The Republic of Letters

Elmore Leonard’s Rules For Good Writing

800px-Elmore_LeonardIf you haven’t heard already, Elmore Leonard died today at his home in Bloomfield Township, Mich. He was 87. Proving again that fame is a vain pursuit, I’m constantly surprised by the number of people who’re either completely ignorant of him or his work. Probably because of the movie, the work which elicits the most “Oh, yeas.”, though, is his 2005 novel “Get Shorty.” Yea, Leonard wrote that. Anyway, in 2001 he wrote a short piece for the Times explaining his rules for writing. It’s a gem. Read it. Keep it. Use it.

  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.

(HT: Gilbert Cruz/Vulture and image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)