Vonnegut on Style

Since high school, I always hated writing.  Yet, oddly, it always came naturally to me.  I communicate much better in text than I do in words.  Writing this blog has turned me from hating writing, to loving it.  Even when I know very few people read this, I get a certain satisfaction out of putting my thoughts down on “paper” in a place I know I will be able to look back on, and forever be able to evaluate my progress as a “writer”.

While I know it is probably out of place for my to call myself a “writer” since in reality, having a blog hardly makes you a writer, it is something I am actively doing, and actively trying to become better at.  I doubt I will ever write a book, or even a short work of fiction, but I do enjoy posing questions, and jotting down thoughts.  So, for the sake of this article, let me call myself a writer.

Kurt Vonnegut
Kurt Vonnegut

Today on Twitter, one of the few people I follow, DoshDosh, posted a link to an article: vonnegutSTYLE.  As I am sure you do not know, Kurt Vonnegut is my favorite author of all time, hands down.  I have never been much of a bookworm, but I believe I have read almost every one of Vonneguts books.  His writing style is captivating, and his stories just, amazing.

When I saw the link DoshDosh posted I immediately clicked on it. As someone who is still in the infant stages as a writer, and actively developing a style for myself, the idea of getting advice on style from the master himself was something I could not pass up.  So now, as per his recommendation, I suppose I shall try to evaluate my own style against his guidelines publicly.  I hope you can offer me any feedback or constructive criticisms you might have.

Why should you examine your writing style with the idea of improving it? Do so as a mark of respect for your readers, whatever you’re writing. If you scribble your thoughts any which way, your readers will surely feel that you care nothing about them. They will mark you down as an egomaniac or a chowderhead — or, worse, they will stop reading you.

-Kurt Vonnegut

  1. Find a subject you care about
    This is the entire point of this blog.  I feel I only write about things I care about, without compromise.  The issue lies in the fact that often finding such inspiration to write comes in waves.  I find a direct correlation between my moods, and my passion to write.  I feel it is good on one hand, where my output is only of a certain quality, to me.  Yet bad, in that I do not write nearly as much as I would like to, since I cannot force myself to have a topic worth writing about all the time.
  2. Do not ramble
    I feel I need a lot of work in this area, as most of my posts could be regarded as pure rambling.  I would really love some input with respect to this.
  3. Keep it simple
    I consider myself a good communicator, yet, you will never see something as simple and powerful as “To Be or Not to Be” come out of this blog.  I feel I have a good mix of complexity in my writing while it is still easy to understand what I am trying to convey.  I am not an english major and I not studied literature, so I am sure I could use a lot or work in this area.
  4. Have guts to cut
    In the article, Vonnegut describes this as basically getting rid of useless words and sentences.  Do not try to fill your writings with too much fluff.  I think I need to work on this a good bit.  I can be a bit wordy and repetitive at times.
  5. Sound like yourself
    I feel this is one of my strong points.  With me, what you read is what you get.
  6. Say what you mean
    While I would like to think this is true for me, it is a tough point.  I realize that this blog is totally public with my name attached to it, and unlike Vonnegut, writing is not my livelihood.  I often find myself censored by the very premise of the wrong people seeing the wrong things written here.  In most cases I do say what I mean, but not always.
  7. Pity the readers
    Basically what he is suggesting here is that you make what you write easy to read.  I’m pretty sure I could use some work here as well.

The most damning revelation you can make about yourself is that you do not know what is interesting and what is not. Don’t you yourself like or dislike writers mainly for what they choose to show you or make you think about? Did you ever admire an emptyheaded writer for his or her mastery of the language? No.

So, in closing, I suppose it is helpful to step back and evaluate yourself every once in a while, but I think the most important evaluations come from those other than yourself.  Based on the guidelines set fourth by the great Kurt Vonnegut, I ask you:  How am I doing?

3 thoughts on “Vonnegut on Style

  1. I’m not familiar with Vonnegut’s work. Then again I’m not a very well read person. I do plan to get back into reading books again. I think reading blogs have given me ADD. I ordered a few books from Edward De Bono, since I liked his other works.

  2. Stephen King calls #4 “Kill Your Darlings”, which I like. I imagine the writing of fiction the way he does it, and the way Vonnegut does it are two totally different animals (especially if you’re all about Vonnegut’s style– I have a hard time reading him, though I have a few of his books, he’s somewhere near Joyce on my shelf– not impossible, but a pain in the ass)– Anyway, the point I’m taking three paragraphs to make, is if you’re trying to buff up your writing style, I think “On Writing” is worth at least a perusal. That, Elements of Style, and The New Book of Forms are all you need, in my slacker-writer opinion.

  3. Holy shit, is MJ Misty? It’s fucking on now Misty. These comments are officially a forum and you are officially the same whack nut job I remember you being. Have at you!

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