- "Place yourself in the background."
- In order to develop your own style, you have to forget about style. I'm not saying that you shouldn't be concerned with your words, sentence structure, grammar, dialect, etc. My point is that you cannot focus on creating a style out of thin air. There is no way that you can just think about it for a moment and, aha!, come out with a great way to write your piece. Instead, you have to focus on the subject at hand and let your own voice work its way into the piece on its own. Your natural intonation, your own personality, will shine through by how you write.
- "Write in a way that comes naturally."
- This goes along with the first point. If you concentrate on every word and every punctuation mark, you will lose sight of what you are writing about in the first place. If you try to imitate the style of your favorite author, you will end up sounding like a cheap copy. Imitation is a good trick for beginning writers, but only if you are doing it to add to your own repertoire instead of relying on it to be your only weapon. Instead, let the words flow onto the page in a way that feels right to you. Don't concentrate on the details, just let your own voice shape the words.
- "Work from a suitable design."
- If you have no game plan, you will end up failing. Your writing will drift all over the place and lack a clear purpose. Because of this, the reader will give up on trying to follow your path and you have lost the contest. Instead, you have to have a general idea of what you are going to write. What points are you going to make? What impression are you trying to leave the reader with? How will one section lead into or relate another? You don't have to write down a to-the-letter outline, but you need to know what direction you plan to go in.
- "Write with nouns and verbs."
- This might sound like common sense, but some writers lose themselves in adverbs, adjectives, and participles. If your writing because flooded with these elements instead of sprinkled, you will come off sounding fake and insincere. Allow your writing to become real and sound like a true-life story. Would you talk the way you write? If the answer is "Heck no!" then it is time to reevaluate your style.
- "Revise and rewrite."
- Beginning writers have the nasty habit of believing that their first draft is their best draft. The key to becoming a good author is to get over it. Sometimes, your first draft will need torn to shreds in order to make a good piece. Sometimes, it will only need minor tweaks. The key is to objectively look at your draft (and gracefully accept constructive criticism) to improve your writing into a public-worthy document. Don't be afraid to look at a section, realize it doesn't serve your purpose, and cut it out completely. The opposite holds true: allow yourself to notice where your writing needs improvement. Keep an open mind in order to make your final draft the best one.
Thursday, February 2, 2012
Finding Your Style, #1
Tips #1-5 from Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White, with my own commentary: