Elmore Leonard: 10 Rules for Good Writing

Elmore Leonard is considered to be one of the greatest writers of his generation. But what is Leonard’s secret to being both popular and respectable? More importantly… Do you agree with his ten top tips?

  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.

There you have it… ten top tips from a great writer. How many of these have you already tried? Are you inspired to start writing a book yet?



6 thoughts on “Elmore Leonard: 10 Rules for Good Writing

  1. amariesilver says:

    Number 5 is going to be a challenge for me! I love exclamation points! I use them more than commas!

  2. vintage45 says:

    During a TV interview he advised that if a book hasn’t grabbed you by page fifty….forget it.

    • johnlmalone says:

      Page fifty! that’s generous. I give it till the end of the first paragraph and I consider that pretty generous — unless, of course, the first paragraph is only a sentence long.

      • mlnewman87 says:

        I always make a point to try to finish what I’ve started reading. I have been pleasantly surprised by some stories with very slow beginnings with fantastic adventures and endings.

  3. johnlmalone says:

    I’ve written a poem about exclamation points! A funny one! I might put it up in a day or two 🙂

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