10 tricks to good writing

stomyuntitledElmore Leonard stated out writing westerns, then turned to crime fiction. Unlike most genre writers, he was taken seriously by the literary crowd. So he’s both popular and respectable. Here are 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; no more than two or three per 100 000 works of prose.
  6. Never use the word “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”
  7. Use regional dialects, patois, sparingly.
  8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
  9. Don’t go into great detail describing places or 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.

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


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