Elmore Leonard’s Ten Rules of Writing

Elmore Leonard's ten Rules of WritingFrom a master of crime fiction, Elmore Leonard’s Ten Rules of Writing carry a lot of weight.

Leonard began his career writing Westerns before turning to genre crime fiction. Popular and prolific, his bestsellers include Glitz, Get Shorty, Maximum Bob, and Rum Punch. More importantly, Leonard  has standing with the literary crowd.

Available as a 96-page expanded essay, the author explains:

“These are the rules I’ve picked up along the way to help me remain invisible when I’m writing a book, to help me show rather than tell what’s taking place in the story.”—Elmore Leonard.

Elmore Leonard’s ten rules of writing are as categorical as his own prose:

  1. Never open a book with weather.
  2. Avoid prologues.
  3. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue, he adminished.
  4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said”…he said 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.

Of course, like all rules, you can break them if you are confident in your writing craft.