10 Secrets to Beautiful Writing (Prose)

Writing well is a great thing. Essential, in fact.

But you know what’s even greater? Writing beautifully. Writing prose that rises and falls and fits together. Words that sit on your tongue in exactly the right shape and weight and size. Prose that absorbs the reader, not only with its story but its song.

Prose becomes powerful when it delivers while captivating.

Once you’ve gotten the basics of writing well down, the next step you can take is to write not only functionally, but beautifully.

Here are – secrets to beautiful writing.

  1. Study the Great Works

I’ve said this many times and I’ll say it again: you can’t be a good writer without first being a good reader. (You also can’t be a good teacher without first being a good student).

Pick works which inspire you not only in their content but in their form, and study them—how they make their prose rough and rugged or distant and song-like, based on their subject matter.

Personally, my favourite authors who’ve completely hooked me because of their writing style include Donna Tartt, Alice Sebold and Haruki Murakami. Their style is so good that I read all or nearly all the novels they write, even if that particular story doesn’t exactly interest me.

2. Small Stuff Matter

Don’t sweat the small stuff… is just about the worst advice a writer can get.

Hemmingway said, “prose is architecture, not interior decoration”. Like how the pieces make a puzzle, writers absolutely must be deliberate with how they use the features of language in order to make their work stand out.

The English language provides an extensive list of features writers can play with. They include hyperbole, parallelism, assonance, sarcasm, antithesis and metaphor, to name a few. For the purposes of this post, I will be focusing on a key few which I feel really make a difference with minimal effort, especially for writers who are just beginning to learn to use them.

  • Rhythm

Rhyme can be a little cheesy for me. Rhythm’s another thing though. When your prose has good rhythm, it makes for pleasant, easy reading. It also controls the speed of reading. Rhythm doesn’t have to be as regular as Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter, but ensuring that parts of the prose aren’t unnecessarily jarring or out-of-place helps make for more effortless reading.

A good way to create good rhythm is by mixing short words with long words, and remembering to insert the occasional short sentence. Like this. And if you don’t already do so, read the words out in your head as you write or type them.

  • Alliteration and Assonance

These two elements not only make the text more rhythmic and catchy at places you need it to be, they can be quite the pleasant surprise when you come across them.

  • Eye Rhymes

If you want to take it an extra step further, the way the text looks contributes to how beautiful it is, not just how it sounds. Eye rhymes are pleasing to look at.

3. Use Original Imagery, Similes and Metaphors

Sometimes, words aren’t enough.

My favourite writer for this is definitely Haruki Murakami. I find his writing especially poignant as he usually compares scenes with completely unexpected images, such as comparing clouds in the sky to punctuation marks on a page.

Imagery, similes and metaphors tend to get cliched, so the trick is to be as original as possible. I tell my students to use examples from their own experiences, so they can bring something new to the text, instead of using just another tired cliche.

4. Read Your Writing Aloud

Besides just reading the words in your head as you type, try reading your finished work aloud. Hear how the words sound when they are spoken. Are there parts of the work that sound off? Does listening become difficult at some points?

7. Use Synonyms

Sometimes, repetition is important for content. You need to drive the point across. But using the same word too many times in a paragraph or page can be annoying at best, confusing at worst.

The solution?: Synonyms. Use different ways to drive the point home, mixing up different language elements, sentence and word lengths.

8. Begin and finish well

I don’t know about you, but I can almost never continue reading a book when the introductory chapters, pages and paragraphs don’t hook me.

Easy introduction hacks include short catchy sentences, incomplete descriptions (these can work to make the reader interested, but use them wisely as if misused, these can create the impression of bad writing) and extremely interesting characterisation.

One great way to improve on your introductions is to study great hooks from different authors. My favourite authors for introductions include Stephen King and Jeffrey Deaver.

But beyond a good introduction, rarely is anything more satisfying than a good ending.

9. Practice

A lesson on writing wouldn’t be complete without the reminder that regular, dedicated practice makes better.

10. Ask for Feedback

Our work is usually never as bad, or as good, as we think it is. Getting feedback lets you get a fresh perspective and learn something new. The person giving the feedback doesn’t have to be a ‘writer’; there is something to learn from everyone.

I hope that these tips help you write more effectively and beautifully as you work to take your writing to the next level.

Happy writing!

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