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How To Find and Embrace Your Intangible Writing Style

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Your writing style is the intangible personality that comes across in your writing. It's the words you use, the point of view you take, and the millions of little factors that all add up to writing that is distinctly You. Some people's style will be more evident than others, but everyone has style.

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Four Categories of Writing

  • Narrative—tell a story, follow a plot

  • Persuasive—convince and persuade the reader

  • Expository— inform and explain

  • Descriptive—describe and create vivid images

At a push, my style would be narrative (as opposed to persuasive, expository, or descriptive), but I can't say I care for that information as it doesn't help me in the slightest. It's one thing to say to write in your style; it's another thing to do it. So I've compiled a list of all the useful tips and tricks I've found and used to help me find and keep up with my writing style.

Knowing Your Intangible Writing Style

What will help your writing is embracing your intangible writing style. I mean that strange thing that makes your writing all your own. Every one of my writing failures was due to writing in someone else's tone rather than my own. I would write a scene with an excess of drama, and I would write it seriously—not my style. Sometimes the writing wasn't even bad. I could impress myself with the wailing and weeping of my main character.

The problem was that the style change came out of nowhere and made me roll my eyes. I don't like it when my book makes me roll my eyes. That is a very bad sign. When you know your style and stick to it, everything flows smoother. Sure, I sometimes look longingly at the greener grass of other writing styles, but I stick to my own because everything flows smoother when you stick to what you do best.

"You have to follow your own voice. You have to be yourself when you write. In effect, you have to announce, 'This is me, this is what I stand for, this is what you get when you read me. I'm doing the best I can—buy me or not—but this is who I am as a writer." —David Morrell

Write Like No One Is Watching

When you get stuck, write like nobody will ever read your writing. It's amazing how self-conscious writing is. Every spelling mistake and stupid observation will be put up for the world to see, and it's very difficult to keep that from affecting writing style. Let it go, write like you want to, and worry about the reader later. That's what editing is for.

Figure Out What You DON'T Like In Narratives

I absolutely loathe the 'not like other girls' trope; I hate it to my core. Once I realized how much effort I was putting into making sure I didn't fall into that trope, I could sit back, do some research and figure out why I hate the trope so much.

It boiled down to the derogatory way the narrative treated all the 'other girls.' The character in those narratives doesn't just not like wearing dresses; she sneers at every girl who does. She isn't just smart; every other girl is stupid. It’s not a trope about one individual persevering through heroic traits but rather through every other girl lacking them. Yuk.

Because I knew what I was trying to accomplish by avoiding the trope, I could go about it better. When you know and understand what you are trying to do, you can do it more effectively. Once I'd done the research, it wasn't hard to avoid writing my protagonist as someone who thinks not liking sewing is a character trait. It's not.

Figure Out What You DO Like In Narratives

If you like action-adventure, write action-adventure. If you like drama, then write drama, don't try to be something you aren't. After I wrote my first book, I started my second. I wanted to write something less complex, something that wouldn't make me want to weep into my handkerchief about magic systems and world-building. A 'real' book with no magic.

One paragraph in, and things got tricky. I forgot all those intentions and introduced time travel into the narrative—notoriously tricky to navigate. I can't write books without magic. Writing what you like makes everything easier and more authentic. Even if it makes it harder. Sure, I would like to write the next great YA romance or the great American novel that will be taught in schools for a thousand years, but that ain't gonna happen. Everything I write needs to include at least a little bit of magic, a touch of weird.

If You Are Using Crutch Words, You Are Likely on the Right Track

Crutch words are words or phrases we lean on to keep our sentences flowing. In later drafts, you may—or may not—want to replace your crutch words, but if you're using them in a first draft, you're writing in your style. They are your crutch words, and it's only natural that your style will lean on them when your style is flowing.

Find your Writing Style Palette cleanser

This might just be me, so move on to the next point if it doesn't hit home for you. When I read something written by someone else, I tend to adopt that author's writing style instead of my own. This is not a skill set I want to unlearn, but it does mean that I feel into styles other than my own with alarming ease. To fix this, find a pallet cleanser book. Something similar to your style that you can read to get yourself back into the right frame of mind. Mine is going Postal by Terry Pratchett.

When Writing is Going Badly, Take A Step Back

Sometimes writing is agonizing. Every word hurts, and every sentence is torturous. When that happens, chances are I'm writing in someone else's style, and I need to take a step back and assess.

If you are writing a scene in someone else's style, you might have to re-think the whole thing. If your trying to be funny and that's not your style, then consider rejigging the whole to lean more into your skillset.

Sometimes we want to be our idols. We read something and are inspired by the grandiosity of the writing, the poetry behind the syntax, and the impressive word choices. We are so impressed that we want to be that author rather than who we are.

Don't Try and Be Original and Unique

Nothing is more dire than writing that tries too hard to prove how different it is. Chances are you have some weird takes on life. Everyone does. You don't need to prove how different you are. Just be yourself. I promise you're already weird enough.

Know Who You Are and then Break That Into Pieces

An author will always interject some of themselves into the narrative, whether it’s through things we agree or disagree with. It’s impossible to write about something that doesn’t exist in some form inside your mind. So how do you write multiple characters while still sticking to your style and voice?

One of life's great challenges is understanding who you are and then embracing that as a concept. People are fascinatingly multifaceted. We want to eat healthily but also want cake. We want to go out and party all night with friends, but we also want to wear pajamas and watch Netflix (or not Netflix, because Netflix has gotten sooo boring)

Two things can be true at once. I love tracksuit pants for their comfort, but I also want sequins, cos it's shiny, and come on, who doesn't love shiny? These are the kinds of things that make writing characters while maintaining your own style and voice easier. Character A wants to go out, and character B wants to stay home. Argue about it. Character A wants to finish this blog, and character B wants a nap.

Once You Learned Your Style, You May Need to Learn To Dial It Back

Purple Prose is an overly descriptive style of writing where the author puts too many descriptors into the writing. The same can be true of too much style, the kind of writing that quickly becomes exhausting for the reader.

Sigh, so much time spent understanding your style just have to delete it from your writing. It's a pain, but if you have a very distinct style, you may need to dial it back.

Knowing when you are being overly…stylish is helpful because you'll know when your writing is going out on a limb and will recognize that you need to take a step back. This is where Beta readers and your editor will become invaluable. They'll let you know when you're delving into strange waters.


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