Do You Know About Elmore Leonard?

It is just a couple of days after what would have been Elmore Leonard’s 97th birthday.  This American author was born Oct. 11, 1925 and died Aug. 20, 2013.

He was a prolific writer, but he was concerned more with quality than quantity. Somehow he managed to do both. He wrote many novels, screenplays, short stories, and many other types of publications.

Elmore Leonard at the Peabody Awards in 2011. Photo from Wikipedia.

Here are his Ten Rules for Good Writing, published in the New York Times.

  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.

Elmore said, “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.”


8 thoughts on “Do You Know About Elmore Leonard?

  1. Thanks for sharing highlights about Elmore Leonard. Other prolific and commercially successful writers (e.g., Erle Stanley Gardner of Perry Mason fame) developed and followed principles that have stood the test of time.

    The more I discover about writers who blazed notable writing paths, the more I learn each developed a “code” by which they lived and wrote. Often referred to as rules, these giants of craft knew the principles that made their writing standout from the crowd.

    My takeaway: each adopted and adapted what fit their chosen genre and style. Not necessarily easy, but doable for all who love to write.

    Liked by 1 person

    • One thing I find hard to do is to stop rewriting. I could go on forever, trying to make it perfect, but there’s no such thing. We just have to do the best we can and somehow know when it’s enough. But yes, as Mr. Leonard said, if it sounds like writing, rewrite it.


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