Concentrating on Writing Style


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  1. #1

    Concentrating on Writing Style

    Should you concentrate on writing style when writing? Is it true that writing style cannot be achieved by concentrating on it?

  2. #2
    How would you even do that?

  3. #3
    Mentor Megan Pearson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lumino View Post
    Should you concentrate on writing style when writing? Is it true that writing style cannot be achieved by concentrating on it?
    I'll give this a try. My opinion is that we can and should write in a certain style and that our choice of genre and intended audience should influence the style in which we write. For example, I am embarking on a rewrite of a manuscript I wrote some time ago. It is a fantasy piece and was originally written for a high school / college aged audience. However, in recent talks with parents, I am considering what this story would look like if I backed up my age group to middle school students. (I am undecided as of yet.) I am sure this change will affect the style in which I wrote the original manuscript because, if I do this, I expect I will be more conscientious of word choice (i.e., have to nix my serendipitously chosen long words), simplify the relationship issues, and will aim for a clearer, more concise story.

    Contrast this with two of my other works-in-progress. One is a space opera--high on adventure and relationships--and another is hard SF where I am trying to incorporate a serious philosophical discussion into the storyline. The more serious my work is, the more serious the tone in which I write. Having just completed a master's thesis (yaeh!!) I can tell you that style is highly important in academia where one's style adds to (or subtracts from) one's credibility. Thus, my opinion is that style is something we may conscientiosly work towards and is influenced by many factors. Awareness of these factors will help us in adopting the style best suited for our writing.

    There are a lot of good style guides out there. Strunk and White's The Elements of Style is, of course, at the top of the list, as is The Elephants of Style, by Bill Walsh, which adds a bit of humor to what at first glance might seem a dry read.
    "A ship in the harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for."
    ~ John A. Shedd


  4. #4
    The only 'style' that matters is the one that delivers the story clearly. To focus on style beyond a simple question of clarity is to focus on the color of the curtains to assess the structural integrity of a house. In other words, pointless. Worse than pointless, it's yet another example of navel-gazing writing avoidance.

    You like stylish writing? Great. Then read a lot of good books, write a lot, and stylish writing will come. Naturally. But nobody, repeat nobody, in any number that matters is going to love or hate your book because of 'style'. People don't read books for poetry (unless it's poetry), they read for story. Vivid descriptions are great, but they are vastly secondary compared to the bread-and-butter, nuts-and-bolts of character, place, movement, emotion.

    I have personally found that over the years my writing has not stylistically changed much. It has got better, certainly, but whenever I have tried to affect a certain style - and believe me, I have done that shit a LOT - the result has always been poor. My best writing is my honest writing. My best writing is far closer to the way I write letters to my mother than it is to *insert name of much admired author here* . In other words, concentrating on style beyond SPAG and the odd special effect here and there (I just finished a short story written in second person present tense, for instance), is pointless.
    "If you don't like my peaches, don't shake my tree."

    "Perhaps I write for no one. Perhaps for the same person children are writing for when they scrawl their names in the snow."

  5. #5
    Mentor Megan Pearson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    The only 'style' that matters is the one that delivers the story clearly.
    I'll agree to that. Clarity communicates.


    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    I have personally found that over the years my writing has not stylistically changed much.
    Are you sure it's not your tone and voice that have remained the same? For example, I read your LM submission last month and it had great style. (It really was very good.) But if you had written in that same style in some modern genre, I fail to see how that would have worked as effectively in, say, a CSI-type forensics story. Like you said, the style has to deliver the story clearly, which seems to affirm that style may be genre-determined.


    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    In other words, concentrating on style beyond SPAG and the odd special effect here and there..., is pointless.
    Well, that's debatable. The first point of contention my professor had on my first draft this semester was for me to adjust my style to better fit the purpose of my paper.

    Ouch.

    (I fixed it, of course. Which seems to indicate that we can & do control the style in which we write.)


    Maybe a better question to ask might be, "what is style"?
    Then we can follow it up with questions like, "how do we influence style" and "when is it appropriate to adopt a certain style"?
    (& so-on & etc.)
    "A ship in the harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for."
    ~ John A. Shedd


  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Megan Pearson View Post
    Are you sure it's not your tone and voice that have remained the same? For example, I read your LM submission last month and it had great style. (It really was very good.) But if you had written in that same style in some modern genre, I fail to see how that would have worked as effectively in, say, a CSI-type forensics story. Like you said, the style has to deliver the story clearly, which seems to affirm that style may be genre-determined.

    Well, that's debatable. The first point of contention my professor had on my first draft this semester was for me to adjust my style to better fit the purpose of my paper.

    Ouch.

    (I fixed it, of course. Which seems to indicate that we can & do control the style in which we write.)


    Maybe a better question to ask might be, "what is style"?
    Then we can follow it up with questions like, "how do we influence style" and "when is it appropriate to adopt a certain style"?
    (& so-on & etc.)
    Having read some of lumino's other threads and between-the-lines on this one, I interpreted their definition of style here in terms of aesthetic choice and character of expression rather than the kind of style one might find defined in 'elements'.

    To that degree, my writing style has not changed much, no. It has developed, but mostly along a single track. I do write different stories in different narrative voices, and different voices do demand different approaches - when I write thriller or suspense it's certainly a different 'feel' for when I write something more, uh, whimsical. But I don't see this as about a change in style so much as a transposition of MY style into a certain voice. It's a small difference but an important one. Regardless of what I write, I still fixate on more or less the same range of things.

    For example, I am big on exploring my character's emotional states. I find it so very hard to be subtle about the way my characters feel about things. It's ironic, because i"m not a particularly emotional person IRL, but the Hemingway-esque style of exploring complex emotions through small surface hints, which I have always admired, does not come naturally to me as it does others. I incorporate a lot of character's thoughts and feelings and tend to like to explore those in quite forceful terms, often in real time (writing the thoughts in parenthesis or italics or whatever). This all runs a risk of melodrama and, yeah, overwrite...but it also means when it works I am able to generate a powerful image and a good amount of emotional clout where a more naturally minimalistic or reserved writer may struggle.

    And that ^ doesn't change according to the piece. I have tried to write more abstractly and subtly and sometimes I can...but it doesn't change what's natural. And I maintain all writers do their best work when they write naked.
    Last edited by luckyscars; May 19th, 2019 at 07:01 AM.
    "If you don't like my peaches, don't shake my tree."

    "Perhaps I write for no one. Perhaps for the same person children are writing for when they scrawl their names in the snow."

  7. #7
    Mentor Megan Pearson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    And I maintain all writers do their best work when they write naked.
    ROTFL... Hey, how can I comment on what you've written when I can't stop laughing hilariously--!

    (Talk about using rhetoric to win an argument!!!!)
    "A ship in the harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for."
    ~ John A. Shedd


  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Megan Pearson View Post
    ROTFL... Hey, how can I comment on what you've written when I can't stop laughing hilariously--!

    (Talk about using rhetoric to win an argument!!!!)
    Filth!
    "If you don't like my peaches, don't shake my tree."

    "Perhaps I write for no one. Perhaps for the same person children are writing for when they scrawl their names in the snow."

  9. #9
    Going to suggest a book on style and sentence structure and grammar but it has nothing to do with poetry. According to user reviews there's a book on poetry that is worth reading. I have a collection on books on poetry. None are written in an accessible way for me to read. I have decided only to get the grammar book for the time being. I might get the poetry book if the circumstances are favorable. I am trying to save money in case I need it since I could need to buy something expensive.

    This is my research. Take on mind I haven't bought them so I can't recommend them. But I am only going to focus on these two areas in some time in the future. The poetry book one user said to paraphrase is for the difficult task of learning poetry if it could be taught since it is difficult to teach poetry and to learn it. Dsylexia also ruins my attention span.

    ( Loyola state university wrote this for a college audience and general readership but it needs further investigating)
    https://www.amazon.com/dp/1503523195...v_ov_lig_dp_it

    https://www.amazon.com/dp/152456317X...v_ov_lig_dp_it
    This book is the answer key to the book I linked above from loyola. Look at the preview if interested. It has to do with sentence structure and style.

    https://www.amazon.com/dp/0673990133...v_ov_lig_dp_it

    Book on poetry that supposedly is used by others who can't seem to learn poetry ( good for self-study according to reviews and for those who can't attend writing centers).
    Last edited by Theglasshouse; May 19th, 2019 at 04:58 PM.
    I would follow as in believe in the words of good moral leaders. Rather than the beliefs of oneself.
    The most difficult thing for a writer to comprehend is to experience silence, so speak up. (quoted from a member)

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Megan Pearson View Post
    The first point of contention my professor had on my first draft this semester was for me to adjust my style to better fit the purpose of my paper.
    Your college professor is right. Style comes in many waves: always shifting. On a wider macro level, it caters to the audience you're targetting. E.g., you wouldn't use 'we evaporate water at' in an academic paper. You'd choose nominalization: verbs into the process -- Evaporation occurs at.... (It gets rid of the subject like passive voice, and focuses less on who's doing it, but more the process itself.) Then shifting that style to change to fiction, you'd say "He popped the kettle on'.

    That's on the wider level, but then when you go more to micro level, you have style changes towards each character voice. E.g., you could have one character say "I don't do the flying." Another say "I travel abroad by plane, and often." Whilst another could say "I'm a frequent international traveler."

    Style is everything. It starts at word choice, how sentences are put together, arranged, to how themes are threaded into paragraphs and beyond. It's what makes imagery vivid and the story a must-read and memorable. When someone says "can you relax style" you're more than likely trying to target the wrong audience, mostly because it's too formal a style for the likes of, say, contemporary fiction.

    On all the books I've read about style, mine didn't click until I studied for my linguistics hons degree. It taught me creativity shifts between different registers: from Fiction, to academic (both utilize creative tools to hide the subject) right down to graffiti art on a wall, and I thought, okay, stuff it. Just relax, write in a voice you'd love to have come at you, and let it shift and change with each character, showing that diversity with creativity and how it all changes according to context.
    "You don't wanna ride the bus like this,"

    Mike Posner.



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