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The Writing Mastery Series  (to be published  by spring, 2020) contains most of the wealth of knowledge I’ve compiled since 1998 (with some elements going back to my playwriting days in the 70s when I studied under professional playwright T. Dianne Anderson [1972-74] at the University of South Florida) The first two volumes are 1) Grammar and Style and 2) Mastering the Craft.

Many of the posts will come from these books (and, hey, if you want to avoid buying the books, just copy all the posts over the next several years and put them together in a single document [a lot of work to save $3.99 on  eBooks]). They INCLUDE: Grammar (according to The Chicago Guide to Grammar, Usage, and Punctuation);  style (according to The Chicago Manual of Style [the 16th edition]), and the elements of writing (plot, character, dialogue, description, getting published, query letter writing, synopses, editing, and more. Everything is in alphabetical order for easy reference.

Here are some excerpts:

LESS IS MORE: In writing, “less is more” is always bandied about during writing conferences. It’s because words chosen by authors should be succinct and meaningful. Nothing should be wasted—not a single word. Taking the more winded route adds so much haze to a story that writing mastery gets obscured, and the reader is left confused and unsatisfied. Here’s a story that illustrates quit well that less is more:

On November 19, 1863, former Secretary of State Edward Everett (also a former president of Harvard University) spoke at a gathering in Gettysburg to commemorate the Union victory over the Confederate South during July 1-3, 1863. He was known as a great orator and wanted to leave his mark. He prepared a speech lasting two hours and delivered it from memory. Abraham Lincoln had also been invited. After Mr. Everett had spoken, President Lincoln rose and recited a speech of exactly 273 words that lasted less than two minutes. Which speech is still remembered today?


It doesn’t matter how much you say, only how well you say it. The quality of writing trumps quantity every time.

LETTERS AS LETTERS: When you use letters as letters in your manuscript, it’s the same as using words as words. They are italicized as in, “I regard him as only a C player.” Don’t offset them between single or double quotes.

LIFE-AND-DEATH/LIFE-OR-DEATH: It’s life-and-death. Don’t use life-or-death.

LIGHTENING/LIGHTNING: This mistake most often comes about through a typo. It is checked for in every manuscript I write because I’ve caught it in every one I’ve written. We know the difference, right? “Lightening” means to make something lighter, while lightning can hit you and make you into a human French fry.

LIGHT-YEAR: This is a pet peeve of probably every science fiction writer because we know the difference. A light-year is a distance, NOT a unit of time (I can just hear the sci-fi writers applauding). “It will be light-years before humans are truly civilized.” No! It will be years, a millennium, decades, centuries—anything but light-years! Here’s the proper use: “The star Alpha Centauri is just over four light-years away.” (A light-year is the distance light can travel in a year—and light travels at 186,000 miles per second or 5,878,499,810,000 miles (consult Mr. Spock to get the number down to eight decimal places). That’s right—over five-and-three-quarters trillion miles.

LIKE/AS IF: Writers erroneously use like in place of as if. Example: “Sam, it’s like some devil’s taken over your body causing you to spout all this philosophical bull.” To determine when to use as if, substitute as if for like and see if the sentence makes sense. “It’s as if some devil’s taken over your body causing you to spout all this philosophical bull.” Yep—it makes perfect sense, so use as if.

Another example: “Ken treated me like a dumbbell.” Let’s make the substitution. “Ken treated me as if a dumbbell.” Nope. It doesn’t work. Use like.


LIKE/SUCH AS: Use like when you want to make a comparison. Use such as when you need to make an inclusion. To determine which you want, and the difference is very subtle, substitute the words similar to for like, and including for such as.

Example 1: “Jill enjoys sports such as underwater wheelchair racing and skydiving table tennis.” It means that Jill enjoys sports including those two. So it implies that she enjoys sports overall.

Example 2: “Jack enjoys sports like snail racing and dinosaur hunting.” It means that Jack enjoys sports similar to those, but not necessarily those two. (How could anyone?)

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