Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules for Writing


Get Shorty

Elmore John Leonard Jr. (born October 11, 1925) is an American novelist and screenwriter. His earliest published novels in the 1950s were westerns, but Leonard went on to specialize in crime fiction and suspense thrillers, many of which have been adapted into motion pictures.

Among his best-known works are Get Shorty, Out of Sight, Hombre, Mr. Majestyk and Rum Punch, which was filmed as Jackie Brown. Leonard’s short stories include ones that became the films 3:10 to Yuma and The Tall T, as well as the current TV series on FX, Justified.

Leonard was born in New Orleans, but because his father worked as a site locator for General Motors, the family moved frequently for several years. In 1934, the family finally settled in Detroit. Leonard has  made the Detroit area his home ever since.Elmore Leonard

  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.
  11. If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

Yes, I know I said  he had ten rules, but according to Mr. Leonard, the eleventh is the most important rule of all.

Suzanne Bogue

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6 Comments

Filed under writers, Writing, writing advise

6 responses to “Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules for Writing

  1. Pingback: Book Reviews: Serendipitous Pulp Fiction – Richard Stark vs. Elmore Leonard | Fino's Weblog

  2. Pingback: Looking for exclamations(!) | Emily's Tea Leaves

  3. I’ve broken three of those rules. Oops. But thanks for this list! It’s great.