I’m here today with a handy tip for the season of the gift.
Order a copy of Conan the Grammarian, Practical Guidelines on Grammar and Craft for Fiction Writers.
A mere $10.
And then give it to a writer friend for Christmas or your holiday of choice. Birthdays would work, too.
Does the mere mention of the word ‘grammar’ force you to make a face like you’re eating cold undercooked lima beans? Or pickled beets?
This book about grammar is (dare I say it?) refreshing.
And very (very) funny.
The book is a distillation of Conan’s columns in the monthly RMFW newsletter. But everything has been re-written and beautifully organized. And, in terms of production values, Susan Mackay Smith shows all independent publishers out there that a self-produced book can look as sharp and feel as professional as anything coming out of New York City.
Conan claims grammatical errors are “unforgiveable” and, of course, this book goes out and proves that very fact. I didn’t spot one typo. On top of all that, the interior layout makes digesting this volume a snap. (Bibliography, glossary, and index, too.)
Yes, there’s a lot here about grammar. But focus on the second half of the title – practical guidelines and grammar and craft for fiction writers. Every lesson in grammar and usage is written with an eye on the fiction writers’ needs. Smith is writing this for you, the fiction writer.
The “Pets and Peeves” section might be worth the $10 alone (especially if you are about to submit to an agent or send a manuscript to an editor).
Same with “Toward More Colorful Writing.” This section will give you a boost and also give you a few issues to ponder as you edit. It’s a snappy checklist for self-improvement. This is “Perfect Abs in Twenty Minutes A Day” and, this time, it works.
I devoured Conan the Grammarian with a smile on my face and a pen handy to ink-up the pages with underlines at key passages and stars in the margins.
Do any of these sound useful? “Narrative & Description; Showing vs. Telling.” “Voice.” “Action.” “Clichés of Characterization.” “The Hated Revision.” Twenty-seven sub-chapters in all, you can do the math. The reading is brisk and the points are efficiently made. (Having judged Colorado Gold and other writing contests for years, Susan Mackay Smith knows when the brain starts to hurt or the eyes glaze over.) When I was finished, I felt as if I had a new, higher bar to reach. I felt like a better writer.
Conan wants the ideas and the story in your head to reach the reader in clear, efficient and powerful fashion. You may think you know what you are trying to say, but is the story in your head making the journey to your reader's imagination in the most effective way possible? The most clear?
Conan may not be cuddly, but he will set you straight.
(Get two; one for you and one for a writer pal.)
Order on Amazon here.