Advice from the Masters: Elmore Leonard

Jul 25, 2012 | Better Writing

Elmore Leonard is a master of crime fiction. Like most successful writers, he’s put together a standard response for all questions that sound like, “What should I do to be a successful writer?” In his case the answer is “Ten Rules of Writing.” He’s even got one rule that sums them all up.

“If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”

The best writing (outside the literary world) is transparent. If the reader is thinking, “My, what elegant prose,” that reader is not thinking about the story or the point you want to make. Keep it simple and get your ego and your prose style out of the way.

Leonard’s “Ten Rules” have been published in different places for years. One of them is a book with thick covers, heavy paper, big type, and lots of white space. I suggest avoiding the book and reading any of a number of good articles that outline all the rules. Try the NY Times article from its “Writers on Writing” series or just do a Google search.

Want more? Check out the complete list of Advice from the Masters posts.

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