Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing

When I was at the library yesterday, I picked up 10 Rules of Writing at the new books shelf and proceeded to read it, and finish it, in about 30 minutes. This was tremendously satisfying since I have several books I'm sloooooooowwwwly working my way through. Reading Lolita in Tehran is

beautifully written and interesting, but isn't a book I have trouble putting down. I'm also working my way through We're All Journalists Now, a book on bloggers as journalists. Actually, it's not hard and not long, but after reading 30 pages I put it down and I'm having trouble picking it up again. I'm having trouble with books, because the internet panders to short attention span. I must start working more seriously on my to do lists lest surfing prevents me from doing other things I want to do.

So, quickly, the 10 steps:
  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 'said'
  5. Keep your exclamation points under control
  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 off the parts that readers tend to skip
I'll have to check if I'm following these rules. I'll add some pictures and a few more comments later. Gotta run now.

[Back. Joe Ciardiello's illustrations are fantastic. No exclamation point. Perhaps the main justification for stretching a six year old New York Times article into a book is to share Ciardiello's illustrations. The one on the right illustrates one of the many exceptions to the rules. In this case Rule 5. Elmore writes about exclamation points
If you have the knack of playing with exclaimers the way Tom Wolfe does, you can throw them in by the handful.
The book is so short they had to use the thickest pages I can remember to stretch it into book length.]


  1. I have an article that I wanted to submit to Alaskan Bride's Magazine. I went to their website and found that it's already been written with DOZENS of exclamation marks. I was furious with my teacher for saying that I have potential to be a great magazine article writing. I sent him a note and a link. He said, "I said a great magazine. Find one that carries articles how you write them." Now I have to spend an afternoon at Barnes and Nobel looking for some great magazines. Do you have any ideas?

  2. I just looked at what I wrote. I messed that up, didn't I? OK, let's try again. "He said that I have potential to be a great magazine article writer."

  3. Let Tom know that poeple are thinking of him today!


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