Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

typewriter

Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing

(excerpt)

  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.”
  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 out the part that readers tend to skip.

by Elmore Leonard, Jr (born October 11, 1925)
from WRITERS ON WRITING; Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle
New York Times, July 16, 2001
image – Twylo

Happy Birthday Elmore Leonard

All hell broke loose when Elmore Leonard was born, on a dark and stormy night in 1925! “It was October 11th, y’all,” the woman said convincingly, suddenly smoking a cigarette in bed.

Heh.

Shall we rewind?

October 11th is the birthday of Elmore Leonard, prolific American novelist. Leonard’s best known novels are detective fiction and pulp westerns, some of which have been made into movies. His prose is spare and intimate, admired by critics and other writers. Novelist/critic Martin Arvis once said Leonard’s prose makes Raymond Chandler look clumsy.

Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing is a treasure of a book.

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5 Responses to “Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.”

  1. HTMLGIANT / Michael Kimball Guest Lecture Series (1): Openings Says:

    […] ways to think about them. Chris Offut said, “The secret is to start a story near the ending.” Elmore Leonard said, “Never open a book with weather.” One of my old teachers used to talk about the […]

  2. Listen so deeply to the space around you that it fills you, and when you write, it pours out of you - Natalie Goldberg Says:

    […] Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip by Elmore Leonard, from his 10 Rules of Writing […]

  3. diego Says:

    So, acording to you we should leave out all the russian writers, Flaubert, and other clasics cause they describe in too much detail?(both places and characters)

    And weather? what about thomas mann magic mountain?

    Should we also leave Joyce’s Ulisses cause it uses to much dialect?

    I think this 10 rules ain’t worth the pixels theyre using.

    If you want 10 rules, here are mine.

    1. Care for the characters as if they were your family, your foes, make them real.
    2. Go for the hard way out of any given situation, don’t just settle to writing genre, or the obvious plot.
    3. Don’t take advice from anyone.
    4. Don’t take advice from anyone.
    5. Describe as you wish, but use Poe’s rule, if there is a shotgun over the fire place, it has to be shot before the end of the book.
    6. Don’t take advice from anyone.
    7. Read the clasics, read the vanguards, read everything you can get your hands on.
    8. Use grammar as means of expressing the essence of what going on, if someone is mad let him be mad, let the story read as if someone is mad then and there.
    9. Use words, not just 9-letter snobism. Write as you talk, as you think, as they will read you.
    10. Forget everything I said and don’t you ever take advice from anyone.

  4. E. A. Able Says:

    So, acording to you we should leave out all the russian writers, Flaubert, and other clasics cause they describe in too much detail?(both places and characters)

    Not according to me. This is “Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing.”

    I like your list, too. I personally make good use of 3, 4, 6 and 10, though I also enjoy grazing elsewhere. 😉

  5. Ellen Says:

    What’s with rule number 3? ‘Said’ is so generic and overused. If anything, ‘said’ should be avoided as much as possible–writers must instead strive for precision in their diction. While I understand certain verbs are to be used sparsely because they can sound overdone, there are so many others that will make a writer’s prose seem more intelligent.

    Examples:

    She continued, “…”
    He answered, “…”
    I corrected, “…”
    He quipped, “…”
    They taunted, “….”
    She murmured, “…”

    and so on….