Of all the buzz words around prose writing, style is the most elusive, the least often explained or understood. What is style? Who has it and who doesn’t? Can style be taught? These questions have interested me for almost as long as I’ve been writing, so recently I decided to find the answers.
After six months of reading around the topic, I am excited to be teaching a workshop on all that I’ve gleaned. What I know now is that style has two distinct layers. The first, which is practical or surface style, can be taught and applied and the results are more or less instantaneous. The deeper conceptual layer is a little more tricky to articulate and put into action, but not impossible. If you doubt this, here is a quote:
“Style takes its final shape more from attitudes of mind than from principles of composition.” The Elements of Style, Strunk and White.
Because of the influences it has been subjected to over time, the English language is vast and beautiful, flexible and sometimes maddening, but it is the most varied of any modern European language. To work with rich materials can be daunting, and writers, especially when starting out, can easily be overwhelmed. Yet there are ways of navigating the word-forests, and some wonderful writers and thinkers have laid down paths for those of us coming behind.
Since it is never too soon to consider style in prose writing, writers at all stages of accomplishment are welcome to attend the workshop, from aspiring beginners to emerging and developing authors. If you are in Adelaide on Saturday 13th April, “The Secrets of Style” is a day-long workshop designed to offer participating writers the almost instant improvement of surface style as well as the longer term goal of developing conceptual style. It is offered through the South Australian Writers’ Centre.
Happy writing, always!