Saturday, June 20, 2009

Writing Tips From Elmore Leonard

Maybe we should all hang up our red pencils here and just keep a link to this great article by Elmore Leonard in the New York Times.

We've discussed many of the points he covers: dialogue attributives, adverbs (here they are again ) passive verbs, and many more, but he has a knack for restating them with a bit of a punch.

He starts his article with, "These are 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. If you have a facility for language and imagery and the sound of your voice pleases you, invisibility is not what you are after, and you can skip the rules. Still, you might look them over."

What a polite way of encouraging us to improve our craft.

Elmore Leonard has been commended by critics for his gritty realism and strong dialogue. His writing style sometimes takes liberties with grammar in the interest of speeding along the story. In his essay, "Elmore Leonard's Ten Rules of Writing," he writes, "My most important rule is one that sums up the 10: If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it."

His advice to writers also includes the hint, "Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip."


Maryann Miller is the Managing Editor of, an online community magazine, and a reviewer for and ForeWord Magazine. Her latest books are One Small Victory and Play it Again, Sam. Visit her Web site for information about her books and her editing services. If you have a good book, she can help you make it better. When she is not working, Maryann loves to play "farmer" on her little ranch in the beautiful Piney Woods of East Texas.

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  1. I keep this link handy all the time. Love Elmore Leonard.

  2. Thanks for the great link. Love that last piece of advice!

  3. So agree with leaving out the part that readers skip. This should be done by more published authors!

    Straight From Hel

  4. Thanks for the link. I recently heard him speak at the New Canaan Library to promote his latest book, Road Dogs. He was funny as well as inspirational.

    During the Q&A someone asked, "Do you write for yourself or to explore your characters?"

    Elmore Leonard responded, "I write to make a living."

    Great article at his website.


  5. There must be some supplemental materials that should be used in teaching children how to write. People must be mindful enough of letting their children explore their talents in writing.

  6. Yet another great article from Elmore Leonard.Each and every writing style is unique and justified as far as it makes sense


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.


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