Ten Rules Of Writing, mostly what I’ve broke

A while back I mentioned I’d received 10 Rules Of Writing by Elmore Leonard (Weidenfeld & Nicolson-H/B-£7.99). Finally got round to reading it over the weekend, and, gulp, I reckon I’ve broken most of them in my writing career, and so have a lot of other authors. Now, Leonard seemed like an amiable enough fellow the one time I met him, but Buddy, what is all this about?

Rule 1: “Never open a book with weather” Get out of it. Weather’s a great opener. Broke it loads, and how about my favourite Beagle, Snoopy ‘It was a dark and stormy night’. Says it all really.

Rule 2: “Avoid Prologues.” Broke it. Love ‘em.

Rule 3: “Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.” Broke it. How about ‘hissed’ or ‘spat’? ‘Said’ gets boring.

Rule 4: “Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said”.” Broke it, but only on the advice of editors.

Rule 5: “Keep your exclamation points under control.” That’s one I happily live with. Probably only used exclamation marks fifty times in over thirty books. At last, me and the Master agree.

Rule 6: “Never use the words “suddenly” or “All hell broke loose”.” Broke it a few times.

Rule 7: “Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.” Fair enough. Can live with that one Bruddah.

Rule 8: “Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.” Oh, come on. Broke it a million times.

Rule 9: “Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.” See Rule 8.

Rule 10: “Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.” At last. One rule I love.

Now, as this slim hardcover (See, I’m describing things) come complete with a lot of illustrations (By Joe Ciardello) I don’t know how seriously it’s supposed to be taken. I’ll put in my Leonard collection, but doubt I’ll ever open it again.

And don’t forget one thing. Most fiction writers at one time or another have said about one of their books: “It ain’t War & Peace.” Believe me, if Tolstoy had obeyed all of Elmore’s rules, even War & Peace wouldn’t be War & Peace.

So, after that what am I reading now? Non fiction mostly. 101 Forgotten Films-Brian Mills (Kamera Books-P/B-£9.99) Diary Of A Rock’n’Roll Star-Ian Hunter (Independent Music Press-P/B-£9.99) Sun King-The Life & Times Of The Man behind Sun Records -Kevin & Tanja Crouch (Piatkus-P/B-£8.99) The Hacienda-How Not To Run A Club-Peter Hook (Simon&Schuster-H/B-£18.99) Circles-The Strange Story Of The Fleur De Lys-Britain’s Forgotten Soul Band (Paul ‘Smiler’ Anderson & Damien Jones (Acid Jazz-P/B-£12.99) And, by the way, listening to the accompanying EP on Acid Jazz records. Plus two magazines: Ugly Things & Double Breasted fanzine, for old & new mods everywhere.

Still watching The Bill on DVD. It’s amazing how gritty it was in the mid-eighties, and how tame it is now. Listening to Grand Terrace Swing 10’’ LP by Earl Hines on HMV, and a few 45’s JA Blues by The Blue Flames on R&B records. Pricey, but worth every penny. But I’ve always wondered why it was released on such a tiny label if Georgie Fame is playing Hammond. Why not his home at Columbia? You Don’t Love me Anymore by Dave Curtis & The Tremors on Philips. Good, Good Lovin’ By The Merseybeats on Fontana. That Ain’t Right by Brian Poole & The Tremeloes on Decca, and a Beatles cover, Here There And Everywhere by Episode Six, who morphed into Deep Purple on Pye. Scary or what pop pickers.

I was going to write about record shops I know and love too, but that can wait for a few days.



  1. marktimlinuk says:

    Please contact the BestDigitaleBooks.com support team, who know a lot more about it than I do! They will be happy to help you out and their email address is support@bestdigitalebooks.com

  2. Damian Jones says:

    Hi Mark, I’ve just seen your blog from may and wanted to say thanks for mentioning our book on The Fleur de Lys, it’s a real honour to get a name check from one of my fav authors (lick lick). I also read in your blog about The Blue Flames 45 you brought, great records, both of them. The reason they came out on R&B Records and never credited Georgie was because the Gunnell brothers had him tied in with EMI and didn’t aprove of these recordings so Mick Eve got them issued withought their approval. All The Best Damian Jones. p.s one for the annoraks the R and B in R&B Records actually stands for Rita and Benny who were and old Jewish couple who used to press up and sell records privatley on the starlite label.

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