writing is like fashion

Let’s talk about fashion today.

Fashion is a funny word. I bet that when you read it, your first thoughts involve catwalks and (too) skinny models and ridiculous garments that show parts of the models’ bodies that best remain hidden in us normal human beings.

Er. Right.

Have you noticed how the clothing industry has hijacked the word fashion? Fashion means manner or trend, and has become one with the clothing industry, because what we wear must always be different from what we wore last season. Not better, just different. To be stylish is to be up-to-date with the latest trends. Where once flares or (gasp) corduroy pants were a must-have, nowadays people wouldn’t want to be seen dead in them.

What for? A pair of pants is a pair of pants, and whatever colour it is, it does the job, and should be adequate. Not so, the gurus dictate. Because we want new things, and different styles, or at least styles that haven’t been seen for at least thirty years.

Ridiculous, huh?

OK, here’s an exercise for you. Go through the above couple of paragraphs and replace ‘fashion’ with ‘writing style’ and ‘gurus’ with ‘publishers’.

Think about it. If someone tells you that you shouldn’t use so many said-bookisms, and you shoot back at them that so-and-so got away with it (in a book published twenty years ago), aren’t you sounding just a little bit like the person who suggests that wearing flares to a job interview is perfectly OK?

I see strong parallels between writing and fashion. A pair of pants is a pair of pants, and a story is a story, and yes I know flares keep you just as warm as stretch jeans, and many of the classics are all told and worked perfectly well as stories, but the thing is, neither are in fashion right now. You cannot afford to lose touch with fashion.

On that subject: what was the last newly-published book by a new author you read?

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