Spotlight on style
Writers, we each of us have our own voice and a style of writing that we employ for particular types of material.
What do I mean by style?
My writing style varies according to what I am writing and my intended audience.
- In an email, I might be formal, giving only facts eg of a forthcoming workshop.
- In a letter, or on a postcard, I might be informal, sharing anecdotes with the recipient.
A story, I take on a new voice for the narrative according to the genre and the story itself. Then I have several more voices, one for each character, and each will have their own style.
- Lighthearted, joking
- Deadly serious, racking up the tension
- Superior / inferior according to who else is in the conversation
When you get down to the nitty-gritty of editing, though, there are several ‘issues’ to address. All of them move you towards a clean ‘to-the-bone’ manuscript.
- Adverbs. Avoid in the narrative; choose stronger verbs. Allow in dialogue (if that’s how that character needs to speak).
- Adjectives – same as adverbs; choose stronger nouns.
- Apply active/passive voice with intent (not accidentally).
- ‘Show’ as much as you can, without overtiring the reader. ‘Tell’ when you’re looking to summarise. Avoid ‘overtelling’.
Now, I have these ‘issues’ hard-wired into my brain. When I’m reviewing my text, I’ll spot where I’ve slipped up. For a belts-and-braces approach – and for anyone who is unsure of good style – I recommend Scrivener’s Linguistic Focus tool, and other non-Scrivener editing tools too, such as ProWritingAid, AutoCrit, and Grammarly.
As with other RedPen Editing tasks, I tackle one ‘issue’ at a time. Here are two examples.
Style tasks – Adverbs
I search on ‘ly’ because words ending in -ly tend to be the ones I need to review. As ever, I set up a collection. I’ve called it ‘Adverbs?’ as this search can pull up other words, such as Molly too.
I rarely use adverbs – it’s not my natural style – and there is only one ‘tightly’ to address in this scene. However …
Note to self: when choosing character names, avoid those ending in -ly!
Style task – Conjunctions
I know I have a weakness for writing overlong sentences. So, I use the Linguistic Focus tool to identify my conjunctions.
I’m not surprised that this one scene had 16 conjunctions. For most, I’ll opt to delete them – but not all. A conjunction serves to weld two ‘actions’ that belong to each other; if I reduce my overuse of ‘and’, the ones that remain will be better empowered.
Other style issues
There are lots of other style issues … if you want to learn more about style, sign up for KM Weiland’s newsletters. This one, in particular, talks about style.
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