The right way to write?

There was a bit of a conversation going on yesterday over at Serendipity about finding your voice as a writer. It is something with which many writers are preoccupied and with reason. Your voice is your signature. The tone, the flow, even the choice or repetition of words will, if you are lucky, make your work appeal to a reader.

For a writer, the best thing in the world is to know you have been read and that what you have written has been enjoyed or has struck a chord with a reader. Most of the time, we just don’t know… a book goes out into the world and we hear very little unless we are fortunate enough to get a review. Sales don’t matter in that respect… they only show that a book has been bought…you still don’t know whether they were even read. The odd review or a comment always feel like a gift. And sometimes, they make you glow.

When someone mentioned that his Mum likes my work, it felt as good as winning a major literary prize.  I have also been paid what must be one of the ultimate compliments as a writer… I have been quoted. Am I bragging? Not exactly… though the memory always makes me glow and I struggle to find words to express the odd mix of pride, gratitude and honour such moments make you feel. You never know, when you put pen to paper, how your words will fare out there in the world or whether they will reach the readers… perhaps that one particular and unknown reader… for whom they were written. So moments like these are priceless.

Confidence is the hardest thing to find when you first begin to write and most of us face the internal questions and doubts. There are so very many excellent books out there already… as well as so many books, blogs, seminars and courses available on the process of writing, concerning every possible aspect from grammar to style that it can be hard to know where, or even if, you should start. Advice comes from widely different and respected sources, from the people who themselves are writers, from academia and even those dictatorial style guides that rule the publishing world. Many of them, however,  contain conflicting advice and the novice writer can be torn between polarised opinions of what should be the ‘right’ way to write.

Writing styles change as quickly as any other fashion. What was acceptable in a Victorian parlour might be deemed unacceptably wordy or ponderous today. There are some basic rules that must be learned and obeyed, of course, in order to make anything readable and there are logical reasons behind them that simply have to do with the way that words can flow. Having said that, were we all to adhere to a single accepted format, the literary world would be a very boring place. A writer’s style is, and must be, as individual as a voice.

I was a reader long before I was a writer. As a reader, I don’t care if the writer breaks every rule in the proverbial book. I care only that a story is enthralling and reads well… or for non-fiction that information it contains is correct, well researched and digestible. If a story catches me, I am not likely to waste time analysing style… I’ll just want to curl up and read. I want words that flow together without distractions… so correct spelling and basic grammar are a must, though how you use that grammar is, as far as I am concerned, entirely up to you. Punctuation is the writer’s best friend… it silently shapes how the reader will understand your words. Just be consistent. And use a spellchecker… thoughts fly too fast for fingers… but for goodness sake don’t rely on it for grammar. That wiggly green line under a phrase? It isn’t omniscient.

On the other hand, I, the reader, really don’t care if you agonised over adjectives, debated the value of the Oxford comma whilst looking pale and romantic in a Parisian café, or delved through dusty tomes trying to understand the correct usage of a semi-colon. I will not be dismissive or horrified if you start with a dream sequence as long as it fits the tale and grabs my attention, even if your first line is some variant on it being a dark and stormy night. I care nothing for literary fashion… I just want a good read. The best books don’t adhere slavishly to rule books. They take what they need and quietly make it their own.

There are some things the reader does not need to know; any more than a patient needs to be reminded that a surgeon learned his trade on cadavers. When you lie on the operating table, all you actually want to be aware of is that the guy with the knife knows his stuff. When you pick up a book, the words themselves should be enough. A reader doesn’t need to feel the surgical sharpness of over-editing, any more than they want to wallow in a plethora of adverbs.

The style should feel as if it is natural, no matter how or what you write. It should be your voice and so natural that the reader doesn’t even notice it… unless they look or when occasional flashes of power or beauty catch their attention.  A good book for me, the reader, is the type I feel I want to curl up with in comfort. It doesn’t shout that it is a polished and sparkly showcase for the writer’s literary skill; a book is a simple, unobtrusive vessel that holds a story.

I think that is the one thing all my favourite writers have in common… they are, within the pages of their books, almost invisible; storytellers, painting a landscape with their own unique voice, who fade into the shadows cast by the flickering of the fire around which the tale is told. But that almost invisible presence shapes the vessel and the creators’ fingerprints mark every page.

Is there a ‘right’ way to write? Who am I to decide? If there is, then the most important thing, is that you do write… and read… and let the words themselves teach you how.

About Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire-born writer and one of the Directors of The Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School. She has written a number of books, both alone and with Stuart France, exploring ancient myths, the mysterious landscape of Albion and the inner journey of the soul. She is owned by a small dog who also blogs. Follow her at scvincent.com and on Twitter @SCVincent Find her books on Goodreads and follow her on Amazon worldwide to find out about new releases and offers. Email: findme@scvincent.com
This entry was posted in Blogging, Books, fantasy, fiction, imagination, writing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

92 Responses to The right way to write?

  1. Pingback: The right way to write? | Matthews' Blog

  2. Amen, Sue. Well said.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. barbtaub says:

    As writers, we can obsess so much about the process that we lose sight of the product. Sue’s brilliant essay reminds us that we succeed best when we disappear most.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. barbtaub says:

    Reblogged this on Barb Taub and commented:
    Want to be a good writer? Disappear!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I still think the surest sign of impending writer-hood is that you can’t help yourself. You have to write. Whether you’ll be a good one or even great? That’s another issue entirely, And good — what IS that?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sue Vincent says:

      Itchy fingers start early as a rule… often by being an avid reader, even though you don’t think you will ever write. Until you do and you have to. And that doesn’t always mena writing books either.
      ‘Good’ is what touches a reader…in my book at least 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m convinced no one can be a writer who doesn’t also read. It’s not about style. It’s about … everything. Plots and characters and moods. How words are used. How we set up emotion. I suspect a lot of people are afraid that if they read, then they will start to write like that OTHER author. I did worry about that not so long ago, but I think I’ve finally come into my own and whatever I do — good, bad or indifferent — it surely is me 😀

        I’m really happy with blogging and a writing tool. I like that it stretches — short (even tiny) or long. It is what you make it. It is relatively free of restriction and genre standards, too. I think the only part of it that matters is to make sure your font is big enough for the over-40 crowd to read!

        Like

        • Sue Vincent says:

          I find that magnifying the screen has been a huge help with that last… though I hate the weird mix of colours some folk use and the fussy backgrounds against which text is sometimes displayed.

          As to reading, I couldn’t sgree more…and if you read enough,there are too many authors to start copying anyone’s style!

          Like

  6. Ritu says:

    I love this Sue!
    I think if you write from the heart, you will capture a story that your readers will identify with, and want to read…
    That’s my way, anyway! (and I hope it works, after 18 years of slog!)

    Liked by 1 person

  7. stevetanham says:

    Lovely, nurturing post, Sue x

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Lucy Brazier says:

    I love this post. So very true. There is nothing better than knowing someone has read and enjoyed your work and however the words got onto the page is largely irrelevant, as long as you have created something that someone, somewhere, likes to read 🙂 x

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Georgia Rose says:

    Wonderful! Thoroughly enjoyed reading this this morning, thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Well, that was well written.

    Like

  11. V.M.Sang says:

    Thank you for this post. Most helpful, sensible and enjoyable.

    Like

  12. Dalo 2013 says:

    I love how you ended this piece: “and let the words themselves teach you how” I never studies grammar, hated it, and I always figured when I read the words/sentences would teach me all I needed to know 🙂 Beautifully written post, Sue. Wishing you a great afternoon ahead.

    Like

  13. Some interesting thoughts, Sue. I am in agreement with you. All the reader cares about is the quality of the story. After reading the pre-editing version of Stephen King’s The Stand, however, I have gained a greater appreciation of the value of editing, especially as I have read the edited version too.

    Like

    • Sue Vincent says:

      There is always room for improvement… I know there is a lot of editing on my table at the moment! But there is a fine line between a bit of a polish and taking off the author’s personal patina.

      Like

  14. Helen Jones says:

    A lovely post, Sue 🙂 I agree entirely x

    Like

  15. My voice shifts a little when I write about nonfiction topics (depending on whether I’m writing for professionals or for the general public), but with my first work of fiction it took a strange leap, and during my research for the novel, I discovered that I was writing like an Irish journalist.

    Like

  16. Thanks for sharing your reflective thoughts on writing, Sue. Readers make our world go ’round and thoughtful comments are gifts indeed. Sharing… xo

    Like

  17. Amazing post, Sue. I’m actually daubing my eyes. You’ve captured the real joy of a reader and the freedom and beauty of writing. ❤

    Like

  18. Widdershins says:

    I suppose the right writer’s voice is one that isn’t ‘heard’. by that I mean the ‘writer’ never appears on the reader’s radar, because they’ve done their job so well. Whether they’re following or breaking the ‘rules’ becomes irrelevant. 🙂

    Like

  19. dgkaye says:

    Beautifully penned Sue. ❤ x

    Like

  20. Pingback: A Blogging Break & The right way to write? | Myths of the Mirror

  21. mylilplace says:

    Thank you for this wonderful post.

    Like

  22. balroop2013 says:

    It seems we are two different individuals…a reader looks for an engaging story and a writer aims at excellence! I also feel that the words are enough if they flow well, style builds itself just like water makes its own way down the hill to enthral us. Thank you Sue, you have been an inspiration for many. 🙂

    Like

  23. I like to think there comes a time when as a writer you shift from the self-conscious, reading words as your own, to reading a story that you want to read that just happens to have come from you … then just maybe you’ve a chance of someone else wanting to read it to? That’s about as complicated as I’ll let writing be. I like your post Sue – it sits well with me. Eric

    Like

  24. C. J. Jessop says:

    Great post! I particularly liked what you said about books where the writer is invisible but their fingerprints mark the page. I agree.

    Like

  25. Beautifully said, Sue! Thanks to Diana for leading me to your wonderful post.

    Like

  26. acflory says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this:
    ‘The best books don’t adhere slavishly to rule books. They take what they need and quietly make it their own.’
    I am so sick of style pundits who want to shoe-horn us all into one, straitjacket of do’s and don’ts. Bravo!

    Like

  27. cagedunn says:

    Reblogged this on Cage Dunn: Writer, Author, Teller-of-tall-tales and commented:
    Adding voice to style … how does it go?

    Liked by 1 person

  28. I find that, although I LOVE to read… A LOT, sometimes that hinders my voice as a writer as well. I always feel that I can hear the voice of other authors I love in my own writing.

    Like

  29. You’ve explained writing- and our writing voices-perfectly here, Sue. As you said, most of us writers began as readers. And the books that we devoured were those in which we never thought about the author who wrote them. We were too involved with the characters, whom we were in enmeshed with. That’s the kind of writer I strive to be for sure. ❤️

    Like

  30. “Confidence is the hardest thing to find when you first begin to write.” SO TRUE! I’m still trying to gain more of that stuff…thanks for this!

    Like

  31. Reblogged this on Write Already! Copyediting services–where you can negotiate your rate! and commented:
    My favorite takeaway here: “Is there a ‘right’ way to write?…If there is, then the most important thing is that you DO write–and read–and let the words themselves teach you how.”

    Liked by 1 person

  32. sreo_is_it says:

    This is such a wonderful post. Every writer has a unique style and nothing can beat that

    Like

  33. Great post. I laughed out loud about the wiggly, green line not being omniscient. I also agree about everyone having their own style. If we all wrote the same, how boring that would be!

    Like

  34. Pingback: the right way to write – My Blog http//www.mypublishedbooks.blogspot

  35. What a wonderful post, and so inspiring! I knew coming from Diana’s recommendations it could be nothing else but one is always skeptical… Thank you so much for sharing the wisdom ❤

    Like

  36. Pingback: The right way to write? — Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo – My Blog http//www.mypublishedbooks.blogspot

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