Why do you need these tips on how to make your writing edgy and quirky? Because you want to enchant your readers, of course! Writing with flair will bring your manuscript, sample chapters, or articles to life.
Stein On Writing: A Master Editor of Some of the Most Successful Writers of Our Century Shares His Craft Techniques and Strategies by Sol Stein is one of the best books on how to write.
Several editors and publishers have asked me to insert more edginess and quirkiness into my writing, to keep readers hooked until the bitter end. The more edgy and quirky you are as a writer, the more likely your manuscript, book proposal, or article pitch will rise to the top of editors’ and publishers’ slush piles.
Before the tips, a quip: “During the decades that I served as an editor and publisher, what drew my attention to a piece of work more than any other factor was the use of apt particularities, the detail that differentiates one person from another, one act from another, one place from any other like it,” writes Sol Stein in Solutions for Writers: Practical Craft Techniques for Fiction and Non-fiction. “I’ve seen the use of particularity make an article on a mundane subject sing on the page. The nonfiction books I edited that became classics all had the quality of particularity.”
Being specific and concise is one way to be an edgy and quirky writer….and here are several more tips from writers, bloggers, and novelists…
How to Make Your Writing Edgy and Quirky
I asked “What does ‘quirky and edgy’ writing mean to you?” on a couple of different writers’ forums. I used my book idea about strong women in history as an example (a potential publisher wanted me to rewrite my sample chapters, to be more edgy and quirky. I needed help!). Here’s what my fellow scribes said:
Push the boundaries. “…[the publisher and editor] wants more personality in the writing — less academic and more an expression of personality or attitude. Edgy and quirky are often terms used to describe a style that pushes boundaries and draws readers in, the way someone with a distinct voice or eccentric way of viewing the world compels us to watch or listen to them.” – from otterman on AbsoluteWrite.com.
Add a bizarre twist in your writing. “Have you ever seen Oh Yikes! History’s Grossest, Wackiest Moments by Joy Masoff? It’s for kids, but the writer’s casual language and ability to zone in on bizarre or quirky facts might inspire you to pull out funny details in a similar way. The writer also has a book called Oh Yuck! dealing with gross science facts for kids.” – Christine from Suite101 (the titles alone are edgy and quirky!)
Get a personality, girlfriend. “I clicked the link on your profile and read some of your Suite101 articles. Reading them in light of the “edgy” comment . . . I think the writing style shown there is too dry; too factual. Not that you don’t want to be factual . . . you just want it to be livelier.” – johnrobison on AbsoluteWrite.
Break your writing up – perhaps with quotations. “Maybe something that has a lot of quotes and is somewhat conversational in style? …[The publisher and editor] might like to see some ideas that would break up the writing. Or maybe some quotes that could be used as call-outs on some of the pages? Boxed information that has stats about each of the women or a quick overview of highlights or lifetime achievements would also break up the content.” – Lisa from Suite101.
Provoke those sleepy readers. “Edgy tends to mean a hint of the transgressive or dangerous but nothing explicit — while quirky tends to mean something like ‘idiosyncratic and fun’. That’s my take on it anyway… Edgy is a bit of a cliche these days. Provocative is probably a good thought. Also humor of some kind.” – veinglory on AbsoluteWrite.
Dig up the gems when you’re writing a biography. “Who has broken the rules? Who broke stereotypes? Who had the greatest odds against them? Who are the lesser known women who have made huge impacts? Can you find inspiration from even the most unlikely women?” – Jill from Suite101.
Fine tune your voice, tone, and structure. “It all comes down to how you present the information. [The publisher and editor] wants something original and different, but so does everyone. You can’t ‘insert’ edginess and quirkiness. Those qualities are going to be found in a writer’s voice, narrative tone, and/or structure. What’s the purpose of the book? I think you have to answer that clearly first, then you can look at different approaches.” – Doug from Vancouver, BC.
Here’s an example of Sol Stein’s “particularity”, from Solutions for Writers:
“Perhaps my favorite example of particularization is the fist sentence of one of Graham Greene’s masterpieces, The Heart of the Matter. It has three words every writer would do well to remember:
‘Wilson sat on the balcony of the Bedord Hotel with his bald pink knees thrust against the ironwork.'”
Stein says: “The crucial words, of course, are ‘bald pink knees,’ a particularization that makes the character and the place instantly visible and in the reader’s experience unique.”
One last writing tip from Stein’s Solutions for Writers:
Use the techniques of fiction to enhance your creative non-fiction articles, books, and proposals. This means bringing the characters alive, and using conflict, suspense, and tension, and dialogue. “It doesn’t take much to make people come alive on the page,” writes Stein. “The best way to make a [character] come alive is by rendering the person’s appearance with some specific detail.”
If you have any thoughts or questions on enchanting your readers, please comment below! For more writing tips, read How to Write When You Have No Ideas.