The first rule of writing…

There was an interesting article in the paper yesterday following the death of the great writer, Elmore Leonard, mentioning some notes he had written on the rules of writing… I know he was a great and successful writer and I am not, but I’m not sure I agree with all of his rules:

  1.  “Never open a book with the weather.” Why not? Snoopy stated his great novel ‘It was a dark and stormy night…’
  2.  “Avoid prologues.”  I’m never keen on prologues and I tend to skip reading them if there is one… how lazy of me, but I just want to get on with the story.
  3.  “Never use a verb other than ‘said’ to carry dialogue.”  Not sure I agree with ‘never’ – sometimes language can be interpreted in different ways and other verbs if carefully used can be a helpful pointer.
  4.  “Never use an adverb to modify the verb ‘said’.” …. um…. I wonder…
  5.  “Keep your exclamation points under control.” I d agree with this, but again there could be exceptions if a character was using them rather than the author.

  6. “Never use the words ‘suddenly’ or ‘All Hell broke loose’.” I think I may have used ‘suddenly’ a few times… should I feel guilty?

  7.  “Use dialect sparingly.” I agree… although in my present book Flipside, it is set in Oldham in Lancashire, and some of the characters are Oldhamers… but writing in an exaggerated or ‘comic’ way is just irritating!
  8. “Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.” I would say, be careful how you describe characters…
  9. “Same for places and things.” Thomas Hardy? Charles Dickens, John le Carré?
  10.  “Leave out the parts readers tend to skip.” Well, obviously…  but how do you know which they are?

I might not agree with all of Leonard’s rules, but they are certainly worth thinking about when writing!

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