Monday 25 January 2016


I wrote somewhere, rather pompously, that if you call yourself a writer you have a duty to at least try to write well. In my books I do my best to express myself clearly in correct English. This takes hard work because, as Robert Louis Stevenson said, 'The difficulty of literature is not to write, but to write what you mean.' 

Many authors, some of them very successful, seem to pay scant attention to the quality of their prose, which I think is a pity. Others, like Ian McEwan or Kazuo Ishiguru, express themselves so lucidly that it is a pleasure to read their books just for the beauty of the language. 

In my own way I'm a bit of a pedant, and quite old-fashioned. For example, I try not to including contractions in my work, although there is no good reason why a writer of commercial crime fiction should avoid them. There may even be an argument in favour of using them, as 'don't' and 'can't' speed up the pace, where 'do not' and 'cannot' maybe slow it down. I suppose decades of teaching teenagers how to write 'properly', in correct, formal English, has left its mark on my writing. 

But writing for a blog is different - especially when it is a post for my own personal blog. Here, I am  free to use excessive punctuation, for example!! (Would I ever use double exclamation marks in a book??? Of course not!!!) What might look inappropriate in a novel to my blinkered eyes, seems perfectly acceptable here. 

Of course blogs are not solely outlets for trivia. Many bloggers analyse, critique and comment on important issues in culture and current affairs. A blog can be whatever the writer chooses to make it, and we are fortunate to live in a period where blogs are so many and so varied.

In his droll and whimsical novel, Tristram Shandy, the eighteenth century writer Laurence Sterne set out to break all the contemporary rules of fiction, in an ingenious parody of the rather self-consciously worthy novels of the time. I think Sterne would have relished the liberty of a blog.


Val Ewing said...

I do love blogs and in some ways the ones that allow us to see into other's personal lives a little are more interesting than those blogs that are technical or even political all of the time.
Sometimes it is fun to let your hair down and just type away with whatever your thoughts are.

Leigh Russell said...

I'm glad you agree, Val. I do try to post 'interesting' pieces about topical issues, but sometimes I just want to ramble on about life and my experience of it.

Gordon Brice said...

As with interviews, I enjoy reading the blogs of people that I admire, especially when you are given the opportunity to learn more about the person, why they do what they do and, why they do it.
Thank you as always for finding the time in your busy life, to provide us with another interesting read, Leigh.

Leigh Russell said...

You really are very kind about my little ramble on here today! Thank you very much, Val and Gordon.