Defending Your Style Vs. Being Stubborn

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  • “I’m stringing multiple adverbs together here because that’s my style.”
  • “I’m going to pepper my paragraphs with ellipses and EM-dashes because that’s my style.”
  • “Proper comma usage isn’t my style.”
  • “Plot and structure cramp my style. I need to be free of those arbitrary constraints.”

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Why? Because you do not yet possess the unconscious mastery required to modify the exercise in a way that is not only productive, but ingenious.

Sticking with your own style is incredibly important. It’s exactly what you should do. You should never allow someone to talk you out of your natural style or water down your writer’s voice. But until you learn the conventions of good prose, you deviate from them at your own peril.

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About Nat Russo

Nat Russo is the Amazon #1 Bestselling Fantasy author of Necromancer Awakening. Nat was born in New York, raised in Arizona, and has lived just about everywhere in-between. He’s gone from pizza maker, to radio DJ, to Catholic seminarian (in a Benedictine monastery, of all places), to police officer, to software engineer. His career has taken him from central Texas to central Germany, where he worked as a defense contractor for Northrop Grumman. He's spent most of his adult life developing software, playing video games, running a Cub Scout den, gaining/losing/gaining/losing weight, and listening to every kind of music under the sun. Along the way he managed to earn a degree in Philosophy and a black belt in Tang Soo Do. He currently makes his home in central Texas with his wife, teenage son, and mischievous beagle.

Nat RussoDefending Your Style Vs. Being Stubborn

Comments 10

  1. cathleentownsend

    Excellent article. And for those of used to taking criticism, who eagerly seek it, we have to decide where the line is between voice and grammar. When in doubt, I usually try to implement criticism (most often a cut–I tend to overwrite). Let it sit. Come back to it weeks or months later and decide if I miss my original words. If their absence is felt–something like an ache–I put them back. But it’s far more common that the cut stands. 🙂

    1. Post
      Nat Russo

      You raise an excellent point about gaining distance from your work. It’s imperative that we don’t act on criticism (for or against) the moment we receive it. I think we can only be somewhat objective when we gain a healthy distance.

  2. alisonjackauthor

    Excellent advice from both of you. I’ve recently been reworking the manuscript I published a few years ago (via a vanity publisher – ouch!) with a view to re-releasing it in the summer. Having not looked at it for three years, I came back to it with a clear head, realised how wordy and badly edited it was (ouch!) and have since cut out a whopping 40,000 words. However, parts ended up reading like the skeleton of a story; I’d cut all its flesh off, so yes, some of those words had to go back.
    Whenever I receive criticism, I shut down my computer and do something I enjoy for at least an hour before I even think about replying. By that time my pleasant activity has relaxed me and I can respond constructively. I am of course talking about constructive criticism here – if someone’s merely said, ‘Your writing’s crap’ then I ask them to qualify their comment, and if they fail to do so, I ignore them.

    1. Post
      Nat Russo

      That’s a great strategy!

      I was in a similar boat with the first draft of Necromancer Awakening. My target word count was 120k, but the draft weighed in at 180k. I had to cut 60k words!

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  5. VelahAuthor

    I’ve experienced something similar to “…bolstering every noun with an adjective and every adjective with an adverb is NOT a stylistic choice. It’s horrible writing.” I can only assume I had been talking to a youngster, by the writing he wanted me to read and his response to my suggesting he lose most of his words ending with “-ly.” He responded, and I felt he may have been a bit offended, with the sentiment of it being his style. I couldn’t read it, so backed out of giving any more suggestions.
    As for my writing, long ago, I began weeding out adjectives- for the most part; some just have to stay in- and trying to use words I found using the Thesaurus. Long words. College words?

    1. Post
      Nat Russo

      I definitely agree that a writer shouldn’t realistically strive to eliminate them all. There’s really no such thing as a “bad” part of speech. I’ve also done something similar (pulling out of reading a work). If it appears that the writer isn’t interested in really learning the craft, it’s a waste of time for both of us.

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  7. Brittany Thibodeaux

    Great advice! It’s hard to take criticism, sure. It’s dropped my ego down a peg or eighteen before, and it’s the one thing that has led me to consider (however briefly) quitting writing (or at least the goals of publishing side of it). But ultimately, it’s been one of my greatest tools in developing as a writer.

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