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Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing

3.83  ·  Rating Details ·  1,374 Ratings  ·  240 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
ebook, 96 pages
Published October 13th 2009 by William Morrow (first published October 30th 2006)
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Bill  Kerwin

This illustrated version of Elmore Leonard's famous rules of writing is an excellent gift for any writer or would-be writer, and a valuable addition to any writer's shelf--particularly if he writes too much or too fancy, like I do.

It contains each of the eleven rules (the ten commandments plus one great commandment), approximately 50-200 words of clarification and reflection on each of them by the master himself, and some whimsical and accurate cartoon drawings of Leonard--and a few other famou
Feb 24, 2015 Brandon rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, 2015
A nifty little book with invaluable advice but it's not exactly essential. The entirety of the book's contents are available here when it originally appeared as an article in the New York Times:

Although it's fleshed out with neat author caricatures upon thick pages, it feels like a cash grab. Do yourself a favour, read the article but skip the book.
Jan 13, 2012 Kristilyn rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 09, 2011 Mike rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 25, 2011 Nicole rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
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 I've 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 "
Jason Lilly
Jan 17, 2012 Jason Lilly rated it it was ok  ·  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
Dec 19, 2007 Dan rated it really liked it  ·  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
Hákon Gunnarsson
Disclaimer: I was way too frugal to buy this book, so I read the article online at

This is the first thing I've read by Elmore Leonard, and I think it is an interesting book, or article to understand how he wrote. Still, there are very few writing rules without exceptions, and I think that applies to most of these ten. Writing styles are different. What applies to one genre, may not apply to another, and so on.

I know these rules don't all apply to a lot of my favorite writers, or me
I loved this book.


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.
Farhan Khalid
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"...

5. Keep your exclamation points under control

6. Never use the word "suddenly"

7. Use regional dialect, patios, sparingly

8. Avoid detailed description of characters

9. Don't go into great details describing places and things

10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip
Jul 18, 2017 Audra rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very short book with cute illustrations and to-the-point advice on how to write books that will keep your reader's reading! And now...I not only can't stop saying "hooptedoodle," but I'm on my way to the library to get John Steinbeck's Sweet Thursday! :-)
Dec 26, 2012 Emy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Ruth Charchian
Mar 13, 2014 Ruth Charchian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
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
B.A.  Wilson
Sep 30, 2014 B.A. Wilson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the kind of self-help/how-to book that is perfect for me, because honestly I hate that genre. However, I really do want to read more about what other people think about writing and about how other people write. I just don’t want to trudge through a million chapters of heavy text.

This book is extremely short, simple, and straight to the point. A lot of the 10 are basics that writers already should know, yet somehow, we like to forget them or sometimes even ignore them. Whether you agree
Alexander Engel-Hodgkinson
I disagreed with one or two things here and there, but I know I'm not an expert writer like Leonard and I disagreed because I liked repeating (constantly) the same mistakes Leonard tells the reader of this book to avoid. This book is a nice, VERY easy, very simple, very quick read. In fact, despite it being 96 pages, it only takes about fifteen minutes or less to read through, mainly because he'll sometimes put only one word on a single page. Because of that, it's a constant page-turner... in mo ...more
May 05, 2013 Dante rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Michael Wilson
Mar 09, 2011 Michael Wilson rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
Raphael Lysander
the rules are excellent. The illustrations are wonderful. But, do they deserve a whole book! I mean there are to many blank pages, and those which weren't had only one sentence. Still, the book was nothing more than 90 pages. they could've added more explanations or meditations on writing or a collaboration with other writer's rules.
Nov 13, 2014 Ruel rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It's exactly as it bills itself: Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing. The rules themselves are five stars, but the presentation here is severely lacking, consisting of a few drawings, excerpts, and an interesting tidbit or two. This is one of those things that you'd never buy for yourself, but would make a nice gift for a writer friend.
Jun 20, 2014 Mike rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Tina Hayes
Mar 06, 2015 Tina Hayes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, how-to
Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing is a short, witty book that cuts the BS and gets straight to the point. It takes less than half an hour to read from cover to cover (and the illustrations are pretty awesome as well) but Leonard's advice is something all writers should keep in mind.

Or else you could suddenly be doomed to write hooptedoodle!! :)
Kevin Deaton
Jan 06, 2008 Kevin Deaton rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing
Good advice, but spendy by the page. I love Elmore Leonards writing, so I bought the book without even cracking it open. When I got home I thought "Shit, is this it?" If you want great advice on writing, try 'Writing Down the Bones' by Natalie Goldberg. As far as 10 Rules of Writing goes, save your money and just read it at the bookstore. You can do it standing up on your lunch break.
A good indication: I laughed out loud.
Hopefully, it may also help me find out poorly written books.
Aug 03, 2009 Chip rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Must read before, during and after writing. Timeless writing wisdom that never ages. Aspiring authors must memorize completely.
Leonard adds only one meaningful rule to the writer's cannon of endless rules -- don't start by talking about weather or nature. Books are about people.

It's a good rule!
Oct 05, 2009 Eric rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found and read Leonard's ten rules here.

Aug 20, 2008 Lori rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008august
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.)
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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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“If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.” 328 likes
“My most important piece of advice to all you would-be writers: When you write, try to leave out all the parts readers skip.” 208 likes
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