June Casagrande’s “It was the best of sentences, it was the worst of sentences.”

“It had been being the best of times, it had been being the worst of times.”
Really?

 
This is a small, short book that will so heavily impact your writing…no, scratch that.

It was the best of sentences, it was the worst of sentences. is a small book that will impact your writing.

Yes, much better.

If you don’t recognize the second sentence is better than the first – you may not understand why it is, but if you recognize it is – this book is a necessity.

If you do understand, you’ve probably read this book.

I didn’t write “…don’t recognize that the second sentence…” because It was the best of sentences, it was the worst of sentences. teaches lots about when to use that. I didn’t write “…probably already read…” because it also teaches lots about flabby speech and misuse of adverbs.

And how to subordinate for effect, such as “If you…”

And lots more, all with examples.

Casagrande’s mantra is “Write for the Reader.” Writers who say they write to please themselves first miss the point (almost wrote “are missing the point”); they write for a one-reader audience (rewrote that clause three times). Write to be read. Start with one reader, get more by developing your writing. (a missing conjunction, fix it (she demonstrates how)).

 


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Robert Newton Peck’s “Fiction is Folks”

Robert Peck’s Fiction is Folks was a difficult book for me to get through on my first read and an entertaining book on my second read. I’ll read it at least one more time before I’m satisfied I’ve sucked all the marrow from its pages (that odd phrasing is one of his suggestions. Such odd phrasings wake the reader up. You may not like that one, that’s fine, and learn the technique. Practice it. The technique useful even if my example is not).

My initial challenge was the reason I was entertained on my second read: Peck is homesy and folksy. He is direct, clear, honest. He’s a native Vermonter and it shows in both his prose and his examples.

An important point about his examples: most of them passed over me on my first read because this entire book is an example. He explains something and read his explanation again. It’s an example of what he’s explaining. Now look at the example he uses for his explanation. Yes, it’s an example and it contains a thread to the next example.

Also (and like most Writers’ Digest books I’ve read) he covers a broad range of topics well beyond character (the main item in this book). A partial list includes:

  • Blurbs
  • Plot
  • Character
  • Covers
  • Story
  • Marketing
  • Structure
  • Language
  • Exercises
  • and this doesn’t touch on the general stuff you need to know to get your work published

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