Elmore Leonard: 10 Rules

I met Elmore when I had a bookstore in the early 90’s. He was at a book conference and really quite a lovely man………….

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Elmore Leonard: 10 Rules

Among all the lists of writing rules and advice, this one ranks high, in my opinion. Simple, yet so important.


  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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Perspective is everything….

thich nhat hanh puts life so in perspective for me. Sometimes I do not appreciate the beauty in everyday tasks—okay, most of the time, I do not appreciate the beauty in everyday tasks—but his thoughts in this poem, found in the book “moments of mindfulness” help me to see these tasks as more than necessary evils.

I do agree with him wholeheartedly about the planting a seed thing, and even the cutting the grass thing, but I will need more convincing on the “washing a dish” thing. Here are his words of wisdom for you to consider:

Planting a seed
washing a dish,
and cutting the grass
are as eternal,
as beautiful,
as writing a poem.
I do not understand
how a poem can be better
than a peppermint plant.

Can you embrace the beauty of everyday tasks, or do you need a little “mindfulness” convincing? My only argument with the mindfulness guru is that a poem once written becomes permanent, while a dish, once washed, becomes dirty again, and needs to be washed again, and again, and again.

I find writing more satisfying than tasks that have to be repeated time and time again, but since they are an inevitable part of the human condition, then taking a page out of thich nhat hanh’s book and giving them the same weight as the things I find more “important” is one way of gaining a new perspective. He evaluates the seemingly unimportant as significant. I can get on board with that. It heightens doing trivial chores to a different plane.