I'm all about romance and erotica writing.

Elmore Leonard RIP

Good writing is good writing, whatever the genre.

I enjoyed reading Elmore Leonard. You’ve probably seen his 10 writing rules posted the last few days. I’ve been following some of them all along, not even realizing they were his.

1. Never open a book with weather.

Yep, I knew this.

2. Avoid prologues.

Mysteries frequently have them and they can be fun as teasers. But they should be short, I think.

3. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.

In general, but romances need some whispers, murmurs, etc.

4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said” … he admonished gravely.


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

No. We need more in a romance!

6. Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”


7.  Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.

Agreed. It becomes tiresome for the reader.

8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.

I have to depart here — in romance writing we must describe the protagonists very clearly.

9.  Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.

Just enough to ground the reader in the setting. More than that gets boring.

10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

That would be all the historical and landscape gobbledy. And any political droning on.  Because we want to read about the relationships between the characters! That’s why we pick up a romance novel and not a travel guide to Scotland.

Do you have any writing rules for yourself?


Comments on: "Elmore Leonard RIP" (7)

  1. sholtsberg said:

    I agree with rule #7. Apparently Mark Twain does not.

  2. Keep in mind that “good writing” is a different way of describing trends and styles as layered atop the basics. Leonard had his opinion, and it mostly works as it fits what people today seem to demand. Before Hemingway introduced us to bare, stark strokes of the pen, people wanted florid descriptions.

    That said, I eschew even “said” if I can. But agree with Anna that you need to convey other ways of speaking in order to fill in the story with fewer words. “Show, don’t tell.”

  3. Towse still keeps my writing rules over there, which I think is kind of cool.

    It’s interesting to compare Hemingway and Leonard. I liked Leonard and never did like Hemingway despite the teenager at Canaveral who thought I was him. Still, I think they would both have agreed that the rule is, “Tell the story and don’t muck it up with other stuff.” I liked Leonard because he was twisted and he didn’t. Of course, I also like James Lee Burke because he’s twisted and he does.

    I hate it that so many of my favorite writers are older (or deader) than I.

    And !@#$%^ WordPress is demanding a non-existent password for me to post.

  4. A lot of good advice to someone trying to learn. I ask all you writers: How could Leonard’s advice apply to blogging? And would there be exceptions because it’s a blog (like the exceptions for romance writing)?

    • Good question, Keera!
      – #1 generally applies, imo. The exception, as always, would be “if it works.”
      – #2-4 are irrelevant to blogging.
      – #5 has the exception same as romance novels (but don’t go too crazy!).
      – #6-7 agree with Elmore. These are annoying anywhere.
      – #8 agree in a blog. Pic = 1000 words.
      – #9 again, upload a pic. But definitely tell the story.
      – #10 yep. But this depends on your readership. Some blogs might jarble on about politics and get a ton of comments. I’m not likely to do that — and by “not likely” I mean never. So, I could be sacrificing hits for personal preference. Oh well. 🙂

  5. I enjoy the historical / landscape / technical gobbledy. But it has to be succinct. James Michener and Tom Clancy overdid shit way too much. And they sold every one of those words, so, hmm.

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