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Tips On Developing a Writer 's Style
Recognizing Personal Style In Writing
Allow me to begin by saying, I will in no way attempt to tell you how to write. Writing is so special, and each book different, because of the unique way in which the author presents the story or piece of non-fiction. If you are looking for an article to tell you whether you are a Joyce or a Hemingway, keep looking. Likewise, I will not presume to say I could write like either. The purpose of this article is to communicate the steps one can go through to help recognize one's own personal style
The State of Mind
I think all writers can agree, that in writing we follow basic rules. Grammatically or structurally we all follow one rule or another; it adds fluidity and comprehension into a story or even a poem. Style stems from a writer's interpretation of these rules, which ones the writer chooses to adhere to, and which to disregard. If you have read Kerouac or Joyce, you know that a blatant disregard for timeline structure and even sentence structure can result in works of unparalleled beauty and meaning. Herein lies the problem, as writers who idolize the greats before us, we are inclined to follow advice and stick to the maps that have been laid before use by authors throughout time; at the same time, we recognize that each author is great because of the way they redefined the rules before them. How do we know where to follow and where to stray? I have humbly laid out a few tips for getting in a state of mind that has helped me recognize which rules to abide by and which rules to ignore in my own personal quest for style
- Recognize The Authors You Idolize
So this could be upwards of a thousand authors, but I highly suggest trying to pick a top few that you wouldn't mind emulating (emulating not stealing from). The beauty of this is, they do not have to be alike at all, in fact, what better way to develop a style than by making a kind of hybrid. Once you start making hybrids, you will begin to challenge yourself, and find that it not only helps you recognize what aspects of an author's writing you admire, but it forces you to write in different styles, testing each out. Having a solid few authors which to base your writing on gives you a jumping off point in developing a style of your own.
A side note, the hybrid writing exercise can be extremely fun, a short story I wrote mixing Steinbeck and J.K. Rowling came out particularly hilarious with characters that have wands but are less than sober.
- Be Confident!
Writing, especially if it is your life's passion, is fraught with insecurities and rejections. Having the confidence to allow another to criticize your work is something to be applauded. Everyone has the thought that, despite the effort put in, the reader will immediately dismiss the work as garbage. So if you can let another read your work, you are already on the right track to having confidence in your style. Once critiqued, another type of confidence is required, the confidence to choose which critiques are apt and which should be disregarded. A writer who is not sufficiently sure in their ability will often take every criticism as gold, and make each change suggested. This can be dangerous, and although you may trust your critics opinion, take it around if your not sure, see what other critics think. Be Brave!
- Do Not Be Overconfident
Confidence in your writing is a great thing. It helps you present your work , try different aspects of writing, and ignore bad advice. Unfortunately, being overconfident can be the enemy of a good writing style. We have all felt it, a writer's work is critiqued and the first thought in their head is 'you didn't get it'. The pride we feel in our work as writers is often tantamount to nothing; to put yourself in the mind to develop style, one must respect the critic, and take every comment seriously. Wether you follow the advice or not, analyze it, at the very worst you get a view into what a reader might think.
The Body of Work
The best way to determine whether you are being artful with your rule breaking is to read the work. Reading what you write, especially after a break from writing, can do wonders in developing your style. Check the fluidity of your work. Where you broke rules, did it make sense? A good example is J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye. Whether you like the book or not, you must recognize that the lack of care for proper sentence structure and grammar, gives one the feeling that the book was written by a 16 year old Holden Caufield, and not a 32 year old J.D. Salinger. The point being, when you break rules, , as an English teacher once told me, " Let it have purpose and prose". Meaning, beak rules, it is what all great writers do, but be sure to have rhyme and reason in your rule- breaking or you may disrupt the continuity for no purpose.
The General Spirit
The only thing that remains is defining yourself. Are you melancholy? Excited? Do you say as little as possible, or do you gab? Above all else, it is personality that defines a writer. You do not have to have known Ernest Hemingway personally to infer that he was not a big talker. Likewise, allow your reader to know about you, through your writing. If nothing else, read your work, see if it is you on the page. Style is an ongoing process, and I wouldn't presume to say I am even close to having a fully defined writing style. Take comfort in the fact that while it may never be absolutely perfect, your style can only get better with time and experience.