Thursday’s 13: A Truncated List of Rules for Writers

Easy as A, B, C . . . from BB

1.  Using adverbs is a mortal sin.

2.  Never open a book with weather.

3.  Avoid prologues: they can be annoying, especially a prologue following an introduction that comes after a foreword.

4.  A prologue in a novel is backstory, and you can drop [the information] in anywhere you want.

5.  Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue. The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in.

6.   Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said” “… he admonished gravely.”  The writer is now exposing himself in earnest . . .

7.  Keep your exclamation points under control . . . no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.

8.  Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose”. . .   I have noticed that writers who use “suddenly” tend to exercise less control in the application of exclamation points.

9.  Use regional dialect [or] patois, sparingly. [Very sparingly.]

10.  Avoid detailed descriptions of characters . . .

11.  Don’t go into great detail describing places and things, unless you’re Margaret Atwood and can paint scenes with language.

12. Try to leave out the part[s] that readers tend to skip.

13. My most important rule is one that sums up the 10: if it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

These “rules” have been adapted from Elmore Leonard’s work, a writer noted by critics for his gritty realism and strong dialogue.  Many of his short stories and novels have been adapted for movie and TV screens, such as Hombre, Get Shorty, and Three-Ten to Yuma.

See you day-after-tomorrow for Saturday’s Softcover



Filed under Thirteen

4 responses to “Thursday’s 13: A Truncated List of Rules for Writers

  1. LOVE this. I adore the way you word your counsel and advice. Makes me laugh right out loud!

  2. benschwensch

    Much as I’d like to claim the witty words, they’re pretty much good, ol’ Elmore’s. Witty, laugh-out-loud-funny, easy to understand, that’s Elmore Leonard for ya!

  3. Carrie

    I love this I always use words past he said now I will be more carful I’m going to print this and tape it to my computer thanks

  4. benschwensch

    I’m glad if it helped!

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