It is so often our impulse as authors to sound accomplished and erudite, to use fancy words and clever turn of phrase to seem polished.

News flash. Stop. Just don’t.

The problem with such self-indulgent writing is that it might seem well done to us, but the reader instinctively knows it’s over done. Perhaps even subconsciously, they will sense when the author is ‘trying to sound like a writer’ and when the author is actually writing.

And they will know the latter when they don’t notice it.

You see, the author’s job is to disappear. Unless you’re writing turn-of-the-century fiction in third person omniscient, and narrating things a character wouldn’t know about or see, your job is to tell the scene as simply and as clearly as you can, cutting out everything that makes you think, ‘ooh, that’s good writing’.

Well, almost. ;)

This article is part of a series I use to help writers who are working with me as a writing coach. They're references to boost your writing, and way to explore alternate ways of thinking about characterization and plot development.

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Murder Your Darlings

Sometimes referred to as ‘murdering your darlings’ in writing circles, the basic advice is this; if it sounds really good and cool to you, and if when you read it you think ‘that’s good writing’, then it should probably go.

Good writing is perfectly transparent, allowing a reader to actually ‘not see any of the words’, and be only seeing the scene, living the moment, loving the character. It is a cardinal sin to break the fictive dream with a turn of phrase.

It’s like a movie director stepping in to remind you that they’re a pretty awesome director in the middle of the Age of Ultron. The more often it happens, the more times the ‘fictive dream’ is broken, the easier it will be to put the book down and move on.

So whatever you’re writing, your prime, prime focus is not to sound clever or epic, but to write it as simply and clearly as possible.

“But my style calls for me to write this way!”

If you’re starting out, like most of us, then your style is still developing. If at any point you’re prepared to sacrifice the reader’s focus for your style, then be prepared to lose the reader. ‘Nuff said.

It’s more important for them to love your story and follow you where it goes. Cut back, whittle away, clarify every line and sentence to sound honest and clear.

Your Style Changes

Now – that being said – your ‘style’ is a somewhat nebulous idea, because it can depend on the kind of writing you’re doing.

If you’re writing in close third person, where you communicate only what the character thinks, is aware of and does, then your ‘style’ will be what your character allows you to write.

Your personal style may be wry, or bombastic, or straightforward. Your blog is the best place for that kind of voice to emerge.

In writing a novel, you are less trying to sound like an author, and far, far more trying to sound like your character.

Otherwise, every character in all your novels will sound the same, because they will all sound like you. And even one-man plays with multiple characters aren’t that monotonous.

Don’t worry about finding your style. Focus on telling a good story well, and your style is what happens once you get good at that.

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