Thursday, June 24, 2010

Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing

Notice I'm big on bulleted lists? The most profound things in life don't need pages of explanation. In his essay, Elmore Leonard's Ten Rules of Writing, he wrote,
"My most important rule is one that sums up the 10: If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it."
  1. Never open a book with the weather.
  2. Avoid prologs.
  3. Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialog.
  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 parts the readers tend to skip.
Write Every Day!



  1. Sounds like a good list to keep in mind. I think "never" is a bit strong for #3. Sometimes a character says a question and sometimes they ask it. Number 9 depends on the the thing and place you're describing.

  2. ahhhhh...blasphemy. How can you disagree with Elmore? :O)

  3. Your last sentence, "Write every day!" ought to be the 11th rule.

  4. Great list, great advice, thanks! I'm so glad I've found this blog!