Strunk and White’s “The Elements of Style”

I’ve been using the so-called Little Book for years but only as a reference, not a resource. That changed recently when I’d finished editing a work-in-progress, The Inheritors, and had some spare cycles.

Definitely keep The Elements of Style handy as a resource. Keep it right next to your keyboard. I have physical copies near all my workplaces and electronic copies on all my devices. Because my memory could drain wet freshly cooked pasta, I pick it up several times a day and often for the same things.

Hopefully things will stick now that I’ve read it. (adding this note two days after writing this post. happy to report yes, things stuck. yeeha!)

The Elements of Style is rich in examples. My ninety-two page edition (complete with index) is now half dog-eared with notes waiting to be transcribed.

Yes, most people I know are familiar with Section I: Elementary Rules of Usage; when to use a comma, when to use a semicolon, how to form possessives, participle phrases, and all that grammar stuff.

Good! That’s what I used it for. Until this reading.

Please give yourself the opportunity to read the Introduction (it’s short and rich). Take a tour through Section II: Elementary Principles of Composition. Meander through Sections III and V: A Few Matters or Form and An Approach to Style respectively. Stroll through Section IV: Words and Expressions Commonly Misused (made myself an autocorrect list out of these).

Go slow, look around, and enjoy. The Little Book is a book mechanic’s toolchest. Get your hands dirty. It’s worth it.

Litcon 2021 World Building Panel with Science fiction, fantasy, alt-history, steampunk, YA science fantasy, speculative fiction, dystopia, and military science fiction authors F. Stephan, Geoff Genge, Claudia Blood, Theresa Halvorsen, C.G. Hatton, and Liz Tuckwell

Enjoy the panel discussion. Information on the participants is below.

Continue reading “Litcon 2021 World Building Panel with Science fiction, fantasy, alt-history, steampunk, YA science fantasy, speculative fiction, dystopia, and military science fiction authors F. Stephan, Geoff Genge, Claudia Blood, Theresa Halvorsen, C.G. Hatton, and Liz Tuckwell”

(Video published – see link below) Join science fiction, fantasy, alt-history, steampunk, YA science fantasy, speculative fiction, and military science fiction authors F. Stephan, Geoff Genge, Claudia Blood, Theresa Halvorsen, C.G. Hatton, special guest alt-history and dystopian author Liz Tuckwell and myself in a two hour talk on #worldbuilding this Saturday, 6 Mar 21, noonET on Facebook

UPDATE: You can watch the panel discussion at both Litcon 2021 World Building Panel with Science fiction, fantasy, alt-history, steampunk, YA science fantasy, speculative fiction, dystopia, and military science fiction authors F. Stephan, Geoff Genge, Claudia Blood, Theresa Halvorsen, C.G. Hatton, and Liz Tuckwell and YouTube

Watch it live Saturday, 6 March 2021, noonET on Facebook!

About Minnesota based Claudia Blood
The Relic Trilogy – Which is YA sci-fantasy (or soft sci-fi)
Book 1: Company Assassin
Book 2: Horizon Found
Book 3: Time Rift — Goes live March 15th

About PEI based Geoff Genge
Terra Obscura series
My genre is alt-history/steampunk/sci-fi. What can I say… I’m complicated.
I like romantic dinners, stiff drinks, and long walks down abandoned country roads. Ya’know… since you asked.


About Temecula based Theresa Halvorsen
heresa Halvorsen has never met a profanity she hasn’t enjoyed. She’s generally overly-caffeinated and at times, wine-soaked. The author of multiple spec-fiction works, including Warehouse Dreams and River City Widows, in addition to various short stories and non-fiction articles, Theresa wonders what sleep is. Because she didn’t have enough to do, she also started No Bad Books Press with S. Faxon and edits for other spec fiction writers.), Theresa enjoys board games, geeky conventions, and reading. Her life goal is to give “Oh-My-Gosh-This-Book-Is-So-Good!” happiness to her readers. She lives in Temecula with her amazing husband, occasionally her college-age twins, and the pets they’d promised to care for.

About Lyon, France based F. Stephan
I have now 4 science fiction books in the same universe
The first two will tell you of Brian’s path to become a fully qualified starpilot and to overcome his worst fears
The third brings you back to Earth and the first trading space station above it, unsupported by the planet below
The fourth introduces you to a new character. She is forty, her birth has been deleted from the databases by the Federation until now and suddenly she has to find out what happened then.
I have pushed back the anthology of short stories
I am writing a fantasy book, set up in an alternate roman-styled world. When Giants attacks Antiago’s ally and northern border, General Torkal has only one choice. Step in. But the Giants are only the first threat he faces. We follow Allus Vernal, Scout Master of the First Legion, protegé of the General, from reconnaissance to battles, from throne rooms to secret fortresses

About North East England based C.G. Hatton
I write fast-paced action adventure military scifi (Thieves’ Guild), far future, galaxy at war, lots of intrigue, character-driven, complex, six books in main series, two so far in YA origins series set ten years before the main drama, new book out in April is the 3rd in that origins series…
Also editor of the Harvey Duckman Presents series of scifi, fantasy, steampunk and horror short story anthologies…
Background is degree and PhD in geology, worked at Durham Uni for five years, worked as a journalist, sub editor and editor on local newspapers for six years or so… started Sixth Element Publishing in 2009… mentor writers, run writing workshops, edit work, publish stuff… did some other stuff here and there

And from Special Guest alt-history and dystopia author Liz Tuckwell
I have written one dystopian short story and I’ve written several alternate history fantasy short stories about an alternative Rome. And a urban fantasy novella.


J.N. Williamson’s “How to Write Tales of Horror, Fantasy & Science Fiction

First, a different kind of how-to-write book; each chapter is written by a different notable in the field – Williamson, Bradbury, Tem, Grant, Bradley, …

The variety of perspectives is interesting. I wonder if each author chose their chapter subject or were assigned it by Williamson, who served as editor.

Bradbury’s chapter, for example, is about where ideas come from and nurturing them, not specific techniques. Tem and Castle each take a turn at character but each from their own perspective.

Bradley’s “World Building in Horror, Occult, and Fantasy Writing” marks the first time I’ve seen the “world building” term outside of writers’ cons (I’m hosting a World Building panel at LitCon 2021).

Beyond chapters on technique – Plot, Character, Setting, World Building, Revision, Submission, … – How to Write Tales of Horror, Fantasy & Science Fiction‘s contributors explain the whys of their suggestions. Example: William F. Nolan’s “Involving Your Reader from the Start” chapter contains several examples of opening paragraphs (I don’t agree that all of them are good). Near the end of his chapter he writes “In the no-TV, no-video, no-comics world of Charles Dickens, readers were conditioned to deal with complex, dense, often-wordy opening pages in books and stories. It was an era of leisurely reading when the pace could be slow and unhurried. Not so today. …”

In other words, writing evolves with a purpose. Yes, there are fads and they pass quickly. What survives is what out-competes others in the environment.

Amazing how evolutionary science affects everything, isn’t it?

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Natalie Goldberg’s “Wild Mind”

Natalie Golberg’s Wild Mind is another book I purchased 25-30 years ago and left on my shelf while life happened. I picked it up this month and am grateful I kept it around.

I previously reviewed Goldberg’s “Writing Down the Bones”, gave it high marks, and Wild Mind is another keeper, although a book I’d only recommend to writers already committed to their craft.

Like Writing Down the Bones and Dorothea Brande’s “Becoming a Writer”, Wild Mind is about the experience of writing and how to make that experience more fluid, dynamic, rewarding, and fruitful. There are some craft do’s and don’t’s at the end of the book and you can find similar do’s and don’t’s in most craft and technique books (and also in many of my StoryCrafting posts).

The book itself is a cornucopia of writing exercises designed to make you think differently when you write. Note that; not how to write differently but how to think differently when you write. Goldberg is a stickler for “your work, your style, your voice” and doesn’t want to change that.

Instead she offers exercises to free up your crafting to be more unique, more inventive, more exciting, more readable, and ultimately, more you.

Her forte is what I’d call “Ten Minute Drills.” For example, write “I remember” at the top of a page and spend ten minutes writing about what you remember. Easy enough. Now write “I don’t remember” and go for another ten minutes. Now your mind goes wild (and hopefully your writing follows). What don’t you remember? What have you forgotten? When you’re not walking down memory lane you’re traversing the paths of imagination. Find out where they take you.

Other drills teach you how to tame your inner critic (haven’t met an author yet who doesn’t have one) and how to set free your inner cheerleader (haven’t met an author yet who doesn’t need one).

Good stuff and strongly recommended.