Wednesday, August 21, 2013


Elmore Leonard’s  and Richard  Reece’s Rules on Writing

Elmore Leonard, writer, died on August 20, at age 87.

Elmore Leonard started out writing westerns, then turned his talents to crime fiction. One of the most popular and prolific writers of our time, he’s written about two dozen novels, most of them bestsellers, such as Glitz, Get Shorty, Maximum Bob, and Rum Punch. Unlike most genre writers, however, Leonard is taken seriously by the literary crowd.

What’s Leonard’s secret to being both popular and respectable? Perhaps you’ll find some clues in his 10 tricks for good writing: *
  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.

If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

* Excerpted from the New York Times article, “Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle”

Here are a few of my rules on nonfiction writing.

1.       Go on “which hunt.”

2.       Take out “which”: rewrite.

3.       Look for word “that” in introductory lead to sentences.

4.      Omit “that” and everything preceding it.

5.      Lookout for word “by” as sign of passive voice.

6.      Rewrite sentence in active voice without “by.”

7.      Omit needless words, such as “the”.

8.      Go easy on adverbs and adjectives.

9.      Make sentences short, averaging 12 words or less.

10.  Replace third syllable words with short words

11.  Don’t  be afraid of saying “I”; It’s “you” talking.

12.  Be simple, direct, and clear.

13.  Prefer concrete to abstract.

14.  No fancy talk please.

15.  Don’t worry about using “I”.

16.  After all, it’s “you” talking.

17.  Write the way you talk.

18.  Have a little fun.

19.  Life’s too serious to be alwys serious about.

20.  But don’t be too cute. Murder your darlings
Tweet: Rules on writing are made to be broken.  Be yourself, be honest, and don’t pull any punches

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