Lessons from a Master: Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing

Elmore Leonard knows his shit. He's written westerns and crime fiction, writing such bestsellers as Glitz, Get Shorty, Maximum Bob, and Rum Punch. Never heard of those? Yeah, me either - but you may have heard of the movie Jackie Brown, 3:10 to Yuma, and the FX series, Justified - Twenty-six of Leonard's novels and short stories have been adapted for the screen, those being a few of them. Leonard is taken seriously by the literary crowd, and at some point wrote an essay "Elmore Leonard's Ten Rules of Writing" - which has become a rule book for many new writers. I agree with all of these rules, but often break them - I'd say I'm a wild child, but truly, I just don't really know better. But for newbies, like myself - read these rules, they are a great starting point for your writing.

1. Never open a book with weather. Good. Haven't broken this rule. Yet.

2. Avoid prologues. Errr.... Oops. Ignore Blindfolded Innocence's new edition.

3. Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue. Yeah, I break that rule all the time. "Promise to do better," I mutter.

4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said”…he admonished gravely. Stephen King taught me that early on, and I, for the most part, obey this rule.

5. Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. Shit! I can't help it, my characters are very vocal individuals.

6. Never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose." So far so good...

7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly. I'm Southern, so will no doubt fail in this goal.

8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters. I disagree with this rule when it comes to a romance Hero. With other genres, I believe it is great advice.

9. Don't go into great detail describing places and things. Agree. No one really cares what the inside of the coffee shop looks like.

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

That's the lot of them! Great advice, and rules I should do a better job of following. Have any other rules you follow in your writing? Please pass them on!