Elmore Leonard’s Ten Rules of Writing by Elmore Leonard

LeonardOriginally an article in the New York Times, ELMORE LEONARD’S TEN RULES FOR WRITING is not much longer than this review. This list has been reproduced online multiple times, but even so, HarperCollins made it into a hardcover book suitable for gift giving. There’s nothing wrong with the content. Leonard’s advice is timeless and witty. My problem is with the book itself. Putting a few hundred words into hardback and expecting writers to pay $14.95 for it is ridiculous. But writers aren’t really the market for this book. It’s the kind of book that people buy for writers. It’s the perfect example of the kind of book that non-writers think writers like.

Leonard’s rules are things that every writer has already heard from teachers, editors, and other writing books. Things like “don’t open with the weather” and “keep your exclamation points under control” are writer 101. Others are unique to Leonard, but won’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s read his books. “Avoid detailed descriptions of characters” and “don’t go into great detail describing places and things” are rules that work for Leonard’s style. He writes hardboiled murder mysteries that are mostly dialog. However, someone writing historical fiction or thrillers in exotic locations would have no use for such advice.

ELMORE LEONARD’S TEN RULES FOR WRITING is a puff piece for Leonard himself. It shows the rules that he follows when writing his own books, nothing more.

I can imagine how many aspiring writers received ELMORE LEONARD’S TEN RULES FOR WRITING for Christmas, finished it in five minutes, and promptly forgot about it. I’m not sorry I read it–it was a fun novelty–but it’s not something I will ever feel the need to read again.




rating: 2 stars


I recommend Plot by Ansen Dibell or Writing for Emotional Impact by Karl Iglesias instead of this book

4 thoughts on “Elmore Leonard’s Ten Rules of Writing by Elmore Leonard

  1. I love the friends and family members who gift me with books. But I always wish they wouldn’t. I end up with crap like the above or NYT best sellers grabbed off the front table or silly little journals too ridiculous to write in and too pretty to throw away. I have a drawer full. I’m a huge Leonard fan–I think I’ve read everything he’s ever written–but I wouldn’t want anybody wasting money on this book.

  2. I know! People who give books are such lovely, well-meaning people, but they just don’t get it. My very favorite gifts are book store gift certificates.

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