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Elmore Leonard’s 10 rules of writing


American crime writer Elmore Leonard has died at 87. The author wrote 45 novels including Fifty Two Pick Up, Get Shorty and Maximum Bob. He had suffered a stroke earlier this month. Born in New Orleans in 1925, he began his writing career with westerns before switching to crime in the 1960s.

Hombre, 3.10 to Yuma, Get Shorty and Rum Punch were all turned into movies.

He famously offered 10 rules of writing in 2001.

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.

“My most important rule is one that sums up the 10,” he wrote. “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.” You can enjoy Leonard’s full description of his 10 rules of writing in the New York Times and it’s well worth the read.

Leonard was a generous signer of books and there are hundreds available on AbeBooks. The most expensive Elmore Leonard book ever sold on our site was a UK first edition of Valdez is Coming for $2,218.

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Richard Davies

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