Woman Writing by August Macke

Welcome to Fiction+, a Shop Talk section for creative writers and those who edit and publish their work. Whether your focus is on novels and stories or creative nonfiction—or any genre that falls outside the boundaries of ordinary writing—you’ll find answers to your questions here.

Many of the rules and recommendations in The Chicago Manual of Style, originally developed for scholarly prose, apply to creative contexts also. But in Fiction+ we explore how these guidelines can be reinterpreted to take advantage of creative opportunities.

For an overview and retrospective of Fiction+, see “Advice for Fiction Writers (and Editors), Chicago-Style,” by Carol Saller.

The following list is organized according to subject. You can also find Shop Talk posts by entering key terms in our search box (add the word “fiction” to prioritize Fiction+).


Comma Splices and Run-On Sentences
Commas and Independent Clauses: A Creative Opening
Commas between Compound Predicates
Commas between Adjectives in Creative Writing
Is a Comma Needed to Introduce Dialogue?
Semicolons in Fiction
A Dash of Poetic License
En Dashes, the Editor’s Mark
“Can I Use Parentheses in Dialogue (or Not)?”
Exclamation Points in Creative Writing
“That hat!”: Punctuating How You Feel


“Hazel and I’s puppy”? When Fiction Meets Bad Grammar
“Had had”? Flashbacks and the Past Perfect
“Erg, no kidding?” Interjections in Creative Writing
How Grammar “Goofs” Work in Creative Writing
Gender-Neutral Pronouns in Creative Writing
“Whoever/Whomever” in Fiction: Which Should Your Character Use?
When to Delete “That”
Is the Subjunctive Mood Right for Fiction?

Capitalization and Italics

Who Gets Capitalized in a Novel?
When to Capitalize after a Colon
Italics for Non-English Words in Fiction
How to Mention a Real Newspaper, Book, or Song in Fiction

Abbreviations and Numbers

Abbreviations in Fiction
Numbers in Creative Writing

Dialogue and Narrative

When Characters Speak: Formatting Dialogue
Formatting Thoughts in Fiction
Formatting Text Messages in Fiction
Prose, Interrupted: Signaling Breaks in Dialogue

Manuscript Preparation and Formatting

How to Format a Novel for Submission
Counting Pages or Words in a Manuscript Submission
When Page Numbers Don’t Help
What Makes a Chapter of a Novel?
How to Reorganize Book Chapters with a Click
Should Your Novel Have Chapter Numbers or Chapter Titles?
Does Your Novel Need a Table of Contents?
Paragraphing in Manuscripts for Submission
Space Breaks in Fiction
3 Easy E-Tricks for Writers, and 1 for Fun
Preparing an Audiobook for a Narrator Who Isn’t You

Copyediting and Being Copyedited

Sure, You Got A’s in English—But Do You Know Where Commas Go?
Do You Overstep When Editing Fiction? Three Easy Cures
When Friends Find Grammar “Errors” in Your Novel
Does Your Novel Need a Copyeditor before Submission?

Writing as Craft

Janet Burroway Talks about Writing Fiction
Jack Hart Talks about Wordcraft
William Germano Talks about On Revision: The Only Writing That Counts
How to Start a Novel
Very Long Sentences in Fiction

Marketing and Social Media

How to Edit Blurbs
How to “Take Back” an Online Error
Style and Grammar in Promotional Copy
8 Tips for Creative Writers on Facebook

Crediting and Fair Use

Can I Put an iPhone in My Novel?
Crediting Images at an Author Website
When Your Novel Quotes a Real Source
Epigraphs in Fiction

Photo: Woman Writing, by August Macke (1887–1914), courtesy Wikimedia Commons.