Elmore Leonard: “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”

photo: Rob Kozloff, AP

photo: Rob Kozloff, AP

Leonard originally published these 10 rules July 16, 2001, in the Arts section of the New York Times. You can read the original article, with his discussion of each of the rules, here.

  1. Never open a book with weather.
  2. Avoid prologues.
  3. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue
  4. Keep your exclamation points under control.
  5. Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”
  6. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
  7. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
  8. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
  9. Try and leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

The most important rule, the one that sums them up: “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”

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