Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing
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Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing

3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  860 ratings  ·  168 reviews
"These are the 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."—Elmore Leonard

For aspiring writers and lovers of the written word, this concise guide breaks down the writing process with simplicity and clarity. From adjectives and exclamation points to dialect and hoo...more
ebook, 96 pages
Published October 13th 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published October 30th 2006)
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Kristilyn (Reading In Winter)
I picked up this book after starting NaNoWriMo – I figured since NaNo would be my first actual writing project, I should get some guidance. And since I didn’t have a ton of time, what with all the writing going on, this one looked perfect – it was small and compact, perfect for what I was looking for.

Unfortunately, when I cracked it open, I realized it was far from what I was looking for. The pages are cardboard thick and there is very little writing on any of them–lots of blank pages, artful ca...more
Jason Lilly
Jan 17, 2012 Jason Lilly rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: writers, Elmore Leonard fans
Shelves: favorite-authors
First of all, this is nothing against Elmore Leonard. Mr. Leonard is one of my favorite writers of all time, the master of writing dialogue. He lives up to the tips he offers in this book and has proven himself a dedicated writer who takes the craft very seriously. It is because of Mr. Leonard that this book is receiving 2 stars instead of 1. Nor do I mean any disrespect toward Joe Ciardiello and his clever illustrations.

My problem is yet again with another publisher's choice to slap a high pric...more
Callista
A gift from a friend.
I'm not exactly a fan of Leonard's work--I've read one of his novels, which I thought was so-so, and seen three movies based on his work, which I mostly liked. But I did rather like this. The advice is brief and to the point. The illustrations add to the text in a quirky way. I like how Leonard points to writers he likes who break the rules and how he doesn't say his rules are absolute gospel. Most of the rules seem sensible to me. I'm now going to be hunting down the "sudde...more
Dan
Dec 19, 2007 Dan rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all writers
I love books that are short. There are so few long books that are worth the space they take up. Financial books are especially bad in this respect.

Leonard's book is short and very useful for writers. It takes about 20 minutes to read from cover to cover. Some pages have only a single sentence. There are lots of funky illustrations of Leonard and other stuff. He makes good points about not leading with the weather, not using adverbs and exclamation points and leaving out the parts the reader ten...more
Mike
Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing has been expanded from the original short magazine piece to, well, an admittedly short book. But it's a book that should be on every writer's shelves, whether you're a crime writer like Leonard or not.

As a writer myself I do find myself thinking of some of the rules when I'm struggling with a passage of writing. They're so simple yet so true that they're easy to bring to mind:

'If it sounds like writing I rewrite it.'

'Try to leave out the parts that readers t...more
Ellie
I loved this book.

BUT

I read it in the bookstore in 10 minutes.
Then I reread it. Slowly.
That took 15 minutes.

I couldn't bring myself to spend any # of dollars for a clever idea & some good basic points.
Each idea was excellent & I guess you could use them to meditate on. And the book was nicely formatted: nice to hold, a nice book-as-object.

So I want to say get it.
But it's a lot of money for 10 minutes.
Ruth Charchian
I have found Elmore's novel writing difficult to follow although I love "Justify" and was inspired by it to read his novels. The characters and their dialogue are sharp, in focus, often witty, and engaging in "Justify." "10 Rules of Writing" explained the reason I was starving for more context when I read Elmore's writing.

Rule #9: Don't go into great detail describing places and things.

In Elmore's attempt to "be more invisible" when writing a book and showing rather than telling what's taking...more
Dante
I'm new to short story writing, and I really found this book helpful!

I love this quote:

"These are the 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."

The light bulb just lit up inside my head, and I say, "Ah, so that's what it means to show rather than to tell: The creative writer should remain invisible throughout the story. He should let the characters talk/interact and live their lives...more
Mike
This isn't a book at all. It was originally published as an article in the New York Times, and has here been extended into book form by making it one sentence per page (some 90 pages), interrupted by drawings, and blank pages, and using paper that’s more like cardboard and is irritating to turn over. What he says is okay, but hardly original.
Sherrie
This is a very short book. It’s straight forward, very direct and to the point. There’s no long explanation of why he feels how he does, why he feels he’s right over what classroom tells us about how to write or what experts say. If you’re looking for more in depth information on how to write or what the rules are of writing look elsewhere. This book is more like a good friend’s (of course a friend who’s an established writer) opinion, that you might want to reference back to every once in awhil...more
Michael Wilson
Really William Morrow? You take a one page article from Elmore Leonard and stretch it, and I really mean S—T—R—E—T—C—H it into an 89 page book. Even so less than half of these pages have text on them, and on the pages that do have text on them might consist of a sentence or maybe a short paragraph illustrating one of the 10 rules. At a $14.95 cover price I can’t recommend this for any writer. It is obviously intended to be a gift book for writers (and probably then only writers who are huge Elmo...more
Rebecca Schweitzer
I'm not entirely sure how to rate this book.

I checked this out of the library without looking at it too closely. It's sort of a board book for adults.


Really it's just this essay, originally published in the New York times. The essay has been expanded with each page getting no more than a sentence and some illustrations stuck in between.

The essay is good, you should read it. The book is fun, and, I suppose, a kind of cheeky commentary on all the lengthy writing books out there. However, I can't r...more
Lauren Prye
10 rules that Elmore Leonard thinks all writers should follow.
Oh yeah! I almost forgot I read this! It was so short, I guess it slipped past the radar. And that might give you the impression it's forgettable, but it's not. It's got quirky, caricatured illustrations that I enjoyed immensely and doesn't tell you any more than exactly what you need to know. It's basically one of those 'gift books' on sale at Barnes and Noble, good for a last minute christmas present.

What I'm trying to say is, thes...more
Eric Hendrixson
Every now and then, I sit down to read a library book, a book I spent absolutely no money on, and still end up feeling like I've been ripped off. 10 Rules of Writing is one of those books. I have no complaint with the quality of the ideas or the writing in this book. My complaint is solely related to quantity.

With the exception of a few doodles, everything in this book has already been printed in the New York Times and has been reposted and mirrored all over the Internet. This book consists of n...more
Lori
10 rules, each a very small paragraph. 89 pages. You do the math.

(Even padded with random illustrations, heavy cardstock and lots of blank pages, the rules themselves are golden.)
Badet
This was unnecessarily thick. Hardly does it give off a paragraph per page - most of which contain only a sentence or two - and the illustrations are nothing but decoration. What a waste of good paper.

Moving on. The 10 "writing rules" came from his own experience and observations of different authors. Granted, these authors may know what they have been doing, but if you're not a book-lover or, in my case, if you are but not as widely read as Elmore Leanard (or if you haven't read any of his book...more
Eric
I found and read Leonard's ten rules here.

Chip
Must read before, during and after writing. Timeless writing wisdom that never ages. Aspiring authors must memorize completely.
Andrew
A good indication: I laughed out loud.
Hopefully, it may also help me find out poorly written books.
Mary
If you're looking for a lengthy tome covering every known aspect of writing instruction in detail, this is definitely not your book. But if you want that book reduced to its absolute essentials, presented in Elmore Leonard's inimitable style, and illustrated with wit and grace, you won't be disappointed. I gave it 4 stars instead of 5 only because it's a bit pricey for a 10-minute read (and is available--without the illustrations, alas--on the website of the New York Times, where it was original...more
Emy
Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing, firstly, is a valuable little book with some solid rules for making writing better.

Key word here: little. This book is only about a hundred pages long, but there is only text on every other page, and only a short paragraph where there is text. For me, this is not a bad thing. It just means that a lot of the waffle you normally get in writing guides is cut out and only the bare bones - the actual rules - are brought to the forefront. I can see why it could be...more
MightyMaeve
The medium is far better quality than the content--this is one of the most beautifully made books I have ever held. The pages are thick, crisp, white paper; the cover is touchable rough canvas; the spine is a warm, rich brown leather-like material. Sadly, the content, art and text, are mostly... chintzy, pointless, and pathetically spaced out, much like a kid trying to stretch out his 10-page essay with cheap tricks.

Thank god the majority of writers I read don't follow many of his rules. "Never...more
Jonathan
This 3-star rating seems almost obligatory. Ugh, so Rolling Stone of me.

Be that as it may, this is an entertaining little jam of a book, 85 pages, with a charming, well-timed illustration or a blank every other page. (I can get behind that.)

Leonard is the author of crime/caper thrillers the likes of Out of Sight and Get Shorty, and plenty of his stuff's been filmed. This list is primarily for fiction writing, novels, but is well worth keeping in mind regardless of what you read and/or write.

His...more
Tristan Macavery
My good friend Russ (known this boy nearly 40 years now, no fault of his own) handed this book to me as an amusement, and I was indeed amused. The book really should be credited under the name of the illustrator, Joe Ciardiello, who provided wonderful drawings to help fill out this (perhaps) 1500 word article made into a book by using one side of each cardstock-thick page. You can pass through the entire book in ten minutes, which in a way is quite refreshing.

Leonard's advice to writers is direc...more
Jennifer (JC-S)
‘If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.’

This was originally published in The New York Times on 16 July 2001 as ‘Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle’. The article was part of a series in which writers explore literary themes.

So, why consider buying the book? Well, the illustrations by Joe Ciardiello weren’t in the article. And if a picture is worth a thousand words, then there are a few thousand words here in addition to the original article.

This is not a ‘how to...more
J.C.
I think this is the simplest, shortest and most direct book on writing ever. I picked it up cause I am less fishy of writing books when the author is in fact a well known author and can prove that he/she knows a thing or two about writing instead of chatting ABOUT writing.


I should have bought the kindle version (if there is one), as the use of paper to make this book is ridiculous. There's ninety pages and half of those are mostly white. Poor trees.

Secondly, the advice is good advice, especial...more
Deborah
Although I'd have preferred a little more substance, this was a fun, quick read. Expertly illustrated. Learned a new word: Hooptedoodle = fluff

"What Steinbeck did in Sweet Thursday was title his chapters as an indication, though obscure, of what they cover. "Whom the Gods Love They Drive Nuts" is one, "Lousy Wednesday" another. The third chapter is titled "Hooptedoodle 1" and the thirty-eighth chapter "Hooptedoodle 2" as warnings to the reader, as if Steinbeck is saying: "Here's where you'll see...more
Walk-Minh Allen
Interestingly, I haven't read any of Elmore Leonard's novels or stories yet (although Rum Punch was the template for one of my favorite movies, Jackie Brown), but I did get a kick out of reading his 10 rules of writing. The rules may seem simple, but as many writers know they may have been the transgressor of one or more of these rules at one time or another in their (short or long) careers. However, I think the point of these "rules" is to guide writers and help them think, deeply and conscient...more
Nadia
I read it from http://www.nytimes.com/2001/07/16/art..., which is apparently the same thing according to fellow Goodreads reviewers.

I don't know. I'm not sure if I agree to these rules. Why can't I write dialogues using anything other than 'Said'? Stephen King said the same in On Writing and I still can't agree to that.

These writing rule books are making me more confused than ever. To follow or not follow - that is the million dollar question.
Airiz C
This is a short and snappy bunch of insightful writing advice that everyone—especially folks with dreams of becoming a professional wordsmith—will find helpful. This is actually more an article than a book, as I heard it is featured in The New York Times’ “Writers on Writing Series: Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points, and Especially Hooptedoodle”. Occasionally strewn with humor, Leonard’s excellent writing backs up his advice, although I have to admit there’s not one on the list that I have...more
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Elmore John Leonard lived in Dallas, Oklahoma City and Memphis before settling in Detroit in 1935. After serving in the navy, he studied English literature at the University of Detroit where he entered a short story competition. His earliest published novels in the 1950s were westerns, but Leonard went on to specialize in crime fiction and suspense thrillers, many of which have been adapted into m...more
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“My most important piece of advice to all you would-be writers: When you write, try to leave out all the parts readers skip.” 129 likes
“If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.” 29 likes
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