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Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing

Jenn Sheppard:

“If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”

Originally posted on The Daily Post:

“I always refer to style as sound,” says Leonard. “The sound of the writing.” Some of Leonard’s suggestions appeared in a 2001 New York Times article that became the basis of his 2007 book, Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing. Here are those rules in outline form:

  1. Never open a book with the weather.
  2. Avoid prologues.
  3. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.
  4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said.”
  5. Keep your exclamation points under control!
  6. Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”
  7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
  8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
  9. Same for places and things.
  10. Leave out the parts readers tend to skip.

These are Leonard’s rules in point form. For context on each rule, check out this piece in the Detroit Free Press.

Source: Open Culture

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The 10 most corrupt states in the U.S.

Jenn Sheppard:

Not good, Florida. Top 10.

Originally posted on Fortune:

When we think of government corruption (as one tends to do),  our biased minds often gravitate to thoughts of military juntas and third world governments. But, of course, corruption is everywhere, in one form or another. And it’s costing U.S. citizens big time.

A new study from researchers at the University of Hong Kong and Indiana University estimates that corruption on the state level is costing Americans in the 10 most corrupt states an average of $1,308 per year, or 5.2% of those states’ average expenditures per year.

The researchers studied more than 25,000 convictions of public officials for violation of federal corruption laws between 1976 and 2008 as well as patterns in state spending to develop a corruption index that estimates the most and least corrupt states in the union. Based on this method, the the most corrupt states are:

1. Mississippi
2. Louisiana
3. Tennessee
4. Illinois
5. Pennsylvania
6. Alabama
7. Alaska
8. South Dakota

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Advice For Writers From Literary Agents

Jenn Sheppard:

And if you get any constructive criticism, do not be defensive and shrug it off—see if you can use it to make your pitch better. So many people give up after a few rejections. Keep the process moving by honing your letter as well as your manuscript/book proposal. And stay positive! This is a hard one, I know, but bitter and frustrated authors send out that vibe and I can always sense it–in person and even in query letters. You are selling your project, so sell it with a smile on your face.”

Originally posted on Writers In The Storm Blog:

Writing on PaperBy Chuck Sambuchino

Literary agents are full of great advice for writers. That’s why, whenever I am concluding an interview with an agent, I always end the encounter by asking “Is there any other piece of advice you’d like to discuss?”

This open-ended question often draws a fantastic answer, as the agent’s most passionate advice will pour out.

That’s why I’ve gone through a whole bunch of literary agent interviews and cobbled together some of the best writing tips that agents have passed on over the years. There was so much good material that I had to break it down into multiple columns. This is Volume I, and you can check out agents’ helpful and inspiring advice below.

And I want to take a moment and say that I’m excited about being a recurring new contributor to Writers in the Storm. You will be seeing more columns from me on…

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My compass

Fill the tank and drive the car
Pedal fast, pedal hard
You won’t have to go that far

These Lady Antebellum lyrics are helping me through some tough times lately, especially the hook: “When it’s all said and done, You can walk instead of run, ‘Cause no matter what you’ll never be alone.”

I came upon some unexpected circumstances and my roommate and I have to move out of the house we just leased in Cape Canaveral. My heart is not right with this loss. Personally, I feel like people have been letting me down left and right and professionally, I feel restless waiting on others to get their act together or I’m just ahead of the curve, like before my time, or I don’t belong here anymore and I’ve reached the glass ceiling in terms of what I can accomplish; maybe I’ve achieved all I can in Florida. So I’m opening myself up to the possibility of settling somewhere else when I used to think I would live in Florida forever. Now I’m not so sure.

Something my dad said recently struck me and made me feel tremendously better immediately (Pops always has a way of doing that!) He said something like, “You know what the best thing about freedom is?” And I looked at him blankly, thinking of a million answers and knowing none of them would be what he was thinking. He answered, “You get to choose who you hang out with.”

So there.

Timing is everything

Last week my sister asked if I would subject myself to any “forced family bonding,” this weekend, to which I agreed, but then Saturday when my dad called and told us that his wife passed away unexpectedly, within a few hours we had hopped in my truck and hit the interstate to Asheville, N.C.


You know what they say, “Everything happens for a reason.”

Pops is doing ok and just glad his girls are here. We’ve been cleaning up the place for him so he can feel comfortable again. Every morning we sit on the couch with our laptops and catch up on the news and gossip. He told me I need to start updating my website more often – “just a sentence or two everyday,” he said.

So, here I am. Yesterday my sister and I ran up and down the mountain road across the street from his house. It’s a mile up and a mile back and probably one of the steepest roads on Earth.

View from the top

View from the top

“The deep pain that is felt at the death of every friendly soul arise from the feeling that there is in every individual something which is inexpressible, peculiar to him alone, and is, therefore, absolutely and irretrievably lost” – Arthur Schopenhauer


The One-Man Race

Part of the reason why I love wearing my Garmin GPS heart rate monitor watch is so I can compete against myself as explained in this story about “Defeating Your True Competitor.”

You are your own truest competitor in every sense. Every time you approach the starting line, every time you’re facing that barbell, every time they are counting down to the start of a WOD, there is no one else present in that moment except for you. Have the consciousness and frame of mind to literally see it this way and I promise you your performance will drastically improve. Having thoughts of other athletes during competition and training will serve no purpose. They are at best a distraction, and at worst a stressor that can completely take you out of your game.