Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing
by Elmore Leonard
Originally published in the New York Times nine years ago today, I have come across used copies of this book for sale, and finally checked out a copy at the library yesterday as part of my Summer of Book-Learnin'. Despite the heft, this is clearly a gift book, meant to be left out and admired and flicked through, with humorous illustrations of the author or the authors he talks about. I wouldn't pay the $15 this book originally cost, especially when you can just read the essay online for free. Bounce on back to that first link in this paragraph to see it, sans illustrations. Go on. I'll wait.
Back already? Yes, it's a quick read. I zipped through the whole thing over breakfast, and that's before I was fully awake. But that doesn't make the contained advice any less worthwhile. Leonard's rules are simple and b.s.-free, much like his writing, and are a refined distillation of the same advice I've read and re-read over much of this summer. I wish I'd found this last fall, in fact: the advice would surely have spared my draft the many adverbial indignities I heaped upon it, and soothed the nagging doubt I had that you need only say "said" in dialog, and nothing more. I may keep a copy of the essay by the typewriter this November, just in case.
I say: read the essay online and spend the $15 on typewriter ribbons.