Wednesday, May 25, 2011

These are always worth keeping in mind...

Elmore Leonard's Ten Rules of Writing

from the New York Times, Writers on Writing Series.


These are rules I’ve picked up along the way to help me remain invisible when I’m writing a book, to help me show rather than tell what’s taking place in the story. If you have a facility for language and imagery and the sound of your voice pleases you, invisibility is not what you are after, and you can skip the rules. Still, you might look them over.

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.


Living in ColorLiving in Color by Trish Milburn

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this beautifully written, heartwarming and satisfying story.

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Kirrily @ Sunny Side Up said...

Yes, I love these. I've seen a similar list before.... I say 'similar' because I never saw that "avoid prologues" bit. Head in hands, oh noooooooo! (using a naughty exclamation mark) My memoir OPENS with a prologue.

Pant. Pant. Pant.

Caitlyn Nicholas said...

breath, now just breath loveliest!!  As with all writing rules these are just useful to remember, NOT to be lived by.  Okay so I live by the 'suddenly / all hell broke loose' one, but that's because I write suspense/thriller - and there can be one hell of a lot of suddenly!! 

Don't stress about your prologue, if it works for your book then it should be there.  Its about making it readable, not about following a few rules.