Creative Series II: Writing with Style
Writing style influences emotional and intellectual understanding.
“In literature, writing style is the manner of expressing thought in language characteristic of an individual, period, school, or nation. Beyond the essential elements of spelling, grammar, and punctuation, writing style is the choice of words, sentence structure, and paragraph structure, used to convey the meaning effectively. The former are referred to as rules, elements, essentials, mechanics, or handbook; the latter are referred to as style, or rhetoric. The rules are about what a writer does; style is about how the writer does it. While following the rules drawn from established English usage, a writer has great flexibility in how to express a concept. The point of good writing style is to
- express the message to the reader simply, clearly, and convincingly;
- keep the reader attentive, engaged, and interested;
- display the writer’s personality;
- demonstrate the writer’s skills, knowledge, or abilities;
although these are usually evident and are what experts consider the writer’s individual style.”
James Callaghan – University (Courtesy of Flickr.com)
Writing is an art form.
This bold statement is often debated by many people. There are probably more opinions and experts who deal with writing style than there are for any other art form or craft. My personal opinion is that writing is a form of art. One will find that many colleges and universities today, such as New York University, Brown University and Oxford University (to name a few), include writing as a major part of their curriculum; and as part of an arts program. As a writer who was originally trained as a journalist, I will admit that I did not attend formal classes. Many of my mentors had not attended formal college classes. They wrote because they were readers first. As a reader, they developed a “trained ear” in regard to what they were writing.
Style comes in four different standards:
There are four main types of writing: expository, persuasive, narrative, and descriptive.
- Expository – Writing in which author’s purpose is to inform or explain the subject to the reader.
- Persuasive – Writing that states the opinion of the writer and attempts to influence the reader.
- Narrative – Writing in which the author tells a story. The story could be fact or fiction.
- Descriptive – A type of expository writing that uses the five senses to paint a picture for the reader. This writing incorporates imagery and specific details.
If there is one thing that every one of my mentors repeated to me, it was to NEVER stop writing. Bill Guthrie was an editor of the Las Vegas Review Journal and other periodicals for many years. He was a ghost writer for 3 books and also wrote his own book, entitled “So Long Las Vegas“. Writing style is a matter of editing and re-editing what we write. First we write, then we rewrite what we have written. This process is a never-ending process of writing, but one that is essential to:
- Finding your voice
- Writing with style
Unlike public speaking, as long as we do not release what we have written to the public (I had an editor once, who referred to publishing what we write as “open air”), no one will know of the “sins” we have committed as writers. This process of editing, discovering how we wish to create our style of writing are steps which can ensure our success, every time we publish anything.
Whenever we publish to Facebook or make a Tweet on Twitter, we are making a public statement. Therefore, what we send out, has the potential of reaching millions of eyes. Perhaps I can better sum up what I am discussing with an analogy. When I was a child (and even far later into my teenage years), my mother always asked me if I had fresh underwear on. This was a very personal question. What would my underwear have to do with my heading out for the night? Or heading out to play baseball? Or basketball? Or whatever event I was going to? Was everyone going to see me in my underwear? No. My mother was worried that in the event that something happened to me, that for example, I ended up in the hospital, or some other public institution…that if my pants were to be removed, my underwear would be clean. Suffice to say, think of what you are releasing, not just to your friends and family, but potentially to “the public”. Would you want to be caught with your pants down in a literary sense? Would you want someone to think negatively of you because a word was misspelled or what you said did not make sense? Editing is how you can develop your writing style. It gives you a second look at what you are writing and how you are communicating. It just makes common sense. We will discuss more about editing in a future post.
Imagine a world where anything you write is met with applause.
Content: TED.com Ideas worth spreading: Jeff Geary Metaphorically Speaking
I equate success with a willingness to not only learn how to write well, but how to write persuasively in business. The scene could happen in a business, after your manager, who read your email about how a process could be improved is so taken by what you have written, sends your email “up the line” of company officers, until it reaches the CEO. Because of your new found ability (writing style), you not only explain how the process could be changed, but also improve profitability for the compay. Your thoughtful insight is carefully met with dubious and meticulous analysis. Your manager begins to bend your ear for more insight into other areas that could make “things” better for the company. You receive word that your idea has been taken into consideration and will be implemented next quarter.
You are rewarded with a raise and referred to as a genius.
Content: TED.com Ideas worth spreading:Elizabeth Gilbert: Your Elusive Creative Genius
Later that year, you have another idea. This time, the company officers are more willing to listen to what you have to say, because you say it so well with your writing. You are selected to move into another department, with a higher raise in pay and a new job that befits your talent for writing. Soon, you are on your way up the corporate ladder, commanding respect from everyone in your company. Your writing skills have improved so much that you are chosen for the position of vice president. It is a new department that pits the company closer to the internet, literally providing better, more efficient real-time services for your clients. You are on the move now, taking trips all over the world, promoting the impact of what your company can do for theirs. You see your bank account becoming fatter, you are in line for a board position, all due to your astounding ability to write well. You have found your writing style, “glasshoppa”.
Crafting a book is very different than developing content for a business communique. The process may be similar, but is still very different. Writing creatively not only commands an ability to work in different voices (multiple characters in a story) but also developing a style that fits the overall story that you are developing. Diligence is key to success when writing a book. The process can be one that is never-ending and sometimes meticulously tedious. I have been working on a fantasy novel that has become a trilogy. The novel actually began as a 100-page poetic saga that I created for my then 9 year-old daughter. I never thought how much work the characters would take to develop. Each character has his or her own complex system of actions and reactions as well as skills, traits and weaknesses. Style has come to play an important part in the development of this work. As I continue to develop the characters, allowing them to grow in the story (and sometimes forcing them to grow), I find that like a painting, I am often developing different colors or combinations of colors to add to this palette that I have created. The trick is not only keeping track of the characters, but the colors of each character, and how unique the blend of color is for that individual or even location. Yet, the unique qualities of the world I have created impinges on my writing style, which seems like it often wants to change on its own. It is my job as a writer, to retain the style that I have developed for this series of books, in order to develop a foundation for the story as well as an outline for the introduction of future characters, locations or incidences.
If you are interested in taking a look at a new weekly blog that I am promoting, tomorrow will be the first installment for a blog I call “Peeve“, which focuses on everything we all deal with from day to day. The first post will cover “Driving“. That is what we all deal with from the time we turn the key to start our vehicles to the time we turn off the engine.
Think of all of those moments we share as a common community, from the drivers to “cut us off”, to the drivers who slow down to a crawl in the lane you are going straight in, in order to make a left-hand turn. Please feel free to let me know what I don’t cover in each Peeve post. Corrections to my writing will also be met with a smile and a grain of salt. I will be posting in the afternoon/evening Pacific Standard Time.
It looks like we had server issues last night. I was not certain whether we had uploaded to LinkedIn or not. I am updating the blog and resending it for you now.
Next in my creative series: The editing process.