American novelist Elmore Leonard passed away Tuesday after complications from a stroke at the age of 87. I was reminded of the piece he wrote for the New York Times presenting his 10 rules of good writing. You can read the full article at the NYT, but here are those ten rules:
- Never open a book with weather.
- Avoid prologues.
- Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.
- Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said”…he admonished gravely.
- Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.
- Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”
- Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
- Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
- Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
- Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.
“My most important rule is one that sums up the 10,” he wrote. “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”