Friday, May 13, 2005

How Leonard does it

One of my recurring obsessions is finding out why writers write and how they do it -- you know, the mundane little details of routine, schedules, tools... Here is Elmore Leonard's writing story, culled from a NY Times May 9 profile:

On how he writes:
"[Elmore Leonard] writes seven days a week in the living room of a nice house in the suburbs here with a No. 5 Pilot Pen on unlined yellow paper. He does not use e-mail or a computer. He types the handwritten pages on an I.B.M. Selectric, which occasionally breaks down from daily exertion."

On why he writes novels:
"I write them to find out what happens," he said of his novels. "I don't write for anybody else."

On the structure of his novels:
"Mr. Leonard does not think what he does is very complicated.

"The first part moves along O.K., and then I have to think about the second part, because the second part keeps it going," he said. "And then you've got to get to some new things, say around page 250. There is always those surprises near the end.""

On the role of characters:
"Characters serve as can-openers on plots for Mr. Leonard. Once conceived, they become his masters, shoving him from one scene to the next, until the book ends, usually at about 300 pages."

And how they (sometimes) get their names:
"This great American author, one of the best dialogue writers ever, lets people at charity auctions bid for the right to name his characters; Ed Hagenlocker, a "hard-shell Baptist" and cotton farmer in "The Hot Kid," got his name that way. "Why not help them out?" he said."

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