Posts Tagged ‘Elmore Leonard’

Overnight Success

“It doesn’t seem that long ago I had hopes of being the hot kid, selling my first story in ’51 when I was 25. I got on the cover of Newsweek in April 1985, and was seen as an overnight success after little more than thirty years.”
Elmore Leonard
1998 Film Comment Interview with Patrick McGilligan

P.S. And from that same interview Leonard told what he learned from that first story he sold;

“The story [3:10 to Yuma] was in DimWestern4500 words; I got ninety dollars for it. The editor insisted I rewrite one of the scenes and do two revisions on my description of the train. He said, “You can do it better. You’re not using all your senses. It’s not just a walk by the locomotive. What’s the train doing? How does it smell? Is there steam?” He made me work for my ninety bucks, which was good. It was in the magazine, and then within a year a producer saw it and bought it.”

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Scott W. Smith

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“[Screenwriting] was a chore [mostly] because you’ve got several bosses. You’re not just writing for yourself. I write for myself. I’m the only one I have to please. When I have to please a producer and a director and so on, then I’m just taking in writing, doing what they want me to do.

There was a time when I had to do it, ‘cuz I needed the money. I wasn’t very proud of the pictures, but it was just something I had to do. There was no way to talk [executives] into anything. You’d have a story conference on a Friday afternoon, and they’d give all this stuff, all their ideas, [and] you’d go back to your hotel room, sit there looking at the wall and writing it, and then Monday you’d meet ‘em again, and they’d forgotten all the bullshit they’d told you Friday.”
Elmore Leonard
WGA, West article Always Writing by Dylan Callaghan

Hollywood Hacks & Shipwrecks
Hollywood=Factory Town (Michael Arndt)
One Benefit of Being Outside Hollywood (Robert Rodriguez)
Elmore Leonard (1925-2013)

Scott W. Smith

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On this repost Saturday I’m going to tap into a post I wrote several years ago where I quoted Elmore Leonard who passed away earlier this week. Here’s the post that originally ran in June of 2009:

Finding time to write is one of the biggest struggles for those writers with jobs and a family. But there are many stories of writers like John Grisham (The Firm) and Ron Bass (Rain Man) waking up at 5 A.M. to write before their day jobs. Now I’ve discovered another writer in that club:

“I began training for the writing life in 1951, getting up at 5:00 A.M. and writing for two hours before going to work at an ad agency. My one rule; I had to start writing, get into a scene, before I could put on coffee. Two pages a day in the early hours allowed me to turn out five books, all westerns, and over 30 short stories in the next ten years.”
Elmore Leonard
(Three-Ten to Yuma, Get Shorty)
AARP The Magazine
page 29

P.S. Leonard would have been 25 or 26 years old when he began “training for the writing life.”

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Stephen King’s Doublewide Trailer “I wrote my first two novels, Carrie and Salem’s Lot in the laundry room of a doublewide trailer, pounding away on my wife’s portable Olivetti typewriter and balancing a child’s desk on my thighs.”–Stephen King

Scott W. Smith

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“At first I wasn’t sure at all where to begin.”
Opening line in the novel Hombre, written by Elmore Leonard

“When I wrote 3:10 to Yuma. I sold the original [short] story for $90, and then got $4,000 for the movie rights.”
Elmore Leonard
(Leonard did add that “a 5,000 word story was a hundred bucks. And in the early ’50s, that wasn’t bad.”)

“Bewteen 1951 and 1961, Elmore wrote 30 western short-stories and five western novels, even as he made his main living with advertising work.”
Tom Nolan
 WGAW Written by article Dutch Landscape 

“In 1961, Leonard quit his job at the ad agency to write full time. The western fiction market had dried up because of a plethora of westerns on television and he wanted to write contemporary stories. But the demands of a growing family required him to take freelance advertising jobs instead. After five years away from writing fiction, Leonard finished his first non-Western novel, The Big Bounce, buoyed by the sale of film rights to his novel Hombre. His Hollywood agent, the legendary H. N. Swanson read it and told him, ‘Kiddo, I’m going to make you rich.'”
Biography on ElmoreLeonard.com

“Elmore’s first crime book, The Big Bounce, was rejected 84 times.”
Ann O’Neill, The CNN Profile

But The Big Bounce got published and eventually made into a movie in 1969 which Leonard said ,”Was probably the second worse movie ever made.” The worst movie? According to Leonard, the 2004 version of The Big Bounce. But artists aren’t defined by their failures, but by their successes.

“One remarkable thing about Leonard’s talent is how long it took the world to notice. He didn’t have a best-seller until his 60th year, and few critics took him seriously before the 1990s.”
Mike Householder, Time Magazine

P.S. Since I’m into regionalism, it’s worth noting that two writers that Leonard admired both had ties to Leonard’s Michigan:
Writer Jim Harrison (Part 1) The writer of Legends of the Fall was born in Grayling, MI and partly raised in Reed City, MI.
Writing Quite #24 (Elmore Leonard) Hemingway much spent time in Michigan and one of his first published stories was Up in Michigan.
Starting Your Screenplay (Tip #6)
The Breakfast Club for Writers (Starting early in the morning before a day job didn’t hurt Leonard.)

Scott W. Smith

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“Characters are much more important to me—to my book— than plot.”
Elmore Leonard

Elmore Leonard and his work always embodied much of what I’ve tried to convey on this blog. He wrote more than forty novels, and his work showed up over seven decades in dozens of films and TV programs including Get Shorty, 3:10 to Yuma, and Justified. His work influenced a generation of writers including two-time Oscar winner Quentin Tarantino who wrote and directed Jackie Brown based on Leonard’s novel.

But what connects Leonard to this blog is he did this not in New York, San Francisco or Los Angeles—but in Michigan. He moved to the Detroit area when he was 11 and lived there until he died Tuesday at the age of 87.  Before he became a full-time writer he spent a decade at an ad agency and got his pages in by waking up at 5 AM to write. In my post Advice for Young Writer (Elmore Leonard) he said, “You’ve got to write everyday.” Even if that means copying Hemingway like he did when he was starting out.

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The Dickens of Detroit (Elmore Leonard)
Screenwriting Software vs. Ballpoint Pen “Making it up as I go along. I write with a ballpoint pen….” Elmore Leonard
Writing Quote #24 (Elmore Leonard) “I’ve always said: If it sounds like writing, revise it…..”
Screenwriting from Michigan
The Breakfast Club for Writers  Two pages a day in the early hours [before work] allowed me to turn out five books…” Elmore Leonard

Scott W. Smith

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“I had no notion of becoming a writer,” is how writer Walter Mosley describes his life before reading the following two sentences:

“He was looking at me and neither his eyes nor his gun moved. He was as calm as an adobe wall in the moonlight.”
The Long Goodbye, written by Raymond Chandler

“It took Raymond Chandler to show me something that I already knew but had never been aware of. Adobe walls in the lunar light of the southern California desert had the most passive demeanor—they were the ideal of peacefulness. Then the writer contrasts this nearly absolute tranquility to an armed and dangerous man … For the first time I understood the power of language to reach beyond the real into the metaphysical and into metaphor. Those 24 words alerted me to the potential power of writing.”
Author Walter Mosely who’s published 34 books and won the O Henry award, a Grammy, and PEN Lifetime Achievement Award
The Two Raymond Chandler Sentences That Changes Walter Mosley’s Life written by Joe Fassler in the Atlantic

“Everyone knows who Raymond Chandler is and I began reading him in the late ’40s when I was writing westerns. And I remember thinking, ‘why don’t I switch over to things like the kinds of stories that Raymond Chandler’s doing?’”
Author Elmore Leonard (Get Shorty)
On receiving the Raymond Chandler Award

“He wrote like a slumming angel and invested in the sun-blinded streets of Los Angeles with a gusto and imaginative flair.”
Reference about Raymond Chandler by crime fiction author Ross Macdonald who created detective Lew Archer (The Moving Target)

“What [Quentin] Tarantino may be most renowned for is his focus on highly stylized modes of speech. Greatly influenced by the likes of film noir/pulp fiction writers Dashiell Hammond, Raymond Chandler and Elmore Leonard, Tarantino elicits vivid responses from his audiences by incorporating mundane banter about ubiquitous popular culture subject matters.”
Michael Peters
An Analysis of Quentin Tarantino and His Films

“Your clothes should be jazzy, very jazzy indeed, Steve. To be inconspicuous in this town is to be a busted flush.”
Raymond Chandler, The King in Yellow 
A short story by Chandler, and worth noting because the name author John D. MacDonald called the famed houseboat in 21 Travis McGee private detective novels was The Busted Flush. (Though the character McGee won the boat in a poker game, some consider it a nod to Chandler by the writer MacDonald.)

And here’s a different kind of Chandler influence from the trailer for Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982) written and directed by Carl Reiner and starring Steve Martin:

That’s just what I could come up with in a breif search online. Do you know of other writers who were influenced by Chandler?

Scott W. Smith

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“I would say just start writing. You’ve got to write every day. Copy someone that you like if you think that perhaps could become your sound too. I did that with Hemingway, and I thought I was writing just like Hemingway. Then all of a sudden it occurred to me, he didn’t have a sense of humor. I don’t know anything he’s written that’s funny.”
Elmore Leonard when asked for advice for young writers
Time magazine March 29, 2010

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The Dickens of Detroit (Elmore Leonard)
The Breakfast Club for Writers 

Scott W. Smith

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