Elmore Leonard’s 10 + 1 Rules for Writers

Elmore Leonard’s Rules for Writers

Many famous writers share their rules for writing. Elmore Leonard’s list is one of the most interesting. Maybe because he was such an interesting writer.

Leonard started writing western novels and several were made into movies. Most famous perhaps were “Hombre” staring Paul Newman and “3:10 to Yuma” which was filmed twice, the first time in 1957 staring Glen Ford and in 2007 staring Russell Crowe.

Later he moved on to crime stories, and wrote the novels that became the movies “Get Shorty” and “Be Cool” staring John Travolta. He wrote “Jackie Brown” which was directed by Quentin Tarantino. His stories were made into the TV show “Justified”… among many others.

Why did so many of his stories and novels become movies? Well, he created great characters and he had a real gift for writing dialog. His rules for writing are important.

Elmore Leonard always claimed he had 10 rules, but it was 10 plus 1. He said the 11th rule summed up the other 10, but it really has a life of it’s own.

He said, “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.” That is the genius of Leonard’s writing. He was focused entirely on the mental images readers where creating in their minds and he didn’t want the writing to get in the way.

Here’s Leonard’s full statement. He said, “If proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative.”

He explained that saying, “It’s my attempt to remain invisible, not distract the reader from the story with obvious writing.”

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