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What is your writing style? Part one

I recently decided to take a break from writing scenes in my current manuscript until I get a better feeling for where my story is going.

While I continue to brainstorm scenes, there is one thing I’m working on—my style.

For a writer, style is how we put words together on the page. Style is syntax—the order of our words. Style is poetry—choosing just the right word. Style is the underlying foundation of everything we write. Style is being conscious of what words we choose, how we order our sentences and paragraphs and pages, and why.

At the Surrey International Writers’ Conference this year I was reminded of the importance of continuing to work on my writing style by author Jack Whyte. He reminded me of the writer’s basic bible, The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition by William Strunk, Jr. and E B. White.

Most of us have this book but how many of us have actually read it cover to cover? And, if you have, when is the last time you picked it up? I have the book but admit I’ve only browsed it sporadically.

Another great book on writing style is Virginia Tufte’s, Artful Sentences: Syntax as Style. The first chapter, Short Sentences, gives various examples of ways to create short sentences. I copied down two examples from Artful Sentences in my notebook and then mimicked their structures to create sentences of my own for my work-in-progress.

Here’s an example from “Artful Sentences” which allows the verb “be” to shape the rhetorical device synecdoche, where a part stands in for the whole:

She was exasperation, she was torture. – Vladimir Nabokov, “Ada”

My sentence:

He was Adonis. He was Michelangelo’s David. He was Brad Pitt with long, blonde hair and a thin goatee. He was mine.

Okay, so I got a little excited here and created a series of short sentences….but you get the idea.

Example from “Artful Sentences” using metaphors in short sentences:

The church was a bare, weather-beaten ghost of a building… Alice Walker, “A Sudden Trip Home in the Spring.”

My sentence:

The A-frame was a sad, sagging specter of a structure—like a woman stuck in a vituperous marriage too long.

Stay tuned for my next post to discover more ways to hone your style.

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