The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Edition: The Manual is considered the de facto guide for American English style, grammar, and punctuation. Even if you’re a rouge punctuator (or a neologist), you should know the rules, and then break them.
Urban Dictionary: Slip some spicy slang into your writing, and keep it hip and loose. For a daily dose of street lingo, download Slango Lite, Urban Dictionary’s free app.
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King: Part instruction manual, part engaging memoir, King offers insight that is down-to-earth, witty, and sympathetic. This will be one of the most enjoyable and constructive writing guides you’ll ever read, we promise.
Every book you might ever encounter: William Faulkner astutely advised, “Read, read, read. Read everything–trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write.” You probably should heed his advice.
Happy Birthday, Noah Lukeman, born 28 November 1973
Personally, I am always more impressed by simplicity, clarity; it is the mark of a writer who knows his subject well and is secure enough not to ‘lay it on’ in the telling. Aim for complexity of thought, not expression.
Reading a stretch of dialogue is like stretching one’s legs after a long car ride: it gives readers the renewed vigour they need to get back onto the road, into the thick world of prose.
Subtlety is the mark of confidence and is thus by far the hardest thing for a writer to achieve.
We must remember that reading is as much about education as it is entertainment, and even small flourishes can help serve this function and add a whole new dimension to a text.
Unfortunately, these days, 'literary’ writing seems to have become synonymous with 'showy’ writing, writing that is beautiful but doesn’t tell a story. This is a misguided trend. If today’s 'literary’ writers would look back only one or two hundred years at real literary writers like Dostoyevsky, Poe, Conrad, Melville, they would find momentous stories–not just pretty writing–at the core of almost all of their great works.
Writing is about simplicity and clarity, and the best way to achieve this is to allow each thought its own sentence.
Unless you wish your writing to seem juvenile or empty-headed, follow this rule: Never use an exclamation point when another mark will serve adequately and properly.
There is an underlying rhythm to all text. Sentences crash and fall like the waves of the sea, and work unconsciously on the reader. Punctuation is the music of language. As a conductor can influence the experience of a song by manipulating its rhythm, so can punctuation influence the reading experience, bring out the best (or worst) in a text. By controlling the speed of a text, punctuation dictates how it should be read.
Your creativity should be expressed through your writing, not your font.
Pretend a stranger has just asked you the question that all writers dread: “What is your book about?” Can you answer that question quickly and definitively in 10 seconds or less? If not, why not? The answer to this will be the key to finding the right synopsis for your plot.
Lukeman is an American literary agent, actor, script-writer and author of works about writing and literature. His books includeA Dash of Style: The Art and Mastery of Punctuation and The First Five Pages: A Writer’s Guide to Staying out of the Rejection Pile.