How To Write A Book (For Me)


I came across the following list written by author Elmore Leonard. Apparently he’s written about two dozen genre novels and is well respected in the literary community. Despite this fact, I have never heard of the man. However, I did find his 10 tricks for good book writing to be interesting and insightful:

Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing:

  1.  Never open a book with weather.
  2.  Avoid prologues.
  3.  Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.
  4.  Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said”…he admonished gravely.
  5.  Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.
  6.  Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”
  7.  Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
  8.  Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
  9.  Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
  10.  Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

My most important rule is one that sums up the 10.

If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

* Excerpted from the New York Times article, “Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle”

After reading through Leonard’s suggestions, I decided to come up with a few tips of my own to assist all the authors out their in their writing–mainly to make their writing better suited for myself. And thus, I present to you:

Haley Gatewood’s Tips For Writing Books That Haley Gatewood Would Enjoy


1. Don’t make the main character fall in love with two equally amazing guys and drag out her final decision between the two suiters through 8 subsequent novels. That’s just cruel.
2. If I can guess what happens on the next page then rewrite it.
3. If you’re thinking of adding a vampire to your book then take your writing utensil and stab it into your eye, because that is exactly how I will feel upon discovering that there is a vampire in your novel.
4. Do not write chapters that only consist of one sentence. I assume that you got lazy.
5. Do not include a chapter that begins with the suggestion to skip the chapter if you don’t want to hear about whatever that chapter ends up being about.
6. Do not have pages of dialogue without any indication of who is saying what. I am not that smart.
7. Do not give your chapters titles. And if you must, make them dramatically obscure so that I can’t figure out what’s going to happen.


1. Make someone die. I really don’t care who it is, but if there is no major death or fear of death involved then you’ve lost me.
2. The main character must have at least one endearing quality. He/she can be antisocial, compulsive, and violent, but give them a great talent for painting or a love of the honey bee or the ability to heal singing woodland creatures. I don’t care, just make them tolerable.
3. If you end your book in a cliffhanger then the sequel had better be on your publisher’s desk by the time I finish reading the first book. I refuse to wait more than a year to hear what happened to your character. If there is no sequel planned, then keep it that way. I’m tired of random sequels and “threequels” popping up just to give you something to do.
4. Base your novel in a dystopian world. If the world is in shambles and the government is maniacal I’ll read it.
5.  Add a riddle or two. I love that stuff.
6. Please blow my mind on the very last page. I mean I want giant shards of my brain flying from my nose.
7. Include an epilogue. Although you may not care what happens to your characters when they are 30, I do.

Finally, to all you authors out there, the number one thing you can do to make me enjoy your book is this:
Enlighten me. Teach me something I didn’t know about the world or about myself. Do that and you’ll have me for life.

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