Style Guides for Good Grammar and Consistency

good grammar

Using style guides for consistency and good grammar.

When we’re writing, we run into a lot of technical issues. Where do the quotation marks go? When is it correct to use a comma? How should titles be formatted?

Some of these questions are answered by the rules of grammar, spelling, and punctuation. But other questions are not addressed by grammar. There’s no official rule for how to format a title.

We writers need trusted resources that we can use to resolve all these issues, especially if we want to produce work that is both grammatically correct and stylistically consistent.

Style guides answer grammatical questions and provide guidelines for consistency. But there are lots of different style guides, from the The AP Stylebook to the The Chicago Manual of Style. Which one should you use? Read more

Self-Expression in Creative Writing

creative writing

Do you use creative writing for self-expression?

A lot of young people first come to creative writing because they have a burning desire to express themselves. Emotions are running high, ideas are flying, and opinions are in full supply. What better way to get it all off your chest than writing it down?

Self-expression is the heart and soul of all forms of creative writing from fiction and poetry to memoirs and essays. We combine our inner thoughts and feelings with what we perceive in the outer world and put it into words.

When we balance what’s happening inside with what’s happening outside, real magic happens: that’s the sweet spot where we connect with readers.

For some of us, self-expression couldn’t be easier. Give us a pen and a piece of paper and our ideas will come pouring out. For others, putting thoughts and feelings into clear, coherent sentences and paragraphs is a challenge. Everything comes out garbled, and only the writer can make sense of it. Read more

Writing Tips: Writing is Rewriting

writing tips writing is rewriting

Writing tips: writing is rewriting. Or is it?

Those of us who spend a lot of time studying the craft of writing inevitably come across bits of writing advice that we hear over and over again: show don’t tell, write what you know, and kill your darlings. These writing tips can be a bit cryptic, but the one about revisions is crystal clear: writing is rewriting.

The intention is to get ideas out of your head and onto the page (or the screen, as the case may be) as quickly as possible without worrying about grammar, spelling, and punctuation. You don’t need to get the details right. Just get that rough draft completed. You can clean it up later.

Like most writing tips, this one is debatable. Some writers prefer to labor over each sentence while composing a first draft. This means fewer edits later. Others use the drafting process to navigate through their ideas. This often means more revisions when the drafting is done; in other words, the bulk of time is spent on rewriting. Read more

Creative Writing Prompts Inspired by the Seasons

creative writing prompts

Celebrate the seasons with these creative writing prompts.

Writers and artists, and human beings in general, have always been inspired by the cycle of nature. The seasons provide a rotating backdrop for our lives. They mark the passage of time, and they represent change–moving on and letting go.

A season can provide a setting for your story or the subject for your poem. Seasons can function as metaphors. They can bring challenges for characters in the form of severe weather and natural disasters. Even the absence of seasons will affect a piece of writing.

On a tropical island, the weather doesn’t change much. Seasons barely exist in some places, and that shapes the rhythm of life there. On the other hand, in more common climates, seasons dictate daily life: plant in the spring and harvest in the fall.

Today’s creative writing prompts look to the seasons for inspiration. All of these writing prompts come from my book, 1200 Creative Writing Prompts. Enjoy! Read more

Writing Resources: Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones

writing down the bones

Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg.

“I used to think freedom meant doing whatever you want. It means knowing who you are, what you are supposed to be doing on this earth, and then simply doing it.” — Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones

Ah, words of wisdom.

I was assigned Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg for a creative writing course in college. We were supposed to read a chapter or two a week, but I had a hard time putting it down and ended up inhaling the entire volume in a couple of days. It’s one of the best writing resources on the market, but what’s great about this book is that it’s a blast to read.

Goldberg, who has penned a number of books about writing, including several well-known writing resources, mastered the mechanics of writing in college. It was later that she discovered how to tap into her creativity and write more artfully. Four years after that discovery, she began teaching writing workshops and has since become a widely adored master of the craft. Read more

How to Become a Writer

how to become a writer

Find out how to become a writer.

Today’s post is an excerpt from 10 Core Practices for Better Writing. This is from “Chapter Two: Writing,” and it’s for people who are wondering how to become a writer.

First, Give Yourself Permission to Write

“A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” – Richard Bach

I admire people who are fearless. When they want to do something, they do it. They don’t worry, plan, wonder, analyze, or seek permission. They simply do what they want to do.

But most of us are more cautious. We’ve experienced failure. We don’t like taking risks. We’ve seen amateurs trying to pass themselves off as professionals. We’ve had our writing critiqued and the feedback wasn’t good. We set the bar high — nothing short of a potential bestseller is worth writing. Read more

Poetry Writing Ideas and Activities

poetry writing ideas

Try something new with these poetry writing ideas and activities.

A poem can come out of nowhere and land on the page, fully formed, in just a few minutes. A poem can also be the result of hours (or weeks) of laboring over line breaks, word choices, images, and rhythm.

Poems are funny little things, appearing out of nowhere and disappearing for no apparent reason. Poets have to be diligent: be prepared when a poem arrives and if it doesn’t, go out and chase it down.

There are many ways to write a poem, and not all of them involve sitting at a desk staring at a glaring screen or curled up in a chair with a pen and notebook. Instead of waiting for poems to fall out of the sky, try some of these poetry writing ideas and activities, and go catch them! Read more

From 101 Creative Writing Exercises: What’s Your Superpower?

creative writing exercises - your superpower

Discover your superpower by doing creative writing exercises.

Today, I’d like to share a fun exercise from my book 101 Creative Writing Exercises.

The book is packed with writing exercises that encourage you to explore different forms and genres while you discover useful writing techniques. You’ll find plenty of inspiration throughout the book with ideas for projects you can eventually publish.

Today’s exercise is from chapter 11, “Creativity.” It’s called “What’s Your Superpower?” Enjoy! Read more

Grammar Rules: Fewer or Less

grammar rules fewer or lessIt’s a battle between words: fewer or less. Are they interchangeable? Do these words have different meanings? How can we use them correctly?

Many people don’t realize that these two words do not share the same meaning and therefore cannot be used interchangeably. As a result, both fewer and less are often used incorrectly.

The difference in meaning may be subtle, but it’s significant and remarkably easy to remember. Let’s see what Dictionary.com has to say about these two words:

fewer: adjective 1. of a smaller number: fewer words and more action.

less: adjective 1. smaller in size, amount, degree, etc.; not so large, great, or much: less money; less speed.

The grammar rules are clear; let me break them down for you. Read more

Exploring Genres in Creative Nonfiction Writing

creative nonfiction writing

Creative nonfiction writing is a growing genre!

Creative writing includes more than just fiction and poetry. Creative nonfiction is a wide category of creative writing, which includes several genres.

Creative nonfiction is a relatively new field; only in recent years have works of creative nonfiction received the kind of attention from critics and readers that fiction and traditional nonfiction have enjoyed for decades.

It’s likely that creative nonfiction will continue to gain strength as a dominant force in the world of writing. The world wide web is growing at an astounding rate, and much of the content on the Internet is considered creative nonfiction. Take blogs, for example; many would be considered creative nonfiction. Read more

12 Character Writing Tips for Fiction Writers

character writing tips

Character writing tips.

Characters are the heart and soul of every story.

Almost every great story is about people. Plot, setting, theme, and every other element of fiction is secondary to realistic characters that an audience can connect with on an intellectual or emotional level.

There are exceptions, of course. Some readers enjoy plot-driven stories, but they never seem to achieve the massive popularity that stories with rich, layered characters achieve. Why do fans adore Harry Potter and Katniss Everdeen? Because they feel like real people. Read more

Artistically Inspired Journal Prompts

journal prompts

Get artistically inspired with these journal prompts.

We, the people of the arts, feed off each other.

A painter is inspired by a song. A musician is inspired by a novel. A photographer is inspired by a sculpture.

So we come full circle by inspiring one another.

Journal prompts are a useful tool for getting inspired. When you want to write but find yourself without any ideas, you might think your muse has gone MIA, but ideas abound. You need only look to the arts, where there is a whole world of inspiration waiting to move you (and your pen). Read more