I’ve never read any Elmore Leonard. However, his is a name I kept coming across, mostly while watching movies. His novels became, among others, 3:10 to Yuma, Get Shorty, and Jackie Brown. Clearly he’s a man who was doing plenty right when he put words to paper, so I thought I’d share this list that’s going around. It’s Elmore Leonard’s ten rules for writing:

  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.

As with any rules on writing, they’re more suggestions. However, several I’ve seen elsewhere (#3 and #4), some are just common sense (#10), and one is something that drives me crazy when poorly done (#7). He goes into further detail on all ten rules in an article recently reposted by the Detroit Free Press.

Edit: The Onion, as always is brilliant. They have posted an obituary for Leonard that breaks all ten rules.

About the author

DLThurston DL Thurston is a writer of novels, screenplays, and the occasional short story. He has short stories due out soon in the Steam Works anthology from Hydra Publications and in The Memory Eater. When he's not writing, he also brews beer and even drinks it sometimes. Check out his exploits either on his blog or on Twitter.