A Writing Book For Old Fartz by Len Maxwell -- A Review
Len Maxwell, the author of "A Writing Book For Old Fartz" has published books in various genres, but more to the point for this book, he has worked as an editor for commercial and internet publishing houses. He knows what will get your submission tossed on the "not-a-chance" pile better than anyone you know. This book will tell you how to not make that happen. You won't sit down and read through this book (never mind that I've pretty much done that for this review), because it's not that kind of book.
"A Writing Book For Old Fartz" is not a book on how to write a book. It's a book on how to write, punctuate, structure and use sentences in any sort of book you might want to write. According to Len (and the book's title) it's written for people like me who have decided late in life to write and try to publish something, and who discover to their horror that they've forgotten many of the rules they learned 30, 40 or even 50 years or more ago in high school and college (even if they were straight "A" students in English in Mrs. Matthews' class). I had to relearn these rules from Len as he edited my "finished" work... most embarrassing. You have an advantage. You can simply go dig this book out from wherever it's been shoved and look up the problem you're facing. Once you've done that, put the book next to your laptop, desktop or wherever you normally write... and don't move it.
The book is written with a constant undertone of wry humor, but don't let the humor mislead you. If the book says, "Do it this way," do it that way. To do otherwise is to raise a red flag in the mind of any publisher considering your work. Make Len Maxwell your editor through the regular use of this book (check what you're doing, even if you're sure you are absolutely doing it right... if it says differently in the book - you're doing it wrong).
The book is filled with examples, often multiple lists of possible uses or forms, all of which are incorrect save one... or all of which are correct, but one of which is preferred. You will learn strange and arcane secrets of English writing. For instance, did you know that there are three (count 'em - 3) uses for an apostrophe? I just learned that while looking up an example for this paragraph.
From Chapter 9, Plurals and Possessives (page 77):
"The third purpose of an apostrophe is to make something a plural in a few limited situations. The first is when pluralizing individual letters of the alphabet, to wit:
Your son did well this year and came home with three A's and two B's.
"Note that A and B were not italicized in the sentence above because you were writing about grades. If you're writing about letters as letters, they are italicized:
My grandmother always told me to watch my p's and q's.
Here the letters are italicized, but the 's is not."
This is a constant throughout the book. It's open, easy to understand and easily related to whatever the issue in the story may be. I have only one piece of advice. If you're hoping to sell what you're writing, if you're an older writer (or not): Buy this book! You will not regret it.
Fair disclosure: Len edited my first book, "The Old Man and Me: Extraordinary Stories from an Ordinary Childhood Post WWII." "A Writing Book For Old Fartz" is both a distillation and an expansion of the things he did to make an old man's first book work well enough to get picked up by the second publisher to read it. I understand that's a seldom thing - even with indie publishers.