Wednesday, August 15, 2012
How to Write With Style
Reviewed by OFW editor: Renée Miller
Published: July 06, 2012

I freelance for websites and private clients, writing a variety of articles in different formats and styles. Now, with this writing, “voice” and “style” are usually predetermined. What I mean by that is, my style and voice has no place in these articles. It’s not wanted. Each client has a set of guidelines determining how the articles must feel and sound. Some of them even have blacklisted words and phrases. I kid you not. They are strict about this because they want their style to be consistent. When you have several writers contributing content, the only way to achieve consistency is to have them write to the voice and style of the site. There is nothing in the articles that reveals who I am to the reader, save the byline.

In fiction, this type of writing would be suicidal. The little bits and pieces unique to our writing are what tell the reader what kind of person they’re sharing their time with. Are we informed, sarcastic, bitter, happy, or irreverent? Perhaps we’re a bit naïve, humorless or mysterious.
Writing with a genuine style and voice is your way of telling your reader you care about them and you appreciate their time. So how do you write with “genuine” style? It depends on your experiences, your vocabulary and your tastes. Yes, it’s that simple. Here are a few tips offered to me throughout my writing journey that I’ve found very useful. Some of them I ignored initially, and my writing suffered as a result. When I kept them in the back of my mind as I wrote, the difference in the quality of my writing and the appeal of my stories to my beta readers was huge.
Write about something meaningful.
Don’t just write about anything you think readers will find interesting. The truth is, it’s impossible to predict what will be the next big thing in fiction. Even if you did guess, by the time your book makes it to a shelf, that fad will be over and the next will have started. The only way to ensure interest is to write something meaningful. If you don’t write about something you care about, something that resonates in your heart somehow (good or bad), then why should your reader care to read? Playing around with fancy words and sentence structure won’t fool the reader at all. What is most compelling is reading an author who obviously cares about what he’s sharing. This passion shines through without effort.
Don’t ramble.
Write with purpose. Rambling is boring and distracting, which are the very things you don’t want to torture your reader with. Including passages or scenes that have no purpose other than to show off or fill space only serves to clutter the prose and hide your voice.
Purple is bad.
Simple words, simple sentences—simple, simple, simple. The most complex ideas are best conveyed in just a few words. When you overcomplicate things and write with flowery prose, or stupid-long words, it’s like you’re wearing a mask that hides the real you from the reader. More importantly, this disguise is obvious. Trust in your own ability to create meaningful, intelligent prose without the fluff and the reader will trust you enough to keep reading.
Cut, cut, cut.
If what you’ve written does not provide anything new or contribute something useful to the story, it does not belong. Cut it. If a line or a scene is simply there because you’re so impressed with your brilliant wordsmithing skills that you can’t bear to remove it, it does not belong. Cut it. Need I go on?
Listen to yourself.
Use the writing style and language that is most natural for you. If you’re forcing the words, trying to make yourself sound like someone you aren’t, it shows. To the reader you seem pretentious or not as confident as you should be, and this is a turn-off. Write the way you speak. You might not find it appealing, but the reader will pick up on the authenticity and your writing will shine.
Style is subjective and personal, but that doesn’t give you permission to go off the beaten path.
Give your readers a break. They’ve got to look at all of that text and immediately make sense of it in order to immerse themselves into your fictional world. There are reasons why rules and formats are established. There are reasons why sentence and paragraph structures vary, and dialogue is written a certain way. There are reasons why characters are developed a certain way, and there are reasons why you shouldn’t do this or that. Study the art of writing. Learn the how and the why of every rule. Memorize grammar rules until your head hurts. Then, and only then, are you qualified to make a stylistic choice that goes against the herd. You like long blocks of text? Most readers don’t. If you opt to write this way, have a good reason for doing so other than wanting to stand out. Believe me; you’ll stand out, but not in a shining, brilliant sort of way.
These are all suggestions, of course. The key to giving your writing voice and style is to let it flow naturally. If it feels wrong, forced, or uncomfortable to you, it will feel the same for your reader. Your style and your voice are your personal stamps and no one else’s will ever be like yours. No, not even if they set about to purposely copy it.

Login/Register to leave a comment, or Login using or
Post Comments
No Comment Found.