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Writers Tip #92: How to Write Like a Pulitzer Prize Winner

writers tips

Great tips for soon-to-be great writers

When you read your story, does it sound off, maybe you can’t quite put your finger on it, but you know you’ve done something wrong? Sometimes–maybe even lots of times–there are simple fixes. These writer’s tips will come at you once a week, giving you plenty of time to go through your story and make the adjustments.

I have never wanted to write like Pulitzer Prize Winners Ernest Hemingway, Saul Bellow, or William Faulkner,. The style doesn’t fit me. Not to say I wouldn’t love to win one of the world’s most prestigious writer awards–who wouldn’t?–but I don’t think I can make the compromises to my personal voice to fit into that square hole.

I didn’t understand why until I read Joe Bunting’s article on what characterizes that style of writing (see below). You may see yourself in them. That’s good. There’s room for all of us under the authorial umbrella. If you want more information, click through and read his article. You’ll love it:

We all know there are novels and then there are “literary” novels. When you read Margaret Atwood, it just feels different than when you read Tom Clancy. And for some reason, these literary novels are the ones that win all the most prestigious awards like the Pulitzer Prize, the Man Booker Prize, and the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Literary authors are known for their unique voices and experimental styles. You might have learned not to write run-on sentences in school or to avoid beginning a sentence with “and,” but literary writers often seem to flaunt their rule-breaking ways.

This is both good and bad. Literary novels can be difficult to understand, but they can also be beautiful to read, like poetry.

So if you’re salivating to win a Nobel Prize, and just don’t think your diplomacy skills are good enough to win the Peace Prize, here are eight techniques you can use to make your writing more “literary.”

  1. Write long sentences.
  2. Write short sentences
  3. Be lyrical
  4. Make an allusion to the Bible or Moby Dick or Milton
  5. Use an eponym to name your characters
  6. Be specific
  7. Write a story within a story (or a story within a story within a story)
  8. Have a wide scope

I’m glad writers are out there who create this kind of literary prose, but it’s not me. And that’s fine.

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Jacqui Murray is the editor of a technology curriculum for K-fifth grade and creator of two technology training books for middle school. She is the author of Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy midshipman.  She is webmaster for five blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.comEditorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing TeachersIMS tech expert, and a weekly contributor to Write Anything. Currently, she’s seeking representation for a techno-thriller that she just finished. Any ideas? Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

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10 thoughts on “Writers Tip #92: How to Write Like a Pulitzer Prize Winner

  1. Write a story within a story (or a story within a story within a story) I chuckled when i read that one…. They are rules we already follow… It’s that unique turn of phrase and insight that makes the difference.🙂


  2. You are so funny, Sheri. I am proud to know you. I’m about ready to self-pub my thriller. How about if we do ours together? We’ll launch them at the same event–people will be amazed. What d’you say?


    • I’m considering self-pub but want to give myself a chance at the Amazon Breakthrough Novel contest which starts at end of this month.
      And I need to re-write the Table before that, re-edit anyway.

      But, yeah, self-pub may be the only way i ever get into “print.”
      Since yours is a thriller and mine is more run of the mill genre,
      we could call it the Launch of the Thrill Mill!

      Thanks for the compliments. You are so kind and patient.

      See ya soon.

      (Some day I’m gonna figure out how to use my picture as my ID tag.
      What do you call that image thing, anyway?)


  3. I always have my eyes on the prizes.

    I hope to win the Accomplishment Prize for completing a task begun. My home is a field of lost balls because I drop them so often on the way to other distractions. A million ideas begun and discarded, dust bunnies in the corners of my computer, garden, and studio. Actually, I’ve already won this first prize because I have one unpublished book complete (The Inlaid Table) and am within a few weeks of completing book two (The Tree House Mother.) And many more book ideas germinating in my head. Now to get published…

    I also hope to win the Legacy Prize for something of value left to my sons and grandchildren. You may say that my sons ARE my legacy but they are the fine masters of their own lives, and I only get to claim womb rental services for a short time. I am so proud of my sons. One day they may read my books and discover a mom who has something of value to consider besides the usual mom factor. I’d be so proud for them to be proud of me.

    And the last prize is the one that I value most: the Great Promise Prize. As a youngster I wrote, won a few writing prizes, and planned to become a grown up, bona fide writer. Life’s usual and unusual distractions posted their landmines and I fell into them. So ordinary the detours, so drab the achievements, they sound like excuses. But wait – they ARE excuses.

    Someday I’ll tell you the strange circumstance that gave me the imperative to begin putting pen to paper (now that’s a poetic idea, ink on pulp, since the very first words are encoded in my computer) with The Inlaid Table. It won the Terrible Sequence of Events Prize.

    I write from passion, stories that fight sleep, ignore a social agenda, and mock the need to pay bills. Full speed ahead, damn the prizes.

    Shari *: )


  4. I had to look up eponym. I’m working through “On Writing Well” and I feel inclined to reduce, reduce, reduce. Small words. Short sentences. It’s a good practice for me, because my tendency would be towards the verbose. I’m also reading “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek,” and Dillard is a classic example of this literary writing. Her’s is a memoir, but the writing is still “lyrical” and beautiful. When I finally tackle a novel, I’ll keep these in mind.


    • That is a great word, isn’t it? I write thrillers and paleo-historic fiction (under two different names). They wouldn’t be confused with a Pulitzer Prize winner, but they’re from the soul.


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