Keeping it together with a nonbreaking space

In a novel, when a character is quoting another speaker or writer, the conventional way of indicating this is to put single quotation marks around the quoted material. (For American novels — British works may use punctuation marks differently.) For example: “What did she say?” asked Frida. ” ‘I wouldn’t marry you if you were […]
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IDORU Sample Chapter

Chapter 1. The Rascal. Once upon a time, there was a tiny boy who rode butterflies. They took him to flower fields where hundreds of them flitted about. His favorite place was a field of tulips, whose shiny red petals looked like cups sitting atop bright green stalks. Small fairies called Posies lived inside them. […]
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Editors

Why do you need an editor? Here are two good reasons: Reason #1: Writing is a foreign language, of which no one is a native speaker. Writing resembles thought but is different enough that translation is required. Inventing a story is usually the easy part; what writers struggle with is how to turn their story […]
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Semicolons

Semicolons: Don’t let rules-lawyers intimidate you into avoiding semicolons; they are just as acceptable and useful as commas and periods. A semicolon changes the sentence’s tone and tempo, just like changing the order of the words. It’s not right or wrong–it’s a style choice. Many people have a hard time grasping the use of this […]
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Some guidelines for revision

Don’t burden a sentence with more adjectives than are absolutely necessary. It makes them hard to swallow, like taking too big a bite of food. (“Heinrich’s oversize, powerful-looking megaphone’s ear-splitting roar would surely get those innocent, unsuspecting, dwarfish patrons off their tiny tushes.”) Use simile sparingly, because it can make you sound like a 1940’s […]
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How to use speech attribution

Speech attribution: “Don’t sweat the speech attribution thing too much,” Nelson said helpfully. “You know–the ‘he said’ part.” Thoughtfully, Pearl opined, “I’ve read that the current trend is to avoid it as much as possible, and never to use adverbs. I’ve also heard you should only use simple tags, like ‘he said’ or ‘she asked,’ […]
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Commas

Use commas wherever necessary to make the meaning of the sentence clear. No rule takes precedence over that. Remember that Chicago is a style, not a law.

Past perfect tense

Use of the past perfect tense (“I had eaten”) seems to be contentious among editors these days. It does require extra words and is therefore a little more complex for the reader to process. If overused, it makes prose cumbersome. But when your narrative is already written in the past tense–like most fiction–how do you […]
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Passive verbs

Don’t overuse passive verbs, but don’t renounce them. They exist for a reason. Sometimes, you want or need to shift the emphasis from the subject to the object of the verb. “Shortly after her twentieth birthday, she was kidnapped by the scourge of the Carolina coast: Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard.” Another time to […]
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