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Elmore Leonard’s Rules of Writing


elmoreatdeskThe news today that crime novelist Elmore Leonard died at age 87 prompted us to take another look at his priceless Ten Rules of Writing.

Our favorite is #10 : Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip. It’s something our writers often learn when even they get bored while reading their own work aloud in a workshop:

“Elmore Leonard’s Ten Rules of 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.

According to Leonard, his most important rule is one that sums up the 10:

If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

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