Grammar for Fiction Writers: Busy Writer's Guides Book (2014)


Why a Grammar Guide for Fiction Writers?

I‘m in the odd category of people known as editors. Like writers, editors love words, but we also love the intricacies of grammar and punctuation that can make many writers feel like crying.

Because I know not everyone is like me, I wanted to create this book for people who struggle with grammar, as well as for those who might just want a refresher.

This book is specifically for fiction writers. The world of grammar is huge, but not everything applies to someone who’s writing a novel or short story. In fact, some of the rules you were taught in your high school or college/university English class will actually hurt your fiction writing, not help it.

Like all the books in the Busy Writer’s Guides series, Grammar for Fiction Writers is fluff-free. It won’t teach you things you don’t need to know. The focus is on teaching you the punctuation and grammar that are relevant to you as a fiction writer. While some elements are universally needed by writers (and are included), others are especially important for fiction writers (and have been given their own sections), and still others don’t matter for fiction writers at all (and, as such, aren’t in this book). The purpose of grammar for fiction writers is making your writing clearer and more interesting for your readers.

This book was written with the goal of respecting your time—quickly and clearly teaching you what you need to know, in an approachable, friendly way, so that you can get back to writing your book. I know all these rules can be intimidating.

The point of this book isn’t to turn you into a copy editor. If you decide to self-publish your book, you’ll still need to hire a copy editor. None of us are objective enough to catch all our own errors.

When you finish, however, you should be able to write clean prose, not have your query letter or proposal rejected because of egregious errors, and pay less when you do hire a copy editor (the cleaner your book, the less a copy edit usually costs). You’ll also be a more effective final pair of eyes for your book and catch anything that your copy editor or proofreader might have missed (because no one is perfect).


If this is the first Busy Writer’s Guide you’ve read, you’re not familiar with what the Take It to the Page section is. If you have checked out a Busy Writer’s Guide before, you’re probably coming in with a set of expectations.

Before we dive into the meat of the book, we wanted to take the time to explain to you what a Take It to the Page section is and how the Take It to the Page sections in this book differ slightly from those in other books in the Busy Writer’s Guide series.

The point of Busy Writer’s Guides is to give you enough theory so that you can understand why things work and why they don’t, enough examples to see how that theory looks in practice, and tips and exercises to help you take it to the pages of your own story with an editor’s-eye view. The editing tips and exercises are usually placed in a Take It to the Page section that gives you a step-by-step guide you can follow when self-editing.

Because grammar is detail-oriented, many of the how-to suggestions you’d normally find in the Take It to the Page sections are going to come in the chapters themselves because they’re largely memory tips for how to remember to do it right while you’re writing. Beyond this, grammar is one of those places where there isn’t a fast track to corrections. If you’re fixing your book post-writing, you will need to read it through slowly and carefully.

But that doesn’t mean this book is without any Take It to the Page sections. Wherever we can, we still want to give you tricks and shortcuts to make this grammar editing thing easier. And, as always, you can find a printable version of the Take It to the Page sections by using the link and password at the end of the book.


When it comes to buying a grammar book—especially a grammar book for fiction writers—it makes sense that you’d want to know who the authors are and whether or not they really know what they’re talking about. So allow us to introduce ourselves.

Marcy Kennedy has been editing professionally since 2006, and she’s worked on a variety of websites, articles, newsletters, brochures, essays, flysheets, grant proposals, and promotional materials. Her specialization, though, is in editing fiction. She’s edited widely across genres, on novels, novellas, and short stories, and at all levels—from developmental editing to line editing to copy editing to proofreading.

Alongside her editing, Marcy is also an award-winning writer and teaches classes on the writing craft through W.A.N.A. International and at conferences. She’s the author of the bestselling Busy Writer’s Guides series of books.

Chris Saylor has been editing professionally since 2007. He’s worked on a wide variety of documents, including short stories, novellas, pitch letters, book synopses, memoirs, dissertations, theses, essays, and web content. The clients he has done work for include the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Congress, the Jewish Federations of North America,, Dove Press, Molecular Vision, Firefly Books, Ivey Publishing, Genpact, Hult Business School, Ted’s Montana Grill,, and He also does content writing and SEO optimization.

Chris is currently an in-house editor for He primarily works with nonfiction material, and thus takes a very technical approach to his editing and writing.


Because this is a grammar book for fiction writers, we’ll be using terms that we expect you, as a fiction writer, to already know. For example, we’re assuming you know what point of view is or what a first-person narrator is. We won’t be defining those terms within the body of the book. If you’re not sure what those terms mean, we have included a quick glossary in Appendix C to help you out, and we recommend that you check out other books in the Busy Writer’s Guide series, as well as Marcy’s blog at