Now, what exactly IS yoga writing, you may ask. Since yoga is good for me, shouldn’t it be good for my writing? Not so fast my little holistically minded writer.
Yoga writing (my own term ;)) is writing in which the author has endeavored so much to adhere to all of the writing rules, plus anything critique partners, judges, random readers have said they must do to make their work “good”, that they have created writing that is often extremely, if not completely, difficult to read, not unlike this sentence which actually violates many rules, but is in itself a twisted example of one form of yoga writing.
An easier to read example of yoga writing comes to mind from a few years ago where an agent or editor mentioned he didn’t like the word “as”. There were cries and wailing women at this pronouncement as writers fought to get all of the examples of the offending word out of their work.
This led to some really odd yoga writing contortions, let me tell you. The editor/agent (forgot which now) didn’t mean to attack the word itself, but rather specific uses, or misuses, of the word. But many writers took it to their hearts that the word must be destroyed, no matter how unwieldy it left some of their sentences.
Another culprit, and more wide spread than the great “as” purge, is the word “was”. Yes, this little dickens can often be a sign of weak or lazy writing. Many times a sentence with this monster in it can be turned into a stronger, brighter, shiner, (and depending upon your genre) more able to leap tall buildings in a single bound version of itself with a “was-ectomy” and some reconstructive surgery.
But sometimes they need to be there for ease of reading, and well, because removing them often leaves a weirdly twisted sentence that often takes longer for the reader to read than it would have had there been a simple…was. Like the word “said” most readers don’t notice “was”. Now, this isn’t carte blanch to go dumping "was’s" all over the place. But it does mean that you shouldn't panic and run screaming for the hills if you have some legitimately in your work.
Our goal as writers is to make our work as evocative, inviting, and magical as we can to a reader so we can pull them along the path of our story with us. We can’t do that if we sprain their brain with a confusing and tortured sentence structure.