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:
- Never open a book with weather.
- Avoid prologues.
- Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.
- Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said”…he admonished gravely.
- Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.
- Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”
- Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
- Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
- Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
- 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.