Posted by: gillarbuthnott | May 14, 2015

What Would Elmore Do?


elmer-smNo, not that one, that’s Elmer, not Elmore.

Elmore820FThis one. The late, much lamented Elmore Leonard.

I broke off from writing furiously this afternoon to browse The Times, and came across a great article extracted from a book (Simple Rules: How to Thrive in a Complex World by Donald Sull and Kathleen Eisenhard). The authors have gathered together rules for all sorts of things, from healthy eating to climbing Mount Everest, but the section that really caught my interest was Elmore Leonard’s rules of writing. His aim is that he is ‘invisible’ in his writing – a great idea. Here are a few of his rules, which I’m going to try to stick to…

  1. Never open a book with weather
  2. Avoid prologues (might have a bit of a problem with that one)
  3. Keep your exclamation marks under control
  4. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters
  5. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip


  1. 6. Bend, break, sidestep or ignore any rule you please …

  2. Except, perhaps the single rule for climbing Everest: If you haven’t reached the summit by 2 o’clock, turn back

    • Is THAT what I’ve been doing wrong! Heavens to Betsey!

  3. I especially like no.5. But I suspect that they might be different bits for different readers…

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