Friday, July 17, 2009

Bestselling author Elmore Leonard's 10 tricks for good writing

Bestselling author Elmore Leonard has written about two dozen novels, most of them bestsellers, including Glitz, Get Shorty, Maximum Bob, and Rum Punch.

While researching for a workshop I'm teaching on dialogue, I discovered Leonard's writing "tricks" -- and loved them all!

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”

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