Category Archives: writers

Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules for Writing

Get Shorty

Elmore John Leonard Jr. (born October 11, 1925) is an American novelist and screenwriter. His earliest published novels in the 1950s were westerns, but Leonard went on to specialize in crime fiction and suspense thrillers, many of which have been adapted into motion pictures.

Among his best-known works are Get Shorty, Out of Sight, Hombre, Mr. Majestyk and Rum Punch, which was filmed as Jackie Brown. Leonard’s short stories include ones that became the films 3:10 to Yuma and The Tall T, as well as the current TV series on FX, Justified.

Leonard was born in New Orleans, but because his father worked as a site locator for General Motors, the family moved frequently for several years. In 1934, the family finally settled in Detroit. Leonard has  made the Detroit area his home ever since.Elmore Leonard

  1. Never open a book with 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”…he admonished gravely.
  5. Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of      prose.
  6. Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”
  7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
  8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
  9. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
  10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.
  11. If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

Yes, I know I said  he had ten rules, but according to Mr. Leonard, the eleventh is the most important rule of all.

Suzanne Bogue



Filed under writers, Writing, writing advise

Celebrating Our Past

The No Gun Man of TexasPPW is approaching its 93rd birthday in April, but March happens to be Women’s History Month.  So I thought it might be good to take this opportunity to celebrate our beginnings.  Our original name was Panhandle Pen Women.  As time moved on we decided to include men in the organization as well, but it wasn’t until 1987 when the organization decided to apply for an IRS non-profit status that they also decided to change the name to Panhandle Professional Writers in an effort to keep the initials the same and reflect the fact that the group welcomed any writer, not just women.

But we need to pay homage to the women who started it all.  Many of their names have become buried in the collected scrapbooks that chronicle our history.  One name stands out.  She was our first President and a lady of considerable accomplishment.  She didn’t start the organization by herself of course and we tip our hats to her cohorts as well, but her history is well documents.

Laura V. Hamner was hailed as the Panhandle’s first historian. As a twenty-year-old, fresh out of Peabody College in Nashville, she stepped down from the train in Claude, Texas, one day in 1891. Simply eager to see her parents and her sister, she had no notion that before she died she would exert her influence on the cultural awareness of Panhandle people as few others have done.Prairie Vagabonds
She was a spinster, cared for her parents (and a nephew who died at age four), taught school, served as postmistress and Potter County school superintendent. She delayed her full-fledged writing career until she was past sixty.

In 1935, she published The No Gun Man of Texas about pioneer rancher, Charles Goodnight. It was the first self-published book to be adopted by the State Board of Education. She also had four other books published.

Miss Hamner wrote and recorded at least 430 “Light N Hitch” radio programs on KGNC, in Amarillo, Texas, telling the stories of the Panhandle pioneers. And she wrote two columns for the Amarillo News-Globe — “Talk to Teens” and “Spinster on the Prowl” — for about thirty years.

She served as PPW president four times, 1921-1922, 1931, 1941 and finally in 1950.

She received many honors — culminating with the Texas Heritage Foundation National Medal presented at a PPW meeting on her 92nd birthday. She died in 1968 at age ninety-seven.

Miss Hamner has been memorialized in a mini opera, “Laura V,” written by Gene Murray, under the auspices of the Amarillo Opera. A number of grateful modern-day PPW members were in the audience for the premiere production at the Gem Theater in Claude, TX, in June of 1998.

I can look at our list of past Presidents and name from personal experience some of the women I would consider women of note in PPW’s history as well as in the annals of Panhandle history.  This blog post would be more like an online book if I took the time to write all of their praises.

If you happen to know the name and history of one of PPW’s early women of note, please leave a comment about who she was and what her contribution was to our history.  Help us celebrate the rich history of Panhandle women.

Want to learn more about PPW?  Click on this link:

Suzanne Bogue

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In Honor of Black History Month

Black History MonthThe month of February is Black History month.  I did a little research to find out more about some of the African-American writers who deserve to be honored this month.

We are all familiar with writers, such as Terry McMillan author of Waiting to Exhale (1992); and Toni Morrison, 1993 Nobel Prize winner and author of Beloved (1987) for which she won a Pulitzer Prize. The list also includes such writers as Alex Haley whose book Roots:  The Saga of an American Family (1976) was adapted to a popular television mini-series in 1977.

But the list of African-American writers of note not only includes these famous individuals and those such as poets Langston Hughes and Maya Angelou as well as novelist Alice Walker; it also includes more obscure names–people whose works you might have read and not realized that they were African-American.Black History month in books

Frank Yerby was an historical novelist best known as the first African-American writer to become a millionaire from his pen, and to have a book purchased by a Hollywood studio for a film adaptation.  The book, The Foxes of Harrow (1946) became the Oscar-nominated film “Foxes” starring Rex Harrison and Maureen O’Hara.

Samuel R. Delany is an author, professor and literary critic.  His work includes a number of novels, many in the science fiction genre, as well as memoir and criticism.

Octavia Butler (1947-2006) was a Hugo and Nebulla award-winning author of science fiction.

Phillis Wheatley (1753-1784) was the first African-American poet and the first African-American woman to publish a book. Born in Senegambia, she was sold into slavery at the age of 7 or 8 and transported to North America. She was purchased by the Wheatley family of Boston, who taught her to read and write, and encouraged her poetry when they saw her talent.

The publication of her Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (1773) brought her fame, both in England, and the Thirteen Colonies; figures such as George Washington praised her work. During Wheatley’s visit to England, the African-American poet Jupiter Hammon praised her work in his own poem.

This list is woefully incomplete.  It would take far too much time to list every African-American writer–past and present–whose name deserves inclusion in such a list.  During the month of February I challenge readers to visit the internet or your local library to discover the work of more of the gifted writers whose names belong here and share with PPW what you find.  Who is your favorite?  What genre do they write?

Suzanne Bogue


Filed under Black History, books, genres, poetry, prose, publishing, read, reading, research, short stories, writers

Some Writing Rules to Live By

Neil Gaiman Neil Gaiman

Mr. Gaiman is a novelist and screenwriter to name only two of his talents. Neil Gaiman’s work has received many awards internationally, including the Newbery and Carnegie Medals. His books and stories have also been honored with 4 Hugos, 2 Nebulas, 1 World Fantasy Award, 4 Bram Stoker Awards, 6 Locus Awards, 2 British Science Fiction Awards, 1 British Fantasy Award, 3 Geffens, 1 International Horror Guild Award and 2 Mythopoeic Awards.  His work is somewhat quirky and offbeat.  His children’s work is whimsical with a slight twist toward the stuff of childhood nightmares.

The following eight rules are his rules for writing.

1. Write.

2. Put one word after another. Find the right word, put it down.

3. Finish what you’re writing. Whatever you have to do to finish it, finish it.

4. Put it aside. Read it pretending you’ve never read it before. Show it to friends whose opinion you respect and who like the kind of thing that this is.

5. Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.

6. Fix it. Remember that, sooner or later, before it ever reaches perfection, you will have to let it go and move on and start to write the next thing. Perfection is like chasing the horizon. Keep moving.

7. Laugh at your own jokes.

8. The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it’s definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it ­honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.


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Writing Contest!

Typewriter Keys


2013 Frontiers in Writing Contest

Now open for entries

 For one low entry fee you can now enter multiple categories

Cash prizes for 1st, 2nd and 3rd places in EVERY category.

Go to:

Entry rules, procedures and format regulations are listed on the FiW Writing Contest page

Download FiW entry Application and mail along with your entry.

Entry fees can be check or Money order, or pay online using “Payments” on the PPW website.

Sponsored by the Panhandle Professional Writers


Writing Contests BenefitsPen and handwritten doc

It costs money; why should I enter? What benefit will a contest be for my writing and me? I’m not good enough so I’ll never win.

Those who are looking at entering writing contests frequently express these statements and questions. I know, I’ve asked most of them myself.

Having entered my share of writing contests let me offer some positive benefits from my personal experience.

1.Training for working with deadlines – Contests give a writer the opportunity to work under a deadline. Most contests will have strict dates for submitting an entry. This is good conditioning for working with agents, editors, and publishers who will place deadlines on your writing.

2.Provides automatic platform – A platform is your audience, those who will read your work. While your mother and “BFF” will gladly volunteer readership, contest judges can provide you with an unbiased and anonymous audience for your writing. And who knows, the judge may be an agent, editor or publisher.

3.Gain feedback – One of the most valuable benefits of a writing contest is the critique. To have the judge’s comments noting any mistakes, suggestions for improvement and yes, even praise can help improve your writing.

4.Build your portfolio – Writing contests are a perfect way to build your portfolio. When seeking an agent or publisher, a few writing clips, accomplishments and certificates may be the edge you need to seal the deal.

5.Increase your confidence – Entering a contest gives a writer the opportunity to gain confidence in their writing. Have you ever written something only to tear it up or hide it in a drawer? Have you ever said, “I could never write well enough to be published!” A writing contest provides an inexpensive way to test the waters of being an author.

6.Avoid scam contests – As with most everything, there are people who take advantage of others. Before entering a contest, research the person or organization holding the contest and make sure they are legitimate. There are a few contests that are no more than book selling scams. When your entry wins, it is accepted for publication in an anthology, with all of the other first place winners, then you must pay an outrageous price to obtain a copy.

Rory C. Keel

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Writing in the Spirit of the Season

Gift 4

During this  season of giving I would mention how wonderful a gift writers have to share their stories with family, community and all readers.   Whatever genre you write, I would ask during this season to give a gift of a short story, poem, or other writing, even if only to family, and consider the subject of patriotism – “devotion to one’s country, national loyalty.”  As citizens we have a privilege and duty of patriotism – whether it is to vote, serve on a jury when called, or just to obey our laws. 

We are very fortunate to have the freedom to write on any topic of our choosing.  We don’t  have to wait for editors or publishers to get works out, available for anyone to read.  We have the freedom for people to agree and disagree with our writing – without “book burnings.”  This and other freedoms we have would not have been possible without the past sacrifices of ancestors and continued commitment to service by firemen, police, military, etc.   We have many wonderful stories of these heroes and new stories are surfacing daily.  We have a growing archive of resources – through the Library of Congress Veterans History Project, county and state histories, reports by military historians, and daily newspaper reports of acts of valor.  We have new perspectives from women in service and naturalized citizens.  A family member, a friend, a neighbor may have a story to share.

I would ask writers to commemorate and perpetuate the spirit and purpose of the extraordinary men and women, past and present, who serve our country and preserve our American heritage so that future generations might continue to live in freedom and peace.

What stories of patriotism do you have to tell?

Donna Otto

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Quotes from Three Famous Authors

David Morrell, author of FIRST BLOOD, the novel which was later made into Rambo movies, has 25 books, 18-million copies in print.  Morrell says, “The index of a good novel can be measured by how much the reader feels compelled to turn to the next page.”

Jonathan Kellerman, has 37 published books including 4 non-fiction titles.  Kellerman says  “When a thriller is done poorly it is because writers fail to set up characters or threat.”  In his presentation on suspense, he gave as an outstanding example THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (an Alfred Hitchcock movie starring Jimmy Stewart & Doris Day).

Tony Hillerman, author of Jim Chee/Joe Leaphorn series, has 27 books, four have been made into TV movies and broadcast on PBS.  Hillerman says the essence of a good mystery/suspense is two things:  (1) characters that the reader cares about and (2) the troubles that these characters are struggling to overcome.

by Harry Haines, (taken from notes at the Tony Hillerman Writers Conference a few years ago.)

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