For anyone who is new to The Elements of Style by Strunk and White, or who hasn't glanced at it since you were required to way back in high school or college English courses, guess what? This old little book, as it was called by Professor Strunk of Cornell University, who wrote its original form around the time of World War I, still has something incredible to offer to those of us loosening up, stretching, and homing in for the challenge of NaNoWriMo. How perfect is that? Some things about writing just don't change.
Here are the style reminders, updated by Professor Strunk's student and eventual publishing partner, E.B.White. They are for writers of fiction, and especially for those who are engaged in the process of learning to be great writers.
from E.B. White
1. Place yourself in the background. Write in ways that draw the reader's attention to the sense and substance of the writing, rather than to the mood and temper of the author.
2. Write in a way that comes naturally.
3. Work from a suitable design. Before beginning to compose something, gauge the nature and extent of the enterprise and work from a suitable design.
4. Write with nouns and verbs, not with adjectives and adverbs.
5. Revise and rewrite. (okay, we know this one is for AFTER November)
6. Do not overwrite.
7. Do not overstate.
8. Avoid the use of qualifiers (rather, very, little, pretty, seemingly).
9. Do not affect a breezy manner.
10. Use orthodox spelling.
11. Do not explain too much. (e.g. in the use of adverbs, 'he said' is better than 'he said consolingly.' Show how he feels by his appearance, actions or words.)
12. Do not construct awkward adverbs. (e.g. tangledly or tiredly)
13. Make sure the reader knows who is speaking.
14. Avoid fancy words.
15. Do not use dialect unless your ear is good.
16. Be clear. Although there is no substitute for merit in writing, clarity comes closest to being one.
17. Do not inject opinion.
18. Use figures of speech sparingly.
19. Do not take shortcuts at the cost of clarity.
20. Avoid foreign languages.
21. Prefer the standard to the offbeat in language usage. As a beginner, err on the side of conservatism, on the side of established language usage. No idiom is taboo, no accent forbidden; there is simply a better chance of doing well if the writer holds a steady course, enters the stream of English quietly, and does not thrash about.
Sound familiar? I can't promise that I'm going to follow every one of these guidelines to the letter, but I'm going to prop this list in front of me while I write. When in doubt fall back on these. If the words are flowing with clarity of style, the story will come out more clearly and easily, too. Of course, this is NaNo, so in the extreme situation of freezing up, which I've heard happens in NaNo a lot, blow something up! (I just love that piece of advice that came from quidforquill in a previous post comment) Just be sure to do it with clarity!!
Have fun everyone. See you on the trail.