Writing Styles

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Writing Styles. The underappreciated cousin to Harry Styles.

Now, as a reviewer, I've been told off before. Actually, I've been told off multiple times. Sometimes, it's been for telling someone that their characterisation felt too jumpy (even though their protagonist was squealing over how much they love donuts one second and then telling us how their step mother chained them to an electric fence within a sentence). Sometimes, it's been for writing reviews that are too long (thanks, ex-boss).

Once, however, it's been for including "writing style" as part of my criteria (this was before they requested a review).

Their justification was that everyone has their own writing styles, and it's not fair to judge and say that one is better than the other.

And honestly? I agree.

However, that's not what I look at when it comes to writing styles. I will never tell someone how to write.

Nonetheless, there are still some common things amongst all good writing styles. These are the things I look at -- fluency, clarity, the build of the tension, the use of figurative language.

No matter what your writing style is -- whether you choose to be more poetic, or whether you choose to use lots of fragmented sentences, or whether you keep it as minimal as possible to make it vague -- your voice should be clear and engaging. There is also one word that is incredibly important to me, that I use a lot when I'm helping younger authors in the schools I work at.

Can you guess what it is?

It starts with a P.

It has two syllables.

It is not the male genitalia. Get your minds outta there!

It is:


Your story needs to be purposeful. Each sentence -- heck, each word -- should be like small threads that are all woven together to make this tapestry. These individual threads can be whatever colour or make whatever shape you want, but it must all link together to create the big, overall picture.

And don't be fooled! The purpose doesn't always have to be character development or progression of the plot. Sometimes, and a lot of mystery novels do this, the author focuses on small details that are irrelevant -- and it's to do a red herring effect, where those small sentences are designed to make the reader suspicious or paranoid about a character who is completely innocent. In the end, the reader may be like, "That felt purposeless -- why did I need to see that character at all?" But there is purpose, and that is to make you paranoid or less likely to see exactly who the threat is in the story until it's too late.

However, there are some moments where I'm like... did I need to know that the protagonist has ninety-eight followers on Instagram, when she never logs into the account again, and there is no recurring theme of self-esteem or friends or popularity or anything of that sort?

Do I need to know that she has seventy-three Tupperware containers in her basement, when she never accesses them?

Do I?

So, overall, as I go through some questions that y'all have asked, don't be surprised if I keep bringing up the p-word.

Here are some questions I have been asked about writing styles! I've gotten a few since last year, but I've kind of combined them into three.

Q0: Should I listen to anything you say?

I know I keep saying this over and over again, but I am not an author. I am not a writing expert and a writing genius of any sort. And no, I'm not being humble, I'm serious -- I am not an expert. So, honestly, feel free to disagree with everything I say here, and do take what I say with a grain of salt [or pepper. you do you, hey?].

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