I compare a writer’s style to her/his fingerprint, a unique signature style that develops over time. If you have a favorite author, then you probably know that author’s style; it permeates the work of the author as a scent picked up by the reader. The author has embedded in the story not only his soul but also his creativity, and in a way that reflects a distinctive writing personality, the writer’s style. Even when the work has gone through several rounds of editing and re-writing, the author’s style remains, embracing the story.
I think that every writer sets out to tell a story, maybe influenced by his/her favorite author, genre, but in time that writer finds his own voice and style. It shines through inevitably, and the writer chooses to develop it or ignore it. In the latest, the writer would be forcing someone else’s style into his work, preventing the free flow of the story, and his growth as a writer. No one can be the next Stephen King or Dan Brown, for example. You might admire their styles, and decide that you want to write in their specific genres, but eventually, you will need to embrace your own style. How do you develop your writing style? How do you facilitate the process?
I think that there are four ways to do this, and all four relate to one another and take time. To develop a writing style you will have to:
- Read – Read as much as you can, and in every genre. Read the good, the bad, and the ugly. The more you read, the more you learn the do’s and don’ts, but also you train your brain to pick up on many other things between the lines. Research falls into the read category, so research what you must. It is not possible to become an author if you do not like to read. It is like trying to make a cat lay eggs (imagine that disaster).
- Write – It may seem so simple, but to develop your writing style you will have to do tons/miles of writing. It is that hard and that simple. The more you write, the more you attune your brain (and soul) into developing your unique voice. Compare it to cooking or riding a bike for the first time, and the difference that practice makes.
- Listen – Listen to the flow of the story but also to your characters. Many times, characters know best. Sometimes, forcing the story will end up confusing/erasing your characters. Imagine going into another dimension while trying to stay in the present at the same time; there is conflict, and eventually, something is got to give. Listen to your characters and compromise. For example, when I set to write my first novel (Moonlit Valley), one of the main characters was imagined as being a bit nerdy, second to the female character, and a complete opposite to the character that emerged when I began to write. This character fought me from the start, to the point that I was forcing my writing. In the end, I let him be and Jeremy Sandbeck emerged. After that, it was easy to write him.
- Trust your instinct/go with your gut – In other words, listen to your Healthy Inner Voice. This is the voice that looks after you and cheers you up – the one that “feels just right.” At the same time beware of the Inner Critic – that is the archenemy of your Healthy Inner Voice, and it doesn’t feel good; it puts you down. Learn to discern them; balance the first, and ignore the second.
I honestly think that this is the best way to develop your writing style, and it is a writer’s journey.
6 thoughts on “Developing Your Writing Style”
You’ve pretty much hit the nail on the head, especially with the first two. What I’ve discovered about an author’s style is that it’s born from the mixing and mashing of other styles encountered in the books the author reads.
If you steep yourself in nothing but Stephen King, you’ll write like Stephen King. If you steep yourself in nothing but Neil Gaiman, you’ll write like Neil Gaiman. If, however, you read a variety of authors in a variety of genres, then your mind will naturally resonate with the best of each author’s unique style, and in time you will develop your own style that is some combination of the many traits you encountered while reading.
I also think that an author’s style morphs and changes over time. As an example, I read, for the first time, “The Shining” and its sequel, “Doctor Sleep,” pretty much back to back. You could tell from the styles of both that they were written by Stephen King, but also that his writing has evolved over the past thirty six years.
Very informative post, and reiterates what I have told and been told for many years!
Great to find your blog, by the way. I shall return 🙂
Every time I sit to write Steinbeck’s, Hemingway’s and Harper Lee’s style runs through my head. To me that is my base line, but my style is vastly different than theirs. A simple sentence with simple, purposeful, powerful, and descriptive verbs. Keep the story moving forward, don’t get bogged down in your own horse manure.
A friend ask me to read his short story a few years ago. Every time a character moved from one place to another they did everything, but walk (meandered, sauntered, strolled, etc). I said to him, “Don’t people in your world walk any more?”
Exactly, it is a journey that never ends. As long as we write and live. Thank you for visiting and for your excellent comment.
Hello and thank you for stopping by. Yes, it is a writer’s journey, one that never ends as long as we continue writing and living, reading and learning, and creating.
Yes, and now you sound like Stephen King when he says in “On writing” that he said, she said will always be better – the power of verbs that shakes the reader. Well said Kenton.
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