|Read up on semicolons here|
A good book to wet your toes in the grammar pool is It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences: A Writer's Guide to Crafting Killer Sentences. It's practical and straightforward, and written by someone who's actually spent time editing in the real world. Because if this, she acknowledges that there can be more than one way to interpret a sentence grammatically, and many ways to fix it.
I have the Daily Writing Tips Grammar category on my RSS feed, and it's a great way to get a ten minute lesson in on a busy day.
This year, I'm also working my way through some more advanced books:
where Virginia Tufte "shows how standard sentence patterns and forms contribute to meaning and art in more than a thousand wonderful sentences from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. "
This workbook takes you through twenty sentence patterns, e.g. a series of balanced pairs, compound sentence with elliptical construction, object or complement before subject and verb.
There are also chapters like: combining sentence patterns, myths about coordinators, and the twenty patterns in print (with examples drawn from published writing).
I'm learning so much by intentionally writing sentences in a specific structure. I do this as an exercise - not while I'm working on stories. When I'm writing a story, all I can bring to bear are the lessons that I have internalized through practice. I want to have these elements DOWN, so that the story can flow unimpeded.
To some, my enthusiasm may look a little obsessive, and I'll own that. Certainly all that's required to convey a story is competency in grammar, but why shoot for competency when you can shoot for the stars? If the story is the message then the words and the GRAMMAR are the medium. The more I understand the nuances of grammar the more I can convey the story with subtlety and power. My ability to control and manipulate the elements of grammar is a big part of what makes up my writer's voice. It also gives me the ability to adapt my voice to the needs of individual stories. It's how I hone the emotions and themes of a story to a razor sharp edge.
I'll always be learning, always making mistakes. There's no such thing as a perfect story, but that's why art is all about the pursuit of perfection.