Finding your writing style

Fiction is so subjective and it’s often hard to articulate what precisely isn’t working for a book that is good, but not quite good enough. There are so many lists out there about what to do and not to do to improve your novel and a lot of the advice is valid. But it’s also sometimes hard to apply general advice to your own work. So when I see something that feel it summarizes some big ideas in a unique or thoughtful way, I like to share it here.

That’s how I felt when I came upon this blog post by Dr. Stephen Carver, a British writing teacher and multi-published author who reviews manuscripts across categories to see if they are viable for publication. So here you have an authority on the craft of writing who reads extensively and across categories offering his top ten list of common mistakes in unpublished manuscripts. A lot of the advice is valid. So why can’t you just follow all the rules to write a perfect book that agents and editors will fight over? It seems simple and yet we all know it’s elusive, creating that perfect mix of elements that work throughout an entire book-length work.

I really liked this conclusion at the end: ‘Any halfway decent creative writing course or guide will tell you more about all these areas. But they cannot teach you style – that you have to find yourself. There is no big secret to good writing. All you have to do is read widely and critically, understand narrative structure, and then keep practising until your individual style emerges.”

I agree and have said here before how important it is to know your category or categories, and read everything you can to learn the market. How do you create your own voice or style that makes your work unique to you?

3 Responses to Finding your writing style

  1. Kate says:

    What a gift, thank you. I’m following the professor’s feed.

  2. D. C. says:

    I think any decent writer needs to have more than one style!

    What style is used, IMHO, depends to large degree on the story being told.
    – A gossipy celebrity bio is best presented in breathless, admiring, confidential tones.
    – A detective mystery may come to life when told first person by the detective’s sidekick (e.g., Dr. Watson).
    – A romance can be all the more romantic when we hear the emotion in the heroine’s own voice as she tells it.
    – “Writing for Dummies” needs a more informal and tongue-in-cheek approach than “Raising Exotic Amphibians for Maximum Profit”.

    I’ve read — and I expect you have, too — a number of books that were “good enough” but would have been so much better if told in a different voice or from a different point of view.

    Besides, isn’t it rewarding, as well as entertaining, to limit yourself to one particular approach, perhaps the one with which you are initially least comfortable, but still have it turn out well?

  3. Stacey says:

    Thanks for your feedback, and glad you like the site I linked to, Kate.

    I agree, D.C., writers can have more than one style and take chances with their work, but if you can find what style/voice/category, whatever it is that works for you, then you can move in different directions while maintaining some consistency in your work. It’s an interesting thing to consider.

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