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EXPERIMENTING WITH STYLES

November 28, 2018

It comes up quite often on forums and in discussions where writers like to experiment with styles. You’ve all probably heard the old mantra “write what you feel.”

Let’s look at that loaded statement.

WHAT DOES WRITE WHAT YOU FEEL REALLY MEAN?

I write what I feel, every day, every time I sit down to write. There’s an infamous Hemmingway quote where he agonizes over a single paragraph. I don’t, not even an entire chapter, which is what I usually write when I sit down at a session. I don’t even agonize over an entire short story, sometimes, which I also write in its entirety in one sitting.

I just write it.

Why?

Because I feel it.

Others interpret that Hemmingway saying as meaning they feel different styles of writing. This is as well as whatever it is they want to say.

Not only do these writers have something to say, but they have certain barriers, lack of, or burdens thrust upon them where their writing (or lack of skill) is getting in the way of putting it all down. So, they feel like experimenting with styles to see how it all comes out.

What’s the result?

EXPERIMENT RESULTS

There are wildly varying styles of writing out there, partially because the author is experimenting with “what they feel,” what’s easy for them to write because it suits them, or because they’re too lazy to learn to write correctly.

There, I said it.

What’s the result?

The readers suffer.

Some readers are more tolerant than others. If the story is really good, they can overlook bad or awkward writing, to a point, to enjoy a good story. Some suffer to get to the point. Others may finish this “experiment” and go on to another book from an author that’s learned his chops and breeze through it without the writing getting in the way. It’s like a breath of fresh air.

Okay, you had your experiment. Maybe your book sold well, maybe it didn’t. Your legacy is now out there. Are you going to continue in that vein or are you going to wake up and try not to keep punishing your readers?

THERE ARE LOTS OF CRAPPY BOOKS OUT THERE

I read a LOT. An average of a book a week. I find a startling difference between certain authors. I have favorites because they know how to write.

I like to try new authors.

What are the results?

Once in a while, I discover a great new writer. Most often, they have a series which sells well. Sometimes they’re one-off.

Quite often, I get real duds. Why?

The writing sucks.

The writer experimented and it didn’t work. Either they had no oversight or their publisher took a chance and let the writing slip through. Most of the time, I never hear from these authors again, or if I do, I often see a different style with the next book. OR, their next book sells just as bad.

WHEN TO EXPERIMENT

It’s okay to experiment with a short story, to hone your chops and get a feel for how to write. However, when it comes to a full-length novel, people are investing time and money into your work. You’d better have your stuff together by then. You’d better be done with your experimenting around, your “feeling it,” and be ready to make the reading experience as easy and transparent as possible.

You’d better be ready to make your writing not get in the way of the story!

If you’re of the notion that it’s you’re writing, and if the audience doesn’t like it, well tough, get ready for a garage full of books. It’s hard enough even with great writing to get noticed.

If the whole point is to dazzle readers with your writing skills and chops, nobody cares. They care about what you have to say, not what gymnastics you can do with point of view, grammar, and tenses.

SUMMARY

Get the experimenting out of your system with writing exercises and short stories. Save your great novels for your best writing, for the writing that will hook our reader and keep them absorbed in the story, NOT stumbling over your writing gymnastics.

Happy writing!

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