Very Long Sentences in Fiction

Recently, I was listening to the audiobook of James McBride’s Deacon King Kong, and at some point it struck me that we’d been in the middle of a sentence for quite a while. But it wasn’t just long—it was lyrical and purposeful. Pretty early on in the sentence, I began to realize it wasn’t primarily about an annual infestation of ants.

Overlapping speech bubbles

Prose, Interrupted: Signaling Breaks in Dialogue

Interruptions happen all the time in real life. People talk over each other and past each other; words collide and overlap. Sometimes an action or a thought rather than a person intrudes, causing a speaker to stop abruptly or, less dramatically, to trail off midsentence.

Gender-Neutral Pronouns in Creative Writing

People sometimes worry about honoring the personal pronouns of those who don’t identify with the gender binary. They’re concerned that using (for instance) “they/them” in place of “he/him” or “she/her” will be complicated or confusing.

Commas between Compound Predicates

We learn from CMOS 6.23 that “a comma is not normally used to separate a two-part compound predicate joined by a coordinating conjunction.” In other words, when the subject isn’t repeated after a word like “and” or “but” in a compound sentence, a comma is usually omitted.

A toddler, looking down at the first step, stands at the base of a staircase

How to Start a Novel

Starting a novel is an exceptionally personal affair, so I’m always amazed when someone decides to tell us all the best way to do it. Nonetheless, there are some basic guiding principles a struggling writer might find helpful. If you’ve been burning to begin but can’t seem to type the first word, read on.

8 Tips for Creative Writers on Facebook

I often encourage creative writers to join one or more private Facebook groups where they can post questions and share resources with other writers. There are specialized groups for children’s book writers, romance writers, fantasy—you name it.

Who Gets Capitalized in a Novel?

Few readers will be puzzled by the capital D in the first example and the small d (and s) in the second. “Detective MacSwain” is treated like a name, a proper noun; “detective” (like “sleuth”) is a common noun. But what form would you choose in the following examples?