God, I Love Elmore Leonard

Leonard, who wrote 45 novels in his career, sometimes reminds me of Hemingway in that he makes writing look so damn simple when what he does is so damn hard.

The other day I read Out of Sight (and yes, I read it in a day) because it just feels so effortless. As I am in the throes of writing my own murder mystery, I took the occasion to remind myself of Leonard's rules of writing. I always appreciate these sorts of lists from writers, but Leonard's have particular resonance for me:

1. Never open with the weather.

2. Avoid prologues.

3. Never use a verb other than 'said.'

4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb 'said.'

5. Keep you exclamation points under control.

6. Never use the words "suddenly" or "al hell broke loose."

7. Use regional dialect sparingly.

8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.

9. Don't go into great detail describing places and things.

10. Try to leave out the parts readers skip.

Finally, the sine qua non of writing rules: If it sounds like writing, rewrite it.

Amen.