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I am doing some rather intense research into how to become a full-time writer so I am loading up on books about writing and how to make writing a vocation.

So, as my wife and youngest son are enjoying Rhodes Grove Camp (she as camp nurse, and he as camper), I and my two oldest boys ventured down to the Adams County Library where I picked up some rather good resources.

Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing is not one of the good resources I picked up.

This $14.95 hardback contains within its 90 pages (on paper that is probably 60 bond so as to make it book size) an essay of about maybe, stretching it, 700 words. Or you can buy it as a very, very expensive art book here. ($36.20?!?!)

There is lots of white space as well as cute caricatures of famous authors that Leonard quotes.

So, I'm going to cheat and give you his 10 rules of writing.

  1. Never open a book with weather (prose that only creates atmosphere).
  2. Avoid prologues.
  3. Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue.
  4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said."
  5. Keep your exclamation points under control.
  6. Never use the word "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 or things.
  10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.
To sum it all up, Leonard writes, "If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it."


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 7th, 2008 10:51 pm (UTC)
I'm sunk.

Oh well.
Jul. 7th, 2008 11:08 pm (UTC)

You're not sunk at all.

With almost every rule, he names one or more authors who successfully break it and have gone on to prosper because they do.

By the bye, I just fried the book in an Amazon.com review (follow the supplied link above).

Edited at 2008-07-07 11:09 pm (UTC)
Jul. 8th, 2008 12:43 am (UTC)
I was about to say...his rules have more starch in them than an entire dry-cleaning shop.

When I follow such strict rules to the degree intended, all I'm left with is stiff joints--and maybe a half a book. Perhaps he's trying to eliminate the competition?
Jul. 8th, 2008 03:00 am (UTC)
I'll start by saying I'm a professional writer—sort of. I write technical manuals for extremely high-level software products (products that are used to design computer chips). The rules of writing vary drastically depending on your genre and audience. However, my understanding of writing rules like these, and even the more fundamental grammar rules, is this:
Know intimately what all the rules are, so that when (not if!) you break them, you know exactly why you're doing it and what effect you expect to achieve with it.
Nothing grabs attention like inconsistency. You can use it to wake up your reader. You just have to use it sparingly, because otherwise your inconsistency becomes consistent, and the reader tunes it out again.

(For example, in my Galatians study this summer, the professor pointed out that Paul begins nearly every sentence in the letter with some conjunction or other [he seems particularly fond of de and gar]. When, out of the blue, he throws in a sentence without that leading conjunction [and there was a term for this construction, which has happily fled my brain], it serves to emphasize that sentence, because suddenly the flow of the document has been disrupted.)

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )