Writing in style!

Hurrah!!!!! I have just finished writing my book! Title: Time of the Virus – a reflection of prose, short stories and poems. It’s an odd mix of memoir, reflective thoughts, history and social commentary of this troubled year – written in different formats, and with my own artwork. But now I am fearful of publishing it. Is it good enough? Is it stylish? Above all, is there anything in my book that readers will find interesting? I have to hope so because, having spent the last fourteen months writing this work (almost ninety thousand words), I can’t let all that precious writing time go to waste it – can I? I am also worried about how ‘public’ news is in the context of using it in a book.

So, what is style? My last blog queried the importance of grammar in creative writing and it occurs to me that style is also important. Style represents us: our individuality. Just as clothes help to define ourselves – as shapes and colours, using combinations that reflect our personalities – the way in which we combine and present words surely defines each of us – as a writer.

A friend of mine has written a book about her experiences of bowel cancer: title, ‘A Real Pain in the Bum’. Great title! I am part way through reading it and thoroughly enjoying her unique style of writing. Why? The words come across as if they are being read aloud. I have never read a work like this before: so conversational in presentation, written from first person viewpoint. Her words bounce off the page as if alive. Even as mundane diary extracts (about poo leakages and changing the stoma bag?) they are interesting because of how they are written. Humour runs through each paragraph (despite the seriousness of the topic). I so admire the liveliness of this writing.

However, there are many grammatical errors: commas omitted, sentences rambling on without full stops, speech marks omitted from dialogue, as well as spelling errors. But it matters not – because if this particular book had been proofread (to within an inch of its life), some of what makes it a joy to read would be lost forever: its freshness taken from it. So I have urged my friend to hold on to her unique style, especially when writing from first person viewpoint. In my view, grammar only matters when it is needed. Her book reads as a natural and upbeat account of a sad experience. Thankfully, there was a happy ending to her cancer story.

Back to style and the book I have just finished writing. I cannot write like my friend and am not going to try because that is not my style. So what is? I hope that my writing is interesting in a different way: using a range of sentence structures – long and short, questions with statements and varied punctuation. My bad habits? You’ve probably noticed that I use too many dashes and commas. And, yes, I often begin a sentence (like this one) with a conjunction, but that’s okay because writing for effect cannot always be grammatically correct.

I have also just finished reading a non-fiction book by another friend, who lived in South Africa for some years and has written stories and poems set in that country – some at the time of Apartheid. This book is far more grammatically and syntactically correct, and interesting to read – for a different reason. The descriptions of her characters within a setting that this friend knows so well, virtually take us there on a magic carpet – opening up this country’s exotic and unfamiliar sights, sounds, smells and tastes through the use of vocabulary that forms an ‘exact fit’. I suspect this writer took ages finding just the right word to describe a person or setting. This particular book also includes poems matched to her stories – also a delight to read because they have a lovely, flowing rhythm that does not depend on syllables or rhyming – as my poems tend to do.

Our styles are different because they need to be. I would not be comfortable writing in the style of my first example, while my writing is not as proficient as that as the author in my second example. So I must keep on developing my own style – learning what works best for me and what defines me as an author, bearing in mind that any kind of writing must ‘speak’ to readers in some form. Writing surely represents communication – a connection between writers and readers – through the medium of the written word.

So how can my writing style continue to ignite that spark of interest for readers? That is surely what every author must ask. Now can I publish this latest book?

I am author of thirteen books for schools, plus five for parents. If your child has SEND, Book 1: Support Your Child with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities: a guide for parents, offers all you need to know about the SEND system. Books 2 to 5: Support Your Child At The Early Years Foundation Stage, At Key Stage One, At Key Stage Two and At Key Stage Three – offer a comprehensive outline of WHAT should be taught and HOW. Available from Lulu or Amazon.

Sylvia Edwards

« Back to Blog