Recognize that guy in the picture? It’s Raylin Givins of Justified. You should also recognize that ensemble below from Get Shorty. Great movies and great books by none other than Elmore Leonard. Below is a very enjoyable list of his top ten writing tips. I think I have broken every tip in the last year of writing. Oh man!

1 Never open a book with weather. If it’s only to create atmosphere, and not a charac­ter’s reaction to the weather, you don’t want to go on too long. The reader is apt to leaf ahead look­ing for people.

Avoid prologues: they can be ­annoying, especially a prologue ­following an introduction that comes after a foreword. A prologue in a novel is backstory, and you can drop it in anywhere you want.

Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue. The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in. But “said” is far less intrusive than “grumbled”, “gasped”, “cautioned”, “lied”.

Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said” … he admonished gravely. To use an adverb this way (or almost any way) is a mortal sin.

5 Keep your exclamation points ­under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.

Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose”. This rule doesn’t require an explanation.

7 Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly. Once you start spelling words in dialogue phonetically and loading the page with apos­trophes, you won’t be able to stop.

Avoid detailed descriptions of characters, which Steinbeck covered. In Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants”, what do the “Ameri­can and the girl with him” look like? “She had taken off her hat and put it on the table.” That’s the only reference to a physical description in the story.

9 Don’t go into great detail describing places and things, unless you’re Margaret Atwood and can paint scenes with language.

10 Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip. Think of what you skip reading a novel: thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them.

My most important rule is one that sums up the 10: if it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.