Do As I Say, Not As I Do


stardust coverI’m currently reading Neil Gaiman’s Stardust. I haven’t finished it yet, but it is safe to say that I’m not enjoying it as much as I’d hoped. Things may change by the end, I may end up loving it, you never know. But as I read, I can’t help but feel a little bitter about his writing style. Now Neil Gaiman has become one of the world’s most-loved authors during recent years, and I have no problem with this. I loved The Ocean at the End of the Lane. He is a magnificent storyteller. I guess Stardust just isn’t for me.

Now the first novel I ever wrote was The Black Petal. It hasn’t been published yet, I’m still working through my re-re-re-re-edit of it. Ever since I’ve finished writing it, I’ve had constructive feedback that my overuse of ‘purple prose’, adverbs and long sentences creates a feeling of disestablishment for the reader. The reader can’t get in to it. Shorter sentences, snappy sentences, more doing, less describing.

I’ve learnt the hard way during my writing career.

And yet, if you’ve picked up and read Stardust, it is full of sentences 35,45,50 words long. Passive voice, active voice, point of view conflicts, adverb after adverb after adverb.

OK, OK, OK. I know what you are thinking. Is someone a little jealous? Well, as much as I’d love his status and money, I’m more confused than anything. I’ve had rejection letters and emails from publishers who have been kind enough to give me the advice, but when I see examples of stuff completely opposite to what the ‘experts’ are saying, well what are writers supposed to think? Do publishers really know what they are talking about? Of course they do, otherwise it wouldn’t have been published in the first place.

So my rhetorical question of the day: why is it OK for one and not the rest? Yes, yes, I know how I appear. Don’t get me started on – it’s who you know, not what you know.

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1 thought on “Do As I Say, Not As I Do

  1. I adore Neil Gaiman’s writing style. It’s lyrical, whimsical, and flows so smoothly off the page and into the mind. I guess that’s the trick; Gaiman’s writing is well crafted, and despite it’s intricacies I don’t find myself needing to go back and re-read passages in order to make sense of it, like some other writers. He doesn’t use words for the sake of them. His sentences may be long and verbose, but they always feel light.

    I find myself emulating his style when I write, which is probably extremely dangerous since I’m nowhere close to as good as Neil Gaiman, and I’ll probably end up hearing the same feedback you do. I don’t think that’s likely to stop me trying, though.

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