Indefinite/Definite Articles: Writing Fundamentals 2

definite vs indefinite articles

This is going to be a post on a bizarre pet peeve of mine. This advice isn’t as universal as my dozens of other posts on writing. It’s an idiosyncrasy of my own personal taste. Yet, of all the writers I think of as taking the craft of prose seriously, I can’t find anyone that … Read more

Showing a Scene: Writing Fundamentals 1

showing a scene writing fundamentals

I have a Kindle Unlimited subscription, so I start a lot of self-published books. Many of these are bad (don’t take this the wrong way: 90% of everything is bad). I don’t want to criticize specific people or their writing, but I really want to dig into some of the fundamental problems with some passages I’ve … Read more

The Difficulty of Invisible Description

invisible description

Invisible description is the essence of great writing. Let’s dig into the mechanics of making this happen. I’ve been reading Fool Moon by Jim Butcher, the second Dresden Files novel. In the middle of a fight with a werewolf, the narrator uses this simile: I was flung back through the air like a piece of … Read more

Tonal Consistency in Fantasy Writing

tonal consistency fantasy

Tonal consistency is often overlooked in fantasy writing. Today I’m going to discuss a topic that ranges from extreme, blatant violations to subtle, accidental slip-ups and why they matter. Fantasy Writing The language of fantasy writing is much harder to get right than many “literary fiction” writers give it credit for. In fact, I’d say … Read more

Examining F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Prose

f scott fitzgerald prose

Today we’ll look at some prose from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. I couldn’t put this off forever; any series about prose would be remiss to skip Fitzgerald. Many writers these days pop out 120,000-word novels every year. The Great Gatsby clocks in at about 47,000 words and was finely tuned over three years. … Read more

Examining Jonathan Franzen’s Prose

jonathan franzen

I started this series back in May, but it fell off after critiquing Mislaid. I still had a few writers I wanted to examine, and since Jonathan Franzen was one of them and I just finished Purity, now is as good a time as any to pick it back up. Prose Style of Jonathan Franzen … Read more

Examining Nell Zink’s Prose

nell zink prose

Today we’re going to examine some prose from Nell Zink’s newest novel Mislaid. She came to prominence last year, when her debut novel, The Wallcreeper was championed by the New York Times as a notable book of the year. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Unfortunately, this post is going to … Read more

Examining John Cheever’s Prose

john cheever prose

Today, let’s turn to the master himself, John Cheever. As I said in the first post on the series, many say this modern “MFA” set of rules teaches people to write like Cheever. What might be surprising is just how often he doesn’t follow them. Today’s rule is the roughest of them all. Avoid Narrative … Read more

Examining Ian McEwan’s Prose

ian mcewan prose

Today I’ll pick a passage from Ian McEwan’s Black Dogs to talk about. I really wanted to do something from McEwan, because he is considered the quintessential example of clean, clear writing for our time. I’ve read many of his books (including the more famous ones), but I only own two of the lesser-known ones, … Read more