Elmore Leonard’s Writing Rules and The Importance of Not Being Idle

One of my favourite writers is Elmore Leonard. Not just for his pacy, get-to-the-point prose style and the great stories he told, but for his writing rules.

There are enough rules out there to drive writers insane. Most of them make no sense, and turn us sweet, innocent snowflakes into self-hating, neurotic maniacs. Nothing makes you feel less of a writer than some ‘expert’ telling you that you’re doing it wrong.

Leonard’s rules are great because they’re clever, practical and honest.

My favourite is the 1,000 words a day rule.

I started writing my latest word farm, UNIVERSITY OF LIFE, with an aim of six months for a first draft.

I was planning on writing 3,000 words a week (basically a chapter every Saturday with my work pattern), and going from there. I couldn’t see how I could fit in any writing time around my working week.

How wrong was I? Using Leonard’s rule, I set myself a goal of 1,000 word a day. Most days, I ended up writing 2,000 or more.

It played into one of my strengths (or weaknesses). I set myself a target and become extremely competitive with myself to better my results every day.

(As a side note, I did the same thing with calories on the My Fitness Pal app in the run up to my wedding in 2014. I lost 30lbs)

I wrote the first draft in seven weeks. The editing will take four of five, then another three or four once I get my editorial feedback.

Thanks to Mr Leonard’s writing rules, I’ve managed to find the time to write and the momentum required to become prolific again.

Good news for anybody who enjoys my books. Bad news for anyone who doesn’t.


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