Hey, folks. This should probably go in Craft, but maybe the mods will let it stick here. This is the only club I hang out in, and I do think it’s relevant to those who aspire to publication. Plot / character / concept are all important, but what really separates books - I feel - is the actual writing. A well-written book will actually get the agent / editor to read past the first few pages and arrive at the meat of the story. It’s also, oddly enough, something that a lot of writers don’t seem to think is very important. Everyone brings up Twilight or the Da Vinci Code or what-not to prove that readers don’t care about craft - but those are exceptions, not the norm. A poorly written (or even a mediocrely written book) will almost certainly not make it past the gatekeepers.
Anyway, a wonderful sentence-level writer named Tracy Townsend (The Nine, great book) was doing an AMA on reddit, and I asked her for her suggestions on how writers can improve their craft. She gave a wonderful answer, and I thought it would be relevant to those who aspire to be published someday.
"As far as HOW to fine-tune your prose toward that kind of awareness, find an author whose writing you admire and, when you run across a passage that really sings, ask yourself, “Hang on. Why does this stand out to me?” Highly conscious reading leads to highly conscious writing. To some extent, you almost have to take the “fun” out of that initial lovely reading experience and return to squint at the sentences, the paragraphs, the pages, and really mull them over. Look at rhythm (sentence length and variance, punctuation, etc.), unusual imagery, awareness of sensory detail, novel ways to comment on emotion or interior experience. You can try to write in imitation of these things, if you want, just to try them out as skills and to see what settles into you naturally, a combination of little magpied writerly tricks you can dress up your own nest with.
And you’re right to suspect that glass-lake shiny prose is time-consuming to write. It starts with an awful lot of painfully flowery word-vomit and then, over time, gets pared and pruned into something that can actually hold your eye and its own shape. Drafting is being Jackson Pollack. Revision is being a bonsai gardener. There’s a lot of art and energy in both actions, but they are ENTIRELY different."
I thought that was really useful advice. Maybe you do, too.