All I want in life, is to be able to write a book/series that’s as beautifully written as The Infernal Devices. I’m currently studying to become a vet, & as much as I adore animals… I want to be an author so much more. But I can’t write an interesting sentence to save my life. I’m sure you hear it everyday, but you are amazing, & authors like you are what keep my dreams alive. — jessikweh
First: thank you.
Second: If you can’t write a sentence of surpassing lyrical beauty right now on command, don’t worry about it.
One of the most common comments about books I see is “I don’t like the writing, I’m just there for the plot/the characters/the world-building.”
The thing is, all that stuff is writing.
Creating characters: that’s writing. World-building: that’s writing. Plot: that’s writing.
Being able to write sentences that drift down gently upon the reader like beautiful crystalline snowflakes is a hell of a skill. But it is a piece of a skillset, the screwdriver in a toolkit full of tools. If you are freaked out about your sentences, concentrate on world-building or character creation for a while. Being able to create characters people care about is hard. And it is also writing. You are bringing a person to life with nothing but words on a page. You have to give them a life, a heartbeat, goals, despairs, risks, blood. That is the alchemical magic of writing, just as much as we beat on, boats against the current, drawn back ceaselessly into the past or The barefooted drummer, beating a folded newspaper with whisk-brooms in lieu of a drum, stirs the eye’s ear like a blast of brasses in a midnight street.
Beautiful prose makes us feel all sorts of feels, but characters we love make us laugh and hurt, and plot that engages makes us gasp and flip pages. The ability to create any of these things is a talent. And like the development of any talent, we learn by example. If you want to write beautiful prose, read a lot of beautiful prose. (Read poetry. Poetry is all about the distillation of language into the specific and the beautiful, and it isn’t obscure or incomprehensible, I promise. Try Elizabeth Bishop: “One Art” or “Insomnia.” )
Learn the rhythms and the echoes of prose you admire. Take a month and read only beautiful prose; you’d be surprised at the effect it has on your own work. It’s like a language immersion class. We learn to speak by hearing; we learn to write by reading.
But don’t think that stylistic loveliness is all there is to writing. (There’s nothing particularly poetic about the prose in, say, Harry Potter, which is actually one of its strengths. You can mainline plot and character because the writing is so undistracting and straightforward. That’s not a bad thing. The “I don’t like the writing but I like the plot/characters” thing is something I first saw said about Harry Potter, and even then I thought, but characters are writing.) Plot and character are the bones and skin of a story, style is like designs drawn on that skin. Work on the bones, the skin the design first, whatever makes you comfortable. Ideally, they all work together.