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On Writing and Opinions
zuko, dietotaku
I think I've mentioned this before, but I'm in an editing and publishing class right now. It's pretty awesome; I'm enjoying it. The book we picked is pretty good, but nothing stellar. My job is as a copyeditor (which is what I want to do IRL). I like it because the manuscript is very clean and therefore there isn't too much work for me to worry about, but as I was reading the manuscript, I kept feeling little twinges of annoyance. Messy sentences, inconsistencies, things like that. Stuff the substance editors should have caught. I'm going to keep calm and ignore it because A) it isn't my job, and mentioning it would just sound bitchy, and B) it's the best book out of the ones we had to choose from.

Anyway, not my point. I started there to segue into what I think is probably the most important aspect of being a writer: having an opinion. Specifically, having an opinion about writing.

After all, there are plenty of writing styles to choose from. Mine is fairly sparse, but I do like to indulge in similes (sort of like having chocolate while you're on a diet). Some people like long, descriptive prose (the good kind, a la Zora Neale Hurston or something). Some people like dialogue-heavy works; some prefer long stretches of introspection.

And there's nothing wrong with any of those styles. There's also nothing wrong with writing in a style that might be out of favor--here in Post-Modern Land, we still seem to be catching up from the Hemingway Hangover (and I love Hemingway), but that doesn't mean that flowery prose should be off-limits.

What's wrong is writing in any of those styles without having an opinion about it.

Now, young writers naturally try out lots of different styles. You might find yourself copying authors you admire or accidentally drawing from the books you're reading. (This continues to happen, trust me.) But eventually, once you've written enough, you'll start settling in. I found my style around my first NaNoWriMo, and while things have changed for me since then, I've kept to the general idea of that first draft I wrote for it.

And, once you have that style, you need to know why. My writing is very introspective and very, very third-person limited; I've been told that my writing is almost first-person at points, which is what I aim for. I really want to be looking at things through my characters' eyes, with all the little flaws and misperceptions that come from it. (Especially since most of  my writing, despite being fantasy, revolves around intrapersonal conflict.)

You might be different. You might prefer sparse, Hemingway-esque prose because you want to make the reader work a little bit. You might like first-person because it suits your characters or because you want to write something that exposes the biases of first-person narratives. (Don't think your reason for choosing a style has to be deep. It just has to make sense for you.)

In any case, you need to have an opinion about your writing because you need to show you've thought about it. The whole point of writing is that nothing is arbitrary: it's carefuly crafted and thought-out (or, at least, it should be). Find your style, and find a reason for it.


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