Do you have any tips on how to write as wonderfully as you do? Trying to emulate an authorial genius is harder than it looks! – Alyssa
First of all: THAT’S SO SWEET! Also, I love you. (Too far?) Second of all: Once I got over the fact that someone actually considers me an authority on such matters, I had to stop playing online Tetris and really think about this one. I took a few days to ponder, and with all that pondering I came up with the answer that there is no answer.
Just kidding. Behold:
1) Read. I have no doubt that an early exposure to Harry Potter (and the subsequent years of being that nerd on the playground who was always saying things like “NUTS TO YOUR HOPSCOTCH, I JUST WANNA READ MY BOOK!”) made me a better writer. I didn’t learn to read years before the other kids at like age -3 or anything like that. I actually spent most of kindergarten stealing other kids’ toys and sitting on my classmates during recess. But then I started to read, and while it didn’t make a model citizen or anything (because I continued to steal toys, mostly from younger kids), it did make me a writer.
Read things. Read all the things. Soak them in. See what works and doesn’t work. Expand your vocabulary; use words like “defenestrate” and “scuttlebutt” and “paradiddle.” Develop your own style and run with it.
2) You can’t go wrong. Recognize that there’s no right or wrong writing style. You can be silly and informal and address the readers like you’re buds and everybody’s buying a pony together. That’s cool. Or you can be stiff and adhere to the rules of punctuation to the letter. That’s cool, too. Maybe that fits your story better. Maybe that fits you better. The point is to let the words come to you naturally. That’s not to say you’ll sit down, bang on the keyboard for a few hours and produce a flawless paragon of bookish perfection. Once it literally took me four days to write a single paragraph. FOUR DAYS. I mean, I wrote the rest of the article, but I kept going back and tweaking that one paragraph and tweaking it again and finally concluding that it was stupid, and just before I scrapped it I saw its inner beauty and tearfully vowed not to give up because I knew this was meant to be. (Things got a little emotional.)
So basically there’s no hard and fast rule. Instead there are lots of little half-assed contradictory rules that are more like gentle suggestions. Be concise, unless in this particular circumstance your story would benefit from being less than concise, in which case, don’t be concise. Hold your head up high and apologize to no man, but accept criticism as the tool of the author’s trade. Avoid cliches, except for sometimes. (Just a few sentences ago I used the phrase “meant to be,” for God’s sake.)
2.5) Above all, be excited. Enjoy what you do, because that’s what really matters.