Author Topic: Improving prose/style?  (Read 2894 times)

Offline Dean

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Improving prose/style?
« on: June 23, 2013, 09:29:56 PM »
Given that I am pursuing educational and career paths unrelated to writing, I don't have the luxury of formal creative writing education. I'm doing my best to teach myself and learn what I can; reading widely and studying the elements of craft, buying guides, etc, but I still find myself lost when it comes to talk of "split infinitives" and "action tags" and "supposition" and any other references to grammar or stylistic elements.

Most writing guides tend to focus on aspects of characterisation, plot, etc, which is all well and good, but I also want to work on prose itself.

A book that seems to be recommended in quite a few circles is Strunk and White's "The Elements of Style", although I've seen that criticised for being overly prescriptive, outdated and in many places, inaccurate. Alternatively, "Garner's Modern American Usage" has been highly recommended, and I wonder if that or W.H Fowler might be the way to go (despite the fact I am not American!)

Does anyone have any suggestions?

Wolfe

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Re: Improving prose/style?
« Reply #1 on: June 23, 2013, 10:08:00 PM »
Brohaugh's Write Tight.
Brown and King's Self-Editing for Fiction Writers.
Jim Smith's The Writer's Little Helper.

In that order if you need help with prose and style techniques.
« Last Edit: June 23, 2013, 10:14:03 PM by Wolfe »

Offline Dean

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Re: Improving prose/style?
« Reply #2 on: June 23, 2013, 10:30:58 PM »
Thank you Wolfe, those look like just the ticket going by their Amazon descriptions. Mind if I ask what made you pick that order for them? And would you recommend a grammar guide for someone completely ignorant of the rules like me or just stick to books such as these  :)?

Max_with_word_processor

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Re: Improving prose/style?
« Reply #3 on: June 23, 2013, 11:13:15 PM »
Brown and King's Self-Editing for Fiction Writers.

That one helped me a lot.


By the way, I don't really understand what all those split infinitives and suppositions things are either. It would be great to have a thread where one or two are explained each week by senior members.

Offline wanderer

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Re: Improving prose/style?
« Reply #4 on: June 23, 2013, 11:16:30 PM »
I agree about Wolf's recommendations and I have all of them. However I also refer to the Strunk and White's "The Elements of Style" quite often. Also, don't overlook online resources and I know there are some excellent ones on this forum. Someone might be able to point directly to the links?

Wolfe

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Re: Improving prose/style?
« Reply #5 on: June 23, 2013, 11:22:40 PM »
I didn't refer to the Elements of Style because Dean wanted an alternative and perhaps one more current to today's publishing standards. As far as your question, Dean, the reason I said in that order is because that order shouldn't overwhelm you. The first one is like its namesake. Tight. And to the point. But, the information is vital to understanding swift and exact style.

The second one reinforces the first, but focuses more on prose than style. The third does both, but in a breezy, fast manner that feels like a refresher between the two. I made that recommendation last, not because it isn't as good, but because it makes for fast reading.

By the time you're done with all three, your desire to write and try some of the techniques, or even examine and rehash old work, should overwhelm you. The third one makes fast reading for this exact purpose.

As far as a grammar book, read Write Tight first. It should address the basics. But if you're still in need, ask again later after you've read these three first.

Hope the recommendations help.
« Last Edit: June 23, 2013, 11:28:16 PM by Wolfe »

Offline 2par

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Re: Improving prose/style?
« Reply #6 on: June 24, 2013, 08:15:03 AM »
I get such good info on this site. Thanks y'all.

Offline Annmarie

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Re: Improving prose/style?
« Reply #7 on: June 24, 2013, 01:11:42 PM »
Write Tight was a revelation for me. Get it.
Work hard. Believe. Take a chance.

Pale Writer

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Re: Improving prose/style?
« Reply #8 on: June 24, 2013, 03:32:26 PM »
Don't only read the definitions and example in those recommended books. Take the time to understand each fully before putting them aside. I don't know how many new writers and some more mature have difficulties with the balance of show and tell or using one or the other. They may have the capability, but need to take time out of writing to adapt them to their way of writing. Adjectives/Adverbs/passive/active - you have to be wary about because those rules sort of blend in with personal opinions. It can be a hit and miss. If you are serious, write for the paying audience. That's when reading comes in handy when helping you improve. Sure you can write a story now - but I bet you believe you can do it better. Practice everything you've learnt until it becomes part of your writing, the less obstacles to your mind, the better the story will flow from you.

I learnt the hard way, I regret it immensely now, and if I didn't have determination, I would have gave in to other people's opinion and lost my own unique style. Don't try to be another writer, be your own.

Sorry for the ramble, tis me birthday and I'm partaking. :)

Have a nice day

Pale

Offline Skip Slocum

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Re: Improving prose/style?
« Reply #9 on: June 24, 2013, 06:17:31 PM »
Shoot yeah, thanks for the list, Wolfe.

P.S. For some of the 'lingo' questions, we have a glossary we're putting together. There is a link at the bottom of my posts that will take you there.  ;D

Offline Nick

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Re: Improving prose/style?
« Reply #10 on: June 25, 2013, 06:25:52 AM »
Don't forget my downloadable guide Essential English for Authors, published by our forum sponsors, The Self Development Network.

Essential English for Authors is written specifically for people who need to bring their written English up to a publishable standard in the shortest possible time. It focuses especially on the most common problem areas, including punctuation, subject-verb agreement, sentence and paragraph structure, and so on. Essential English for Authors also includes multi-choice quizzes to test your knowledge and help you improve.
Check out my writing blog at www.entrepreneurwriter.net. I also have a new UK personal finance blog called Pounds and Sense.

Offline sugy

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Re: Improving prose/style?
« Reply #11 on: July 09, 2013, 11:58:58 AM »
Thank you all. This is a very helpful thread. I am going to try and get all of them.

Nick, is yours available on amazon kindle?