He's Elmore Leonard, the crime novelist that gets respect in the serious, patched-elbow, pipe-smoking literary world. (My stereotype may be dated, but hopefully, you get the idea.)
He's 86 and still writing two pages a day. I would call that "going strong."
So, he's not a copywriter, but he sure as hell knows something about writing.
Look at this excerpt from Rum Punch (p 12) to see what I'm talking about:
Ordell heard him say, "It doesn't matter where you were, Reggie, you missed your hearing. Now I have to… Reg, listen to me, okay?" This Max Cherry speaking in a quieter voice than he used on his wife. Talking to her had sounded painful. Ordell placed his athletic bag on an empty desk that faced the one Max Cherry was at and got out a cigarette.
This looked more like the man's den than a bail bond office...
Grammarians, have a field day. All kinds of things "wrong" with what he wrote.
Copywriters, pay close attention. Elmore Leonard knows what he's doing.
This morning, reading an interview with Leonard about his new book in the Wall Street Journal, I discovered he has 10 rules for writing. Even has a book by that name.
I tracked them down on the Web, and here they are:
- Never open a book with weather.
- Avoid prologues.
- Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue.
- Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said”…he admonished gravely.
- Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.
- Never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose."
- Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
- Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
- Don't go into great detail describing places and things.
- Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.
While this is more for fiction than for copywriting, you can learn a lot and improve your writing if you pay attention to what he is getting at.
In his book he adds: "My most important rule is one that sums up the 10: If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it."
Think about that.
How many of these would vastly improve your copywriting... and your results?