When I was just starting out as a writer, I was in a Faulkner phase, completely enamored of long, labyrinthine sentences and Latinate words. His patience sorely tried, my workshop instructor finally hauled me aside and said, “Stop trying so hard to have a style.” I think he might have let me have my head, working all the Faulkner out of my system until what was left was mine, and I never warn my students away from similar infatuations, since I trust that they’ll work through it—and that it’s good to fall in love. Yet I’m happy to grant the point of my exasperated instructor: style emerges from a writer’s natural inclinations and habits of mind. Freed of the burden of “having a style,” you must take up another, a sentence-by-sentence effort to embody the principles of story logic in grammar and syntax.
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