Two For One!

Aren’t you lucky? Today, you not only get a 100-word flash fiction, but, at no extra charge, you get a little writing lore as well.

Yeah, I wouldn’t do well writing for infomercials, would I?

Here’s today’s Friday Fictioneers inspirational photo:

And here’s a piece I call, “Winter Wonderland.”

I wasn’t sure if it were safe to go out yet, but the dog, cooped up for so many days, was insistent. I tried to keep him close, but dogs wander. Still, I understood. Cabin fever had grasped me, too.
The blanket of snow seemed muted beneath the still-gray sky but was so beautiful compared to the four walls where we’d hunkered down. There were no tracks except ours.
The dog bounded toward the road. I slogged after him, my cries loud in the still air, echoing off the trees.
You don’t go far from home in a nuclear winter.
Yes, I’d gone a few days without any apocalyptic writing. 😉 Now, here’s your bonus–a brief discussion about a writing tool I can’t be without.
Even after teaching English, being a journalist and an editor, and writing since I was ten, there are certain aspects of English grammar where I still falter. Lie versus Lay. Which versus That. Those are my particular downfalls. I’ll write them one way, decide they’re wrong, write them the other way, then discover I was right the first time.
Who wants to go pull the dusty, old English Grammar Reference off the shelf? Not I. I use a small tome that has been on or near my myriad writing desks for the past forty years–The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr., and E.B. White, or as it’s colloquially called “Strunk and White.”
“Make every word tell,” was Cornell English professor William Strunk, Jr.’s advice to his students, one of whom was E. B. White, ofCharlotte’s Web fame. Strunk wrote the first The Elements of Style in 1918 and made it obligatory for his students. It wasn’t until after Strunk’s death that E.B. White, writing in The New Yorker, told the world about the “forty-three page summation of the case for cleanliness, accuracy, and brevity in the use of English.” White was asked to edit a re-issuance of the volume to bring it into modern usage. That was about sixty years ago, and this “little book,” as White called it, is still an indispensable aid to writers from high schoolers toiling over term papers to the rest of us who hope to be considered accomplished.
My well-thumbed copy, which helped me write features and editorials as a reporter and countless government reports, is still packed away with my work “stuff,” so I had to replace it with this fairly fresh copy (below). Strunk and White pares down the sometimes vague structures of English grammar to the basics of language usage and composition.
It has almost doubled in size from the forty-three page volume White extolled in The New Yorker and now has a glossary and an index. It’s original outline remains much the same as Strunk’s version from the early part of the previous century: Elementary Rules of Usage, Elementary Principles of Composition, A Few Matters of Form, Words and Expressions Commonly Misused (my personal favorite), and An Approach to Style. (I love the perfection of those section titles.)
Strunk and White is great for writers who hate grammar–notice they don’t use the word–because it has condensed the whole, arcane grammatical schema into a pocket-sized reference. You could call it “Style Basics” and be accurate, but “The Elements of Style” is just, well, stylish.
My new copy cost me ten dollars in a book store, but consider it an investment. Big box and independent book stores will order you a copy upon request. You can get a used copy from Amazon for as little as seven dollars or from free to $2.99 in the Kindle Store–though the Kindle version is the original Strunk work. Go for the Strunk and White version. If you’re a Nook person, the price and the version is the same. A used copy from Barnes and Noble can be as low as three dollars.
Considering the state of some of the indie published books I’ve been reading to review, every person who calls him- or herself a writer should own one of these and use it. Then, you won’t be disingenuous when you call yourself an author.
I have no financial interest in The Elements of Style or with its publishers. It’s just a darned good writing book.