Style: not just something you’re born with

I try not to give much writing advice on this blog because I only have a lifetime of reading, a four year English degree and two moderate bestsellers to my name. However, there are a few things I want to get off my chest that I’ve come across time and time again not only in beta reads and self-published works, but in traditionally published books as well.

Style. It’s not just something you’re born with. It’s something you can learn. Ignoring style makes your writing look tacky and unprofessional. Readers are inundated with a gazillion books at any one time: they are looking for a reason not to read yours. Don’t encourage them by having bad style.

  • There’s a prevalence in YA of what we reviewers call ‘purple prose’. This is overly-wordy sentences and metaphors or descriptions that make no sense, like ‘cat-green eyes’ (which book is that from again? Someone please remind me!). Because really, I’ve never seen a green cat. Don’t try to overdo your writing. Simple and plain prose can be just as effective as poetic prose, and you’re much closer to not crossing the line into purple.

 

  • Some people don’t know when to start a new paragraph. One paragraph contains one idea and should maintain a logical flow of information. Dialogue almost always starts on a new line, unless it’s the same person talking. If they’re talking about a new subject, that’s a new idea: so start a new paragraph.

 

  • Learn how to use apostrophes. In the plural form of a shortened word, do not add the apostrophe. “I checked all my PM’s.” = WRONG. “My PMs all say the same thing.” = RIGHT

 

  • There is a difference between passive sentences and past progressive tense. Learn it. Use it wisely. Do not accuse people of writing in passive voice when they are writing in past progressive tense. Similarly, do not write in passive voice. Active sentences are built as such: person doing the action – the action itself – the object. ‘The waves crashed on the beach’ not ‘the beach had waves crash on it.’

Remember above all to have fun. That’s not stylistic advice, that’s just general advice from me.

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Posted on May 4, 2012, in Writerly Musings and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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