In 2007, HarperCollins published an illustrated slipcase edition by one of my favorite writers ever. The text originally appeared in The New York Times (July 16, 2001) as “Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle.” The book, Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing, stretches to just 90 pages, with illustrations, and by virtue of having been printed on 100# card stock (I’m estimating), manages to feel like a hefty tome while still being short enough that one of those hyperdexterous artists could etch it onto a grain of rice. Like Strunk and White’s slim guide to good writing, Leonard’s book is worth many times its weight. My copy (signed edition #236 of 400) holds a place of honor above my desk next to Jim White’s Clarity: A Text on Writing, a book to which I contributed years ago, and the aforementioned gem, The Elements of Style.
Which brings me to this. In April 2014, I released Live Free or Die, the first in a series of murder mysteries featuring amateur sleuth and professional writer Kit McCormick. I wrote the book on a lark, to cure a nasty case of writer’s block, while I was working on my “real” book, my (second or third) version of every earnest writer’s Great American Novel.
Now I am torn.
A handful of strangers and a crowd of friends and family are clamoring impatiently for Kit book #2, and while I have it somewhat sketched out, I am stalled. I know some people who can churn out page after page of bearable if unremarkable prose without breaking a sweat, but I wrestle with every detail, adjusting the characters’ collars and connecting the strands from plot points A to Z…and it’s slow going. So every once in a while I glance up at the trio of books by the Masters and think…this is why I have spent all my life tasting words and dreaming dialogues? For one or two or five whodunits that only a few hundred people will ever see? I imagine my mentors (some big names, and all big talents) scowling at me for abandoning my “art.” I am not a fan of adverbs or exclamation points…but am I too enamored of hooptedoodle?