I first stumbled across Mr.Leonard's ten rules years ago. Now I've got my own blog I thought it would be a good time to reproduce them here.
1. Never open a book with weather.
2. Avoid prologues.
3. Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue. (Mr. Leonard said, "Never." He didn't grumble, "Never." He didn't mumble, "Never." He said, "Never.")
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.
I have always found the above inspirational. Point 8 particularly. I don't care what colour a character's eyes are unless it has some significance to the story. Over descriptive work - as a reader turns me cold - so there's no way I'll go into uneccessary detail as a writer.
The above are of course guidelines and not absolutes. You interpret what you need to interpret. I generally stick by the "he said / she said" rule, but I will occassionaly modify it so as not to be too repetitive.
M J Wolfson - That's me.