07 August, 2013

Writing Styles: An IWSG Post

The Insecure Writer's Support Group is hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh, and co-hosted this month by M. Pax, Karen Walker, and Melissa Maygrove. Find out more about the group.

My writing insecurity this month falls under the header of the subjectivity of different writing styles/voices. A lot of writers and authors these days seem to recommend, or at least lean toward, a very short, direct sort of style. Short sentences, simple sentence structure, uncomplicated dialogue. Granted, this style can be quite effective. But occasionally I hate it and I cannot really write it, or at least I don't enjoy writing it very much. My preference is for long, flowing sentences with plenty of semi-colons and hyphens, and as many variations in sentence structure as possible.

Of course, that goes against a lot of advice, particularly in terms of publication. My main question, I suppose, is whether my love of a . . . let's say, longer writing style (I'm sure there's a technical term I don't know or have forgotten) is actually just bad writing. My inclination is that it's not, but I'm wondering what your opinion is.

Do you consider a certain writing style better than others? If so, which one do you have a preference for? Or do you enjoy all styles?

-----The Golden Eagle


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I think a lot of it depends on the genre as well. Young adult goes for the shorter and incomplete sentences mixed in, but literary fiction has the longer prose.

M Pax said...

Everyone has their own style and there's nothing wrong with that. You have to be you.

cleemckenziebooks said...

This is an interesting question. I think the style must fit the story or even the scene. I love those long, mellifluous, mutli-claused sentences until it comes to wanting to move the action ahead--fast. Then I'm into sentences that jab and dash.

Of course, I write YA and MG, so I use the more literary style mostly for my pleasure.

Loved your IWSG today.

Cherie Reich said...

Style does depend on genre and the scene. Personally, I like the snappier sentences a reader typically finds in YA and thrillers/mysteries, but sometimes it's nice to read those long pretty sentences.

Jack said...

This is one reason I like self publishing more. There are rules set and some are good in the writing world, but now days a lot of them seem to just want one kind of book. And I don't think it should be that way. Not everyone writes one certain way, nor do they all read the same kind of books with the same kind of styles. While shorter sentences are good, I don't think there is anythign wrong with long flowy ones. I've even read some really good books with these, REALLY good ones. To have everyone keep to the same style takes all the creativity out of writing.

L.G. Smith said...

I suppose it's true the current style is somewhat more clipped, but I think writing is best when there's a mix of long and short. You have to break up the rhythm of the sentences to avoid monotony. I also get accused of writing long sentences, but if they're grammatically correct and not a run-on, why not mix them in from time to time?

D.G. Hudson said...

I think it's mostly preferences, not one style being better. Some readers like short and snappy, some like eloquent and rich.

I like Hemingway and Fitzgerald, so I would write what seems to fit the story. You are the author, so take advice and filter it. Take a few classes or workshops. That will give you a different perspective. Don't be like the crowd.

Connie Keller said...

I think longer sentences can be great--I beta read for a wonderful writer who has long flowing sentences. Any style has strengths and weaknesses. I write short sentences, so I have to be careful not to be abrupt or underwrite. My friend has to be careful to make sure her sentences flow well and the words all have a purpose.

Huntress, aka CD Coffelt said...

I prefer a little bit of both. Long sentence, then short, short. Then another long.

Eh, something like that.

I am a big fan of fragmented sentences also. Ask my CPs. They'll roll their eyes for sure when you do. *BG*

Old Kitty said...

I say it's not the quantity but the quality!!

Take care

Krista McLaughlin said...

It really does depend on the writer and the reader. Some of that style can be annoying, but other writers do it very well and I don't notice much. It's the same for me with present tense and past tense. I'd much rather read something in past tense, present rubs me the wrong way.

Andrew Leon said...

The problem with more complicated sentences is that most people don't read enough to really stay with something like that, which is why Dickens isn't more widely read these days. Or, well, anything that's more than 100 years old. We have trained people to read at about a 4th grade level and, so, that's what most people want. I suppose, then, the thing to do is to figure out what kind of audience you want.

Liz said...

Any style of writing can be done well or badly. I think that going with what's currently "in style" is a mistake if you're just doing it to do what everyone else is doing. It's better to stay true to your own style so that your voice is true to you.

To be honest, I only notice how long the sentences are if they are written badly.

Pat Hatt said...

I write how I write and that is that for me lol

Jan Newman said...

That is a good question, who prefers what style. In the way of sentence structure, I don't do short and punchy very well, and sentences that go on for a mile remind me too much of Faulkner. Scene and character determine sentence structure for me. Shorter for action and intensity; longer for more thoughtful, descriptive scenes. Variation is also a good idea. In fiction I almost never use semi-colons or colons. Beautiful structure is always welcome--long or short.

mooderino said...

I find reading it out loud is the only real test of whether a style works. If it's easy to understand what is being said then it's fine and anything beyond that is a matter of taste.


Melissa said...

Without reading some of your writing, I can't comment on style vs 'bad writing.' But I will say the more I read, the more I like a direct, tight voice. There are folks who like books with a more literary style (and genres that accommodate it better than other). Not every reader's taste is the same.

Honestly, that's what it boils down to. Find good books that are written in a style you want to emulate, and then work towards that and market to that audience.

Great post. :)
August co-host and IWSG #110

Trisha F said...

I think it's good to vary it up - short sentences sometimes, and long, flowy ones other times.

And I think you should write how you want to!

Jemi Fraser said...

For me, it depends on my mood. I read pretty widely so I tend to like a lot of styles. I often use Anne of Green Gables as an example of how styles have changed when I'm talking with my student. That first sentence is sooooo long! I think it has a couple semi colons and tons of colons too. Lots of fun :)

Cindy Dwyer said...

I knew someone in a former writers' group who was so adamant about certain rules that he would sometimes write the most awkward sentences to avoid something. He went too far.

I think sentence structure is very important to your voice and style. And variety keeps the interest up for the reader. With humor for example, sometimes fragments work very well, yet I wouldn't include them in fiction, except in dialogue.

Most importantly, you need to love what you write. You won't please everyone anyway, so don't even try.

Carole Anne Carr said...

Difficult, is't it, always battling with this one. Writing for children, many think a shorter style is good, but I think it deadens.

Donna Hole said...

One of my off-line writing friends is a fan of long sentences. She'll break it up with a couple short ones here an there. Just me, but I find a novel full of these long sentences jarring. Like a car engine that starts off slow, revs up, his a pace, then powers down. Its kinda a roller coaster ride in every sentence, and is hard for me to keep track of what point the author/narrator or speaking character was making.

Not that there's anything wrong with a long sentence, even several in a row or liberally sprinkled. It can work, depending on the story and genre. And specific scene.

I believe there is an audience for every writing style. Author passion goes a long way to making a style work in the story. I've read some style's I never thought I would and enjoyed the particular novel because it was well done.


JeffO said...

In this great big world of ours, there's room for all kinds of writing styles, and there are plenty of successful books by plenty of 'long writers.'

Maurice Mitchell said...

"War and Peace" is massive, but still successful. I think it's all about the style G.E.

Charles Gramlich said...

for me, absolutely. I want a poetical style, a love of language, beautiful imagery and metaphors. I'll read a bit of everything but I remember the beautiful.

Susan Roebuck said...

Hi GE! I have a tendency to write short sentences and then run the risk of sounding like a machine gun. I think the best is to vary your sentences so that there's a rhythm and flow. Try reading your work aloud and see how it sounds.

Talli Roland said...

Great question! I think the voice has to suit the genre. But apart from that, I wouldn't say one is better than the other.

Paul Tobin said...

I think if you view writing style from a historical perspective then the trend is towards shorter sentences that carry less information. I think as Alex says different types of writing call for different structures. But there is also the question of individual style. I think we need to write in a way we find both comfortable and effective. I think you have a direct and effective style of writing.

The Golden Eagle said...

Alex: Good point. Genre does affect style.

Mary: I'll keep that in mind. :)

Lee: That's true--different scenes can effect the flow of writing, too.

Glad you enjoyed my post!

Cherie: I love reading them all the time . . . but shorter sentences have their place, of course!

Jack: I agree. Individuality is a lot more acceptable in self-publishing.

L.G.: My thoughts exactly!

D.G.: I should check out some writing classes sometime. I mostly go off of things I've seen on the internet; not a terrible source, but having a real life teacher is useful (provided s/he's a good teacher).

Connie: I'm guilty of padding words as well. NaNoWriMo really brings out the extra words in me. :P

Huntress: Reminds me of something in poetry that I've been studying--metrical units. Emphasis/accents in poems sometimes follow that long/short/short pattern.

Old Kitty: Indeed. Quality over quantity isn't a bad maxim. :)

Krista: I used to react like that to present tense all the time. I don't mind it so much anymore, but done wrong it's terrible.

Andrew: I'm reading Dickens right now; his sentences are certainly longer than those in a lot of contemporary works.

Liz: Badly-written sentences stick out in all circumstances, I think!

Pat: Good for you. :)

Jan: Faulkner's on my reading list. I've heard he writes super long sentences . . .

I agree that scenes and characters can and should affect style. Action scenes feel entirely different if the sentences describing them are long.

Mooderino: Reading aloud is a big help.

Melissa: Finding a book in a style I like is quite motivating. It helps to know other writers/authors who used similar techniques have been published.

Thank you! :)

Trisha: Sounds good to me! I just worry about how it will be perceived sometimes.

Jemi: LOL. Semi-colons AND colons in one sentence is a handful.

Cindy: Thanks for the advice. It is impossible to please everyone, much as one wants to try!

Carole: Interesting point. I come from an adult/YA writer's perspective, but writing for children is another question.

Donna: Same here! Any one style can work if used correctly and by the right author.

JeffO: Yeah--I do come across successful stories with long sentences.

Maurice: Hopefully nothing I write comes out quite that long. LOL. But I see your point.

Charles: I love it when language is used as art. It's so enjoyable to read.

Susan: Good advice. Hearing how the words flow can bring out issues.

Talli: Thanks!

Genre's influence on style is interesting.

Paul: Thank you. :) It means a lot to me to know you think so!