Elmore Leonard’s 10 rules of writing

In honour of Elmore Leonard, who has died after having a stroke, I thought I’d take a look at his 10 rules of writing, so many of which I agree with wholeheartedly (especially numbers three and six). 

Leonard was a talented writer who’ll be missed, but he has left us with his lessons and words of wisdom, which will be around for a long time.

For a more detailed extract from his book 10 Rules of Writing, published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, click here.

In the meantime here’s a summary of the 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”.
5 Keep your exclamation points ­under control.
6 Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose”.
7 Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
8 Avoid detailed descriptions of characters, which Steinbeck covered.
9 Don’t go into great detail describing places and things, unless you’re ­Margaret Atwood and can paint scenes with language.
10 Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. kit says:

    I love these tips, especially 6 – there is rarely a need for “suddenly”!


  2. Absolutely agree. If it's sudden, you'll know.



  3. Trish Hannon says:

    Excellent rules especially number ten. Too often I find myself skimming.


  4. I think what I love most about these rules are that they're largely common sense. Then again, plenty of people don't have common sense!



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s