Cat Crossing: The Romance of Judith Stanton
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Writing with Style

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Imagine this. Your characters' goals are stated, motivated, conflicted, and realized in your novel as believable, riveting events. The turning points of your plot have your critique partners flipping pages so fast they're asking for your next chapter yesterday. The pace of your sensual scenes is languid, and your action scenes rip.

You haven't broken a single one of the unwritten laws that first-time romance writers dare not break: no professional athletes, no artists, no land development plots, no island setting, and so forth.

You think you're on your way.

But your next rejection letter from an editor says your style fails to sparkle. As in, falls flat.

What is style? you ask. And how do I know when my writing has it?

Style is not a mastery of the rules of punctuation although an ineptly punctuated, effective style is an oxymoron.

Style is not a knowledge of grammar although a pleasing style is always grammatical.

Style is not a command of the arcane rules of usage although the best prose stylists determine what acceptable usage is.

Good style embraces all of the above and goes beyond it. In fiction that is pleasing to read, good style makes writing almost unnoticeable. No words are out of place or unconsciously repeated. The order of words in sentences is natural, fluid, and inevitable, except when the writer violates order to some purpose. Sentences aren't too long, too short, too much alike, too unlike. Diction is consistent. We comprehend meaning immediately, and sometimes even memorably.

When I'm reading an author whose style I like, good style means there's nothing in it that I want to fix.

The Style Maven is going to talk about issues of style and often of usage, as if she knew what she was talking about. A scary undertaking, and one that invites discussion and requests.

In your best prose, please.

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