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Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  1,769 ratings  ·  303 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
Hardcover, 96 pages
Published October 30th 2007 by William Morrow (first published October 30th 2006)
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Sheffner Because a book by Leonard is more than the sum of its parts.

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Bill Kerwin
Jan 08, 2015 rated it liked it

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 rated it it was ok
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.
Mar 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing-craft
There's short & sweet advice here, but many might feel robbed if they're not aware of how short these 10 Rules are (a guess is less than 2,000 words total). It's sort of a picture book for 10 writing rules, and it's probably best to check this out from a library if one's on a tight budget. ...more
Paul O'Neill
May 14, 2019 rated it it was ok
If it sounds like writing, then rewrite it.
Feb 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it liked it
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 rated it it was ok
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 rated it really liked it
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
Michael Wilson
Mar 09, 2011 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
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
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
Jan 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
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.
Raphael Lysander
Mar 30, 2016 rated it liked it
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. ...more
Dec 26, 2012 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 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 24, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fic
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
May 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
B.A. Wilson
Sep 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 26, 2009 rated it liked it
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
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
Kevin Deaton
Jan 06, 2008 rated it it was ok
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. ...more
Jun 20, 2014 rated it it was ok
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. ...more
Nov 13, 2014 rated it it was ok
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. ...more
Tina Hayes
Mar 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: how-to, non-fiction
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!! :)
Apr 04, 2009 rated it really liked it
I got this today at Dollar Tree and I read it in less than 20 minutes. Pretty skimpy, but not bad for what it is: a short essay padded out to book length with lots of white space, thick pages, and illustrations.
Jul 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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! :-) ...more
Vladimir Boronenko
Feb 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Nice rules but a book? Good enough though to keep my challenge commitment going.))
Amanda G. Stevens
Yes, it's an essay turned into a gift book. But it's a good essay, practical advice for those authors who desire to be invisible in their writing. (And thanks to Leonard, I limit my exclamation points to two or three per book.) ...more
William Jr.
Nov 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Very short and sweet like the writing style it advocates.
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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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