Sunday, August 30, 2009

Buy Yourself a Good Grammar Book

The rules of English are tough and especially tougher for a writer. It literally comes down to "this" and "that" and "whom" or "who." What about present tense? Present perfect? Imperfect? What does it mean to say "Bob was a broker" or "Bob has been a broker" or even "Bob had been a broker"? Some people find the rules of grammar easy to understand and use. I don't. If you are like me, I encourage you to find a good grammar usage book. There are a lot of them out there. The one I have found to be most helpful is "The Wordwatcher's Guide to Good Writing and Grammar" by Morton Freeman. It's an older copy, but I still find it useful.

What should you look for in a guide like this?

- Buy the newest edition you can find. Language changes rapidly and you need to stay on top of it.
- Buy one that is easily laid out. Both books I have list the words/phrases in question alphabetically and makes it easy to find what you are looking for.
- Make sure it is easy to understand and provides good examples. I have two books I use. I can't recall the name of the other, but it is very technical and almost written for graduate level English students -- that's not me.

If you are serious about your writing, you do need to find one of these. Go to a book store and cruise the reference section. You should find one there to fit your needs.

If you're a writer, what do you use?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Keeping a Writer's Journal

I've done a bit of travelling this summer, from St Louis to the East Coast and back, and up to Chicago for a weekend. I've always been told that as a writer, I should keep a journal, but I thought that was just to write down story ideas as they came. I was wrong, partly.

I brought my writer's journal with me on my trips and a few story ideas came but it wasn't until I was out on the ocean that I realized another use for my journal -- to write down impressions (using as many senses as possible) of my experiences. Later that evening I tried to recreate what I had experienced, but I know I probably missed some important details. What a rich source of material I could have had...the North Carolina Beachfront, the seafood, the fishermen preparing their boat and all of the related sights, sounds and smells. Who knows when I might want to set a story in Calabash, NC or the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago?

I may have missed something on that trip but I'll tell you what: my writer's journal is never very far from my side.