Elmore Leonard: how to write

August 20, 2013 at 5:14 pm (crime, Jim D, literature, RIP, United States)

Elmore Leonard died today, aged 87.

The New York Times obit is here.

If you’ve never read his stuff, start with Get Shorty and/or Rum Punch (both filmed, Rum Punch as Jackie Brown).

Here he is on his famous (and somewhat tongue-in-cheek) ‘Ten Rules of writing’:

Here are the ‘Ten Rules’:

  •  Never open a book with weather.
  •  Avoid prologues.
  •  Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.
  •  Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said”…he admonished gravely.
  •  Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.
  •  Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”
  •  Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
  •  Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
  •  Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
  •  Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

He added: “My most important rule is one that sums up the 10: If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”

* Excerpted from the New York Times article, ‘Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle.’


  1. Elmore Leonard | jackcollier7 said,

    […] Elmore Leonard: how to write (shirazsocialist.wordpress.com) […]

  2. Greg Taylor said,

    Reblogged this on Greg R. Taylor.

  3. R F McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,

    Was looking at those 10 rules only the other day and ruefully counting how many I break and with what frequency.

    Reaching 87 and leaving behind a solid body of work is pretty good going though….

  4. Daniel young said,

    Elmore 60, im me, im him.him in the pages.i wrote that.Yes im sixty and has it not taken you a long time to understand.

  5. Try to leave out what readers skip | Greg R. Taylor said,

    […] Elmore Leonard: how to write (shirazsocialist.wordpress.com) […]

  6. Monsuer Jelly More Bounce to the Ounce (Much More Bounce) said,

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