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Rethinking the Craft of Fiction Writing: Resources on Teaching and Learning Creative Writing (January 2022): Mechanics

By Thomas Dodson


The writer of fiction will benefit as much as the journalist or the scholar from The Copyeditor’s Handbook, by Amy Einsohn, and the “Style and Usage” section of The Chicago Manual of Style, but there are conventions particular to stories and novels that are beyond the scope of such texts. Brian Shawver’s The Language of Fiction: A Writer’s Stylebook, and Renni Browne and Dave King’s Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself into Print represent a subclass of craft books dedicated to the mechanics of writing. With chapters such as “How Should You Format and Punctuate Dialogue?” and “What Are Your Options for Portraying Characters’ Thoughts?” The Language of Fiction provides novice writers with the tools they need to make informed stylistic decisions. It also includes a helpful glossary for intuitive writers who remain a little foggy about such things as the distinction between a gerund and a present participle. Drawing on years of editorial experience, Browne and King adopt a direct, self-assured tone in Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, in which they seek to steer beginning writers away from styles and tics likely to evoke an eye-roll from an editor deciding whether or not to publish the writer’s story. In a chapter on dialogue, for example, they argue for using “said” almost exclusively for speaker attributions (and eliminating any “-ly” adverb that modifies “said”). Browne and King also provide examples and exercises aimed at eliminating some of the writer’s bad habits and encouraging better ones. 

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