I was probably fourteen when I picked up this book, while browsing a small bookstore. I remember loving the smell of the old books and being drawn to the cover style of this book. When I read the title I had the “AHA!” moment. I was just starting my writing journey and I wanted to get better, so I bought this book.
As the title states there are ten rules of writing that Elmore Leonard suggests to writers. Some of these rules I agree with, like: 1. Never Open a Book with Weather, 5. Keep Your Exclamation Points Under Control, 6. Never Use the Words “Suddenly” or “All Hell Broke Loose”, and 10. Try to Leave Out the Parts that Readers Tend to Skip.
However there are rules that I disagree with as well, like: 3. Never Use a Verb Other Than “Said” to Carry Dialogue, 8. Avoid Detailed Descriptions of Characters, and 9. Don’t Go Into Great Detail Describing Places and Things.
Overall, I would suggest this book to beginning writers, even though I don’t agree with all his rules. Even the rules I disagree with, Leonard explains well. For example: “But even if you’re good at it, you don’t want descriptions that bring the action, the flow of the story, to a standstill” (pg 55). He makes a good point in this line. I personally think that places and things should only have short descriptions, unless they are essential to the story and plot. Then you should give them more detail.
Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing is a short and straight-to-the-point read, which is refreshing. Most books about writing are long and very detailed. Also, this book has effective images to go along with the rules. I feel that any writer that reads this book will have rules they agree with and rules they do not.
When it comes to books about writing we need to remember that they are not bibles for writers. They are books written by successful writers to help other writers. The authors of these books state their opinions and rules on writing. What might work for one author, might not work for a different author.
You don’t have to follow all the rules that Elmore Leonard states in his book, however, keep in mind his reasoning behind the rules.
The last thing I am going to suggest about this book, is to read the suggestions after the rules. After Leonard states his tenth rule he gives other rules, some that even contradict his previous rules. These suggestions were the ones that hit me the most.
If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it. (pg 71)
Or, if proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. (pg 73)
I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative. (pg 75)
I highly recommend this book to all writers and I highly recommend reading it carefully, especially the last ten pages, since they are the real points he was trying to make.
Thank You for reading,