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The purpose of writing is to communicate from one person to another. If writing does not convey the intended message; it could be argued it fails to be real writing.
No matter what you write, it must flow naturally – forcing style just doesn’t work, style is inherent. Your voice is the way in which you choose and use words, sentences and paragraphs. This usually develops from your life experiences, the way you view the world and the people in it, and the ways in which you react to complex and aesthetic influences. Writers may use different ‘voices’ within their work, but the overall style is the writer’s style. Since each character in the writer's novel has a unique personality, so each character will also have their own distinctive voice.
Just because your style of writing is unique to you doesn’t meant that you can’t improve on it; all writing improves as you write. The more you write, and the more you read, the better writer you become. At the end of the day, though, you will still have your own inherent style of writing. That does not mean, of course, that grammatical or other writing rules are thrown out of the window to suit your style! Style in writing includes not just the style that you write in, but also all the elements that make up good prose. In the words of Anne Enright, “Only bad writers think that their work is really good”.
Keep it Simple
Your aim is to engage and interest your readers and not lose them in the first chapter. What you convey to your readers shouldn’t be complicated; you are not trying to demonstrate your cleverness or writing proficiency. Your readers should be unaware of you as the writer. You should aim for simplicity, clarity and cogency. As Elmore Leonard said “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it”.
Use Words with Care
The words you use and the way you arrange them is central to your style and you can work on improving your diction. Make sure that you understand the meaning of the words you use; have a thesaurus handy (but limit its use) plus a dictionary, or search on the internet if you are stuck. Increase your word knowledge, after all writing is made up of words, but don’t force this - you are not trying to impress your reader with your extensive vocabulary! Use the words that are most familiar to you and that you would use in everyday communication. Work on gradually extending that vocabulary. Familiarise yourself with new words before using them; if you use words that you are unfamiliar with, you are more likely to use them incorrectly or your work may not flow. As PD James said: “Words are the raw material of our craft. The greater your vocabulary the more ¬effective your writing”. You also improve your vocabulary and the quality of your writing through voracious reading and plying your craft every single day.
Write Clear Sentences
Construct coherent and clear sentences. Avoid overly long sentences but do vary the length. Limit lengthy descriptions unless you are an extremely proficient writer or have an incredible talent for it. Sentences should be simple and direct; rewrite sentences to limit verbosity or repetition. For example, compare the following sentences:
“This is the way in which it is done”.
“This is how it’s done”.
The second is shorter and clearer and flows better.
Read everything you write several times, put your work away and come back to it later and read it again. Writing isn’t a single step process. Coming back to what you have written gives you the opportunity to develop and improve your writing style. Your first draft won’t be perfect. It is constant editing and revision that will make it so.
You should avoid clichés and stay true to your style. Writing that is peppered with clichés and too many metaphors, tends to be stilted and amateurish.
Opt for Active Verbs and Adjectives
Use active verbs, adjectives (within reason) and nouns in preference to adverbs. Adverbs (which usually end in -ly) modify the meaning of verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. Examples: He ran quickly (ran = active verb) (quickly = adverb). Stephen King suggests that adverbs are used by timid writers.
‘Show’ rather than ‘Tell’
If, for example, you are trying to demonstrate that a character is sad, then show it by their actions rather than telling the reader. For example:
“Sally was sad and shocked when she realised she would never see Andrea again”. This is telling.
“Sally’s head spun, her heart sank and she bit back tears – she would never see Andrea again’. This is showing.
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