Elmore Leonard’s 10 tips for writers

Elmore Leonard, who died last week, started out writing westerns, then turned his talents to crime fiction. One of the most popular and prolific writers of our time, he wrote about two dozen novels, most of them bestsellers, such as Glitz, Get Shorty, Freaky Deaky, Kill Shot, Maximum Bob, and Rum Punch.
Leonard left some advice about how to be both popular and respectable. The tips maybe trite but they’re engaging:
1. Never open a book with weather.
2. Avoid prologues.
3. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.
4. Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.
5. Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”
6. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
7. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
8. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
9. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.
He summed up the 10 tips, by advising: “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”


  1. Alex, all that is great advice, especially about “said”. EL is a star act, possibly the best crime writer since Raymond Chandler, with whom I remain obsessed. English politics horrifies me more and more every day. Labour is in drift and decline, the Coalition could be re-elected. If it is, I believe that Scotland and Wales and probably the North-East should do UDIs. Australia doesn’t look great either. I think your choice is as grim as ours. Keep blogging….

  2. Jeez Tim why so optimistic? You forgot to mention earthquakes in the Irish Sea affecting the Fylde today. Don’t worry: the politicians say fracking is good, these were just the earth moving … or us getting screwed as per usual 😆

  3. Why not? Support America to get totally fracked, become energy independent and withdraw from the Middle East.

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