All substance and no style

When I set out to write my first novel, Ephialtes, one of the many things I had to consider was style.  This is how I approached it.

I don’t like writing that feels ‘writerly’.  It seems to me there is no need to over egg every sentence, or to describe in depth every little thing a character is thinking, feeling or wearing.  To me that seems fake, and suggests the author is trying too hard.

With that in mind I made a conscious decision to imagine my story and then simply describe what I had imagined.  I wanted to convey these imaginings as clearly as possible.  I strived for clarity and didn’t consider a conscious style at all.

This isn’t to say that style is unimportant.  It is. However, it’s one of those things like accents – you can’t hear your own, but everybody has one.  And like an accent, it will sound dreadful if you try to fake it.  By strenuously avoiding a deliberate style I hope that my style, whatever it is, will be there on the page.  I’m sure I must have a way of constructing sentences, scenes or stories that seems unremarkable to me, where it might seem distinct or noteworthy to someone else.  And if not, at least I hope I have written clearly.

Apart from specific instances (where you want to create mystery or ambiguity for plot reasons) I can see no value in confusing the reader.  To me, that is just bad writing.  You could kid yourself that you’re deep and arty, but if you’re such a damned hot shot you should be able to communicate with precision and clarity – that is what good writing is.

Sadly, this isn’t to say that I made a total success of it.  Like most people I fall easily to waffling, and I’m sure there are many passages in Ephialtes that contradict what I’ve said above.  It’s what I tried to do though, and I think it was worth aiming for.


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