Elmore Leonard’s Rules for Writing

Elmore Leonard, a former adman who later became one of America’s foremost crime writers, died on the 20th of August 2013. He was 87. His researcher, Gregg Sutter, said Leonard died from complications from a stroke he suffered a few weeks ago. Leonard won an honorary National Book Award in 2012. His more than 40 novels were populated by pathetic schemers, clever con men and casual killers. Many of the novels – notably “Out of Sight,” ”Get Shorty” and “Be Cool” – were made into films. Critics adored his simple, direct language.

Elmore Leonard







Elmore laid out his 10 rules for writing in a 2001 essay in the New York Times. He said they helped him “remain invisible when I’m writing a book” and summed up his approach by saying, “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.” While acknowledging there were exceptions, these are the guidelines Leonard worked under:

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.
9. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

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