When Your Novel Quotes a Real Source

Careless quoting is a writing crime. Fiction or nonfiction, a writer must be scrupulous in quoting words precisely and crediting their source. Most publishing contracts hold the author liable for misrepresentations and plagiarism, but even without that legal pressure, a writer, of all people, should naturally respect the intellectual property of others.

A person types on a typewriter surrounded by wadded up discarded drafts, some of which cover the typist’s head.

What Makes a Chapter of a Novel?

A chapter is a chunk of a book that comes to a recognizable end, usually marked by a page break or by an extra space followed by a new numbered or titled chapter. Chapters give readers of long works a place to pause. They provide a rhythm to the experience of reading.

Portion of a Macintosh keyboard. The Shift key has been replaced with a "Magic" key.

3 Easy E-Tricks for Writers, and 1 for Fun

Almost every writer I know has a love-hate relationship with their writing program, whether it’s Microsoft Word, Google Docs, Scrivener, or a yellow legal pad. It’s clear there’s no single perfect choice for drafting, editing, and formatting your work for publication.

Two red squirrels on a birch log, making wishes.

Is the Subjunctive Mood Right for Fiction?

Although some believe that the subjunctive mood in English is dying, many of us use it all the time, whether we know it or not. And that means the subjunctive is right for fiction, even in the mouth of a character who wouldn’t know a subjunctive from a subplot.

Colon followed by a capital and lowercase letter "a"

When to Capitalize after a Colon

I don’t like to dither over style choices. At the beginning of a sentence, it’s routine to start the next word with a capital letter. But when I type a colon within a sentence, I often have to stop and think about how to write the next word: whether to cap it isn’t always obvious.

Table of contents on the right-hand (recto) page in a book

Does Your Novel Need a Table of Contents?

From our own reading, most of us know that some paperback and hardcover novels have a table of contents page in the front and some don’t. Lurking online, I perceive a widespread notion that tables of contents are old-fashioned and pointless for fiction.

Close up of hands shuffling a deck of cards

How to Reorganize Book Chapters with a Click

One of my favorite MS Word tricks allows a novelist (or any book writer) to view and organize their chapters in the Navigation pane (an option under the View tab). Using this feature, I can see all my chapter titles at a glance, and I can go instantly to the one I want by clicking on its title.

How to Mention a Real Newspaper, Book, or Song in Fiction

Narrators and characters in novels and other creative writing can talk about whatever they want. A character might read the Chicago Sun-Times; they might say they like to sing “Drivers License” while brushing their teeth. A narrator might mention a famous poem or novel or TV show: “The host didn’t mention that he’d heard the same joke on The Simpsons.”