Saturday, June 2, 2012

Barack Obama's Writing Tips

David Maraniss has a new Barack Obama bio coming out on June 19th. 

According to Maraniss, a friend sent Obama a manuscript for editing, and Obama wrote back with five tips:

1) "Careful about too many adverbs, particularly describing how people speak (Paul asked disbelievingly, etc.). It can be cumbersome and a bit intrusive on the reader."

2) "Resist the temptation of easy satire. ... Good satire has to be a little muted. Should spill out from under a seemingly somber situation."

3) "Try to get the basic stats on the characters out of the way early {Paul was 24} so that you can spend the rest of the story revealing character."

4) "Think about the key moments in the story, and build tension leading to those key moments."

5) "Write outside your own experience. ... I find that this works the fictive imagination harder."
A lot of this meshes with what Stephen King and Elmore Leonard have said in their writing books (On Writing and Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules Of Writing).  Death to adverbs.  Leave out the parts that most people skip.  Mute it a little - don't tell everything you know. 

"Since this is great writing advice, I won't mention Obama's reliance on Rule #5,"  said The Whited Sepulchre, regretfully. 
"Why not?" asked the reader, curiously.
"Because the satire would be too easy," said The Whited Sepulchre, indignantly.  "We've all suffered because Obama has been writing outside his own experience for the last four years." 


Hot Sam said...

Elmore's book got poor reviews. Seems people expected too much - a magazine article expanded into a book.

Did you buy it? What's your opinion?

The Whited Sepulchre said...

The Elmore Leonard book can be read during one cup of coffee. No point in buying it, but it's very much worth reading.
It's much like the Obama list but with cartoon illustrations.
10 points. That's it !!