Curly Washburn, Elmore Leonard, and Your Book

Jul 7, 2014 | Writing A Book

Making your book better another way.

Too many authors try to make their book better by adding more material. That can be a good strategy, if what you add is necessary for the reader to understand your message. But adding material can clog up a book.

Sometimes, the way you make a book better is to take things out. Consider the observation of that great American philosopher, Curly Washburn.

Listen to Curly Washburn.

Curly Washburn is the trail boss in the movie, “City Slickers.” That movie includes the following dialogue.

Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is?

[holds up one finger]

Curly: This.

Mitch: Your finger?

Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don’t mean s**t.

Mitch: But, what is the “one thing?”

Curly: [smiles] That’s what *you* have to find out.

Curly never does give up what the “one thing” is, but if you’re an author, you have to decide what one thing your book is about. Then you can move on to Elmore Leonard’s advice.

Follow Elmore Leonard’s advice.

Elmore Leonard is famous for his books and for his “Ten Rules of Writing.” All the rules are helpful, but number ten is most important here.

“Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.”

If you’re writing a business book, readers tend to skip the parts that don’t move the book forward or help them learn your “one thing.”

Author’s Bottom Line

Decide what your book is about.

Take out everything that doesn’t keep the book moving and help the reader get your message.