Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules for Writing

Elmore Leonard

The news broke this morning that hard-boiled crime novelist Elmore Leonard passed away in his home city of Detroit. Even if you haven’t ever read any of his books odds are you have seen an adaptation, so far 26 of his stories have been made into movies or television shows.  In honor of his life, I thought it’d be fitting to post his 10 rules of writing. I especially like #10.

  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.

R.I.P. Mister Leonard. You’ll be missed.

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5 thoughts on “Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules for Writing

  1. There was an interview with his son about his life and work and these ten rules on the BBC Radio 4. Having read your post it was even more interesting. Just found out that his son Peter is going to finish his final book. Worth seeing if you can get this on iPlayer. The rules are interesting, I’m not sure I agree with them as rules for all authors,
    but they are good rules for writing like Elmore Leonard.

    Like

    1. I agree, all the rules aren’t going to apply to everyone. (I break #2 and #3 consistently.) However, I can totally see the spirit behind Leonard’s rules and why he made them his own. I think we can all glean a little from that.

      I’ll hunt down that interview! Sounds really interesting.

      Like

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