Style Guides: Essential Writing Resources for Professionals

writing resources style guides

A style guide is an essential writing resource.

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.

That’s what style guides are for. Style guides answer grammatical questions and provide guidelines for consistency. 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. Read More

Writing Resources for Naming Your Characters

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Have you ever read one of those epic fantasy novels in which the magical characters can gain total control over any living being simply by discovering their real and true name? I’ve read about ten of those novels.

What do you think is more perplexing, the fact that authors continue to use this rule of magic (even though it’s tired and ready to be retired) or the astounding number of unique names that writers come up with for all the characters in these stories? Read More

Writing Resources: The Chicago Manual of Style

chicago manual of style

The Chicago Manual of Style.

The Chicago Manual of Style is the most widely used resource for American English style, grammar, and punctuation. If you’re working on any kind of writing project and need a solid reference that provides answers for how to consistently apply style and grammar, then this is the book for you.

Often called Chicago or CMOS, the text was originally published in 1906 with just 200 pages under the lengthy, albeit descriptive title: Manual of Style: Being a compilation of the typographical rules in force at the University of Chicago Press, to which are appended specimens of type in use. Yes, that’s a mighty long title.

111 years later, in September, 2017, the seventeenth edition of The Chicago Manual of Style was published with 1,146 pages. It is available in hardcover, and there’s also a handy online edition that you can pay to subscribe to.

Chicago is so widely used because it can be applied to almost any type of writing. It’s extremely flexible and offers writers options for various formats. Many smaller, niche-oriented style guides are based on the guidelines set forth in Chicago, making it the foundation for most writing styles and grammar usages found throughout America. Read More

The Reviews Are In: 1200 Creative Writing Prompts

creative writing promptsWhen I wrote 1200 Creative Writing Prompts, my goal was to provide writers with a treasure trove of inspiration and ideas for writing fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction.

Writers often struggle with writer’s block or lack motivation. I wanted to fire up imaginations and help writers get to work creating poems, stories, and other written works.

The prompts aren’t complicated or elaborate. Each one offers a simple idea starter designed to make your creativity flow and get your pen moving. Read More

Writing Resources: The Crafty Poet

the crafty poet

Poetry workshop in a book!

One of my favorite classes in college was a poetry workshop. Sometimes we did poetry prompts or exercises. Occasionally we read and analyzed poetry. But mostly we shared our poems and received feedback that would help us see the strengths and weaknesses in our work. And then we could make our poetry even better.

I’ve often wondered whether it would be possible to capture the experience of a writing workshop in a book. Since the key component of a workshop is interaction — giving and receiving feedback — I didn’t think it was possible.

But The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop comes pretty close. It’s an ideal book for a poetry workshop, but it’s also useful for individual poets who can’t attend a workshop or class.  Read More

Writing Resources: Wired for Story

wired for story

Are you wired for storytelling?

Are you a storyteller? Do you want to be? Then I suggest you pick up a copy of Wired for Story, ASAP.

This is easily the best book on writing fiction that I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. The book takes a fresh approach and tackles fiction writing from a scientific perspective. Thus the subtitle: “The writer’s guide to using brain science to hook readers from the very first sentence.”

Before all you left-brained creatives bristle at the word science, know this: the book is completely accessible. It doesn’t confuse you with complex scientific jargon. Instead, it uses simple examples (mostly told as stories) to demonstrate the science behind story. Read More

10 Good Grammar Resources

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Grammar resources for writers.

There’s good grammar and bad grammar, proper grammar and poor grammar. Some writers have fun with grammar and for others, grammar’s a bore. But in order to communicate effectively and for our writing to be professional (and publishable), we all need reliable grammar resources.

There is no grammar authority, no supreme court of grammar where judges strike down the gavel at grammar offenders. Grammar is not an exact science (in fact, it’s not a science at all), and even among the most educated and experienced linguists, the rules of grammar are heavily debated.

Of course, there are some basic rules we can all agree on, and these can found in any good grammar resource. There are gray areas, too, which are skillfully handled by style guides.

As writers, we need these resources. They help us use language effectively. Good grammar ensures that our work is readable. And we all know that bad grammar can make a piece of writing unreadable, unprofessional, and sloppy. Read More

What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers

what if writing exercises for fiction writers

What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers.

Good fiction includes many different elements: believable characters, realistic dialogue, and compelling plots. Every decent story has a beginning, middle, and end. Intriguing tales are built around conflict and are rich with themes and symbols. And those are just the basics.

It can be pretty overwhelming.

Fiction writing is hard work. It requires a complex and diverse set of skills. Stringing words together into sentences only scratches the surface of what goes into good fiction writing. Fiction that is truly worthwhile is layered with meaning. It’s made up of an infinite number of tiny parts. Most importantly, it has a sense of truth and realism that the real world often lacks.

Mark Twain said, “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; truth isn’t.” Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures.” And Stephen King said, “Fiction is the truth inside the lie.”

In other words, fiction, at its best, feels truer than reality. Great writers make it look easy, but writing that kind of fiction, the kind that’s worth reading, is nothing short of magic. Read More

Writing Resources: Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury

Zen in the Art of Writing.

Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing, a collection of essays on writing and creativity, is infused with unparalleled joy and passion for the craft of writing. It’s an easy, relaxing read that imparts unique insight to boost your writing habits and keep ideas flowing freely and naturally.

“You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” — Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury is one of the masters of science fiction, most famous for his novels Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles. He came up during a time when science fiction and fantasy were taken even less seriously by literary elites than they are today — yet his work not only went mainstream, it was academically acclaimed. I was first introduced to Bradbury as a reading assignment in high school. Later I delved into his life as an author, reading and watching every interview I could find online. The man was a fountain of wisdom, and his jovial demeanor makes him a pleasure to read and watch. Read More