Sunday, September 15, 2013

Rest in peace, Elmore Leonard

I know that the late Elmore Leonard’s 10 tricks for good writing: * article from the New York Times has been read by many writers, but I think it's great advice that's worth sharing here. 
  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.
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.” Here’s a link to the original article:

Write soon,


  1. Mary--I had heard another author say that in a workshop: Use "said" so that it stays fairly invisible.

    "Try to leave out the parts that readers skip" is hilarious. We ALL strive to do that.

    Thanks for sharing...

  2. Such an interesting column to find this morning! Thanks.

  3. I love this list, it says it all! Thanks for your comments!