Monday, April 7, 2014


If you were confronted with The Kingston Trio’s age-old dilemma of being stranded on a subway beneath the streets of Boston - never to return, and with your fate still unknown - which three books on the craft of writing would you want in your knapsack?

My three choices are:

1. ON WRITING by Stephen King;

2. THE FIRE IN FICTION by Donald Maass; and

3. THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE by Strunk and White.

Stephen King (and Meryl Streep) can make a grocery list sound suspenseful so I would be assured of entertainment. Reading his advice, or advice he received and implemented, makes me want to immediately click open a blank document and start writing. Of course, in this surreal scenario on the subway, the netbook would have lifetime batteries.  

My reason for wanting Donald Maass’s book is simple. I’ve read THE FIRE IN FICTION through several times, marked passages and highlighted important points. But he also offers practical exercises for improving an early draft that focus on character, turning points of a scene, and my favorite: sustaining tension. A person could spend a lifetime on those exercises.  

If you ever experience brain freeze, or have a mental block in one particular area where the word choice always eludes you, then THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE is worth owning. Do you know the proper use of an ellipsis? Are you familiar with the “serial” comma? How confident are you in your word usage/spelling:

 its, it’s;

their, there, they’re;

that, which;

however, nevertheless;

farther, further;

effect, affect;

then, than;

past, passed (my Achilles heel!!!) 

Wasn’t it Sonny Bono who (that) said, “And the list goes on . . .”?


  1. Aloha Gail,

    So nice to "meet" another writer here in Honolulu.

    I'm following you on Twitter, so if you ever hear of a writer's group getting together, let me know :)

    PS... I always promote the first and third choices... haven't read Donald's book - yet :)

    Happy Monday :)

  2. I haven't read The Fire In Fiction yet. Thanks for the recommendation, Gail. :)

  3. Thanks for visiting, Mark and Veronica.

    Mark, Sisters in Crime/Hawaii is a group of readers and writers with an interest in the Mystery genre but not exclusive to that genre. We meet the third Wednesday of each month. It is a Sisters and Misters group!

    Veronica, Hope you check out The Fire in Fiction. I use it as a reference book in my writing.

  4. Stopping by on the 7th day of the #Challenge. Congratulations on a well presented blog and content. Know you are going to make new blogging friends. If you have time or interest, I am writing about gardening and related topics this month. Stop by.

  5. Great choices! The Elements of Style was recommended to me not long ago. It is a life saver!

    Ayden from A to Z

  6. Stephen King, of course... stopping by via A to Z challenge... Thanks for stopping by my blog... :)

  7. Thank you, Stepheny. I'll be visiting your blog soon!

    Ayden, my copy is so worn, I should probably buy a new one.

    I agree, Linda. Stephen King, of course.


Aloha and thank you for visiting today! All comments are welcome.
For those who prefer to comment via email: