Balzac was a klutzy writer. His sentences are awkward, his phrasing clumsy, his style unappealing – and yet he was very successful. How can we explain this?


The answer lies in the fact that Balzac had many other talents: his writing is filled with realistic people, intricate plots, and plenty of romance. As a result, readers forgave Balzac for his clumsy ornate prose. They turned the pages to find out what was going to happen to Eugène de Rastignac, Eugénie Grandet, or any number of other major characters, all of whom seemed to come alive on the pages of Balzac's books.

If you fear that you, too, may have some element of awkwardness in your writing, if your sentences don't sound musical, if your prose is sometimes stolid and leaden, take heart. While it is important to try to fix these faults, they should not stop you from writing.

If, like Balzac, you have some problems with your prose style, you can compensate like he did by using other strengths which you may possess. For example, Balzac was a master of emotion; his writing is filled with emotional tags – little references to the feelings of his characters. In Le Père Goriot Balzac tells us, about the hero, that "His bitter thoughts were dispersed by the pleasure that he looked forward to in dining at the viscountess's" (page 123, Modern Library). Balzac jam packs this sentence with two emotional comments, which I've underlined. To add power to your writing, include emotional tags like this, and readers are likely to overlook small stylistic faults and other compositional errors.