Don’t get me wrong. The late Elmore Leonard has much to recommend him as a writer: witty dialogue, stark landscapes, and streamlined narrative. His pulp westerns, then his crime and suspense novels exemplify the gritty, the bizarre, and characters with sociopathic tendencies. I’ve learned from him simply by reading his work.
You’re probably aware of Mr. Leonard’s famous—or notorious—“10 Rules”. These gems periodically fall from the electron cloud and into writerly spaces. While his method offers sage advice from a deft craftsperson, they also deal with writing process. Successful exceptions to each of Mr. Leonard’s thorny briars exist, yet I’d rather lift this discourse out of the specific weeds and into landscape design.
You see, every landscape designer favors a specific function when they plot growing areas. Variations depend upon available space, seasonal light, natural features, problem areas, microclimates, and hardiness zones. To be a successful terraformer, you can’t allow process to trounce purpose. The same holds true for writers.
When I say “usually”, I’m referring to those times when I let myself get stuck on process. I adore research—and venerate word choice—and equivocate over punctuation, especially during edits. However, there comes a time when I’m stuck in the quagmire and need to review my intentions. You may find that to be the case, too.
So by all means, use Mr. Elmore’s list to cultivate your process. Just don’t allow his or your methodology to overcome your unique vision. We’re caretakers of story—until it’s released into the world. Our purpose—my raison d’être—is to tell a %@_# good story. That entails keeping process in its place.
Now I’m off to my daily writing. How do you align process with purpose?