Elmore Leonard’s Writing Rules

Saturday, July 7, 2012

An old article, but a good one. Elmore Leonard, Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle.

Unfortunately it’s a New York Times link, but seems to work despite their paywall.

To summarise:

  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.

Like all writing ‘rules’, some of them are made to be broken, but I agree with most and understand why he suggests them as rules because I’ve seen all these problems in short stories I’ve critiqued.

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