author’s book or story and break it down to see how he put it together.” (1982)

“The main thing I set out to do is tell the point of view of the antagonist as much as the good guy. And that’s the big difference between the way I write and the way most mysteries are written.” (1982)

“It is the most satisfying thing I can think of, to write a scene and have it come out the way I want. Or be surprised and have it come out even better than I thought.” (1997)

“Write the book the way it should be written, then give it to somebody to put in the commas and shit.” (my favorite) (1997)

* Special thanks to Writer’s Digest intern Priyanka Mehta for scouring the archives to find these gems.

Writing Story Beats

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When writing a screenplay, by writing story beats first, it helps you organize your thoughts into a more coherent form. Once you complete writing the story beats, you can then begin writing each scene for your screenplay. By following this approach, you will find that you have a road map to follow with respect to your story beats. So, much of your grunt work goes into the story beats, while most of your creative work goes into the writing of each scene.

Story beats should show each scene in brief form. They do not have to be written in perfect grammar. They simply need to be written down in order. Story beats can be looked upon as idea beats. You have an idea for a scene. What should take place in that scene.? “Oh, yeah, this, this, and this.” Bang! You’ve written your story beats for the first scene. A word of caution, always enter your scene at the last moment and get out of the scene as soon as you can.

For example, on page 1/minute 1 of my screenplay/movie, “The Caller”, I introduce the setting. I introduce the main character. I show what she does as a professional. I show how she acts and reacts around other people. Bang! I move to the next page/scene. The story beats are: Introduce the setting. Introduce the main character. Show what she does as a professional. Show how she acts and reacts around other people. Get out, move to the next page/scene.

Once you get some story beats down, you will find that ideas come up where you want to write more in story beats you’ve already written. So, do that. If you want to expound on the setting, e.g., then add to introduce the setting, behind the stage of a fashion show. Then, get back to your story beats for the scene on which you are presently working.

Writing story beats are refreshing and very helpful to writing a multi-dimensional screenplay, something for which every screenwriter should strive.

Story beats 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6...

Writing Under the Umbrella of Embracement

The sun is receding behind the mountains to the west of my house. It is a bright sun that darkens the mountains, almost purple-like. Embracing today as I have paid dividends. I made headway on a book proposal I’m working on for a client. It’s about addiction. The client is a doctor who has appeared on MTV many times. My writing partner, Pamela Cuming, and I also spent time today working on story beats for a script for a feature film that I’m co-producing. How’s that for embracing today? LOL.

Award-Winning Writer/Filmmaker Donald L. Vasicek Squaw Pass, Colorado