How to Find Your Writing Style
Finding your writing style is like having a skill that can season your words from weak to wonderful. Each of us has access to the same alphabet, 26 letters and not a vowel or consonant more. It’s what we do with our selection of sounds that lends the greatest strength to our voice. Having a toolbox filled with a few succinct tips might be all you need to push your prose a little closer to perfection.
Writing with the right style can render your language more precise. Precision = Power.
You may believe you are already writing with clarity, your words ringing with the clear chime of a chapel bell and loudly declaring the depths of your soul, but others might only be hearing a faded warble of your heart’s true song. The difficulty in defining style lies in it’s subjectivity. Every person will approach your prose with a different perspective, each of them having a different idea about what makes for interesting style.
Everyone places language in their own unique packaging, yet there are a few clear choices when it comes to finding your finest voice. Pick a few of these tips, memorize, and you’ll be wielding words in a whole new way before you even know it.
Color Outside the Lines. It’s cool to be messy. You can rarely ignore conventions, a comma is a comma and even Stephen King can’t make it otherwise, but staying fixed on the same rules that echo through the halls of grammar school probably won’t win you a Pulitzer, or even a Newbery for that matter.
Give Your Thoughts Breath. Nothing is perfect the first time through. Period. If you labor over your work, sentence by sentence, you will never allow your ideas a chance to spill over the lip of restriction. Write, pause (if you must), keep writing, repeat. It isn’t always easy and you might make a mess, but you can always clean up later. It is far more important to unleash your thoughts than it is to get them perfect.
Read Your Work Out Loud. I know I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. Sometimes our words read differently than our thoughts. Reading our work out loud affords our lips a chance to catch the errors our eyes gloss over. It is best to read out loud to an audience, but the best way to know if you’re writing has voice is to use the one in your throat.
Be Authentic. Never try to sound more intelligent than you are. That’s not writing with style, it’s writing with embarrassment. Write naturally and your innate intelligence will surely shine through. Though it is tempting to try to gild your words with intellect, it is almost always a mistake. If you wouldn’t use a word in a spoken sentence, you shouldn’t use in your prose.
Cook without a Recipe. The best chefs, even when cooking from an index card, can also cook by taste. Instinct is (by far) the most important ingredient for finding your unique writing style.
Pay Close Attention to Your Tone. It isn’t only what you say, it’s how you say it. Tone is important and knowing your audience is key. Your reader should feel as comfortable with your words as they are engaged by your rhythm.
Creativity is Borrowed. No one holds copyright on thought. Plagiarism is theft, but we are each the aggregate of every book read, movie seen, or conversation heard. No one in the world shares your exact canvas of experience. Use what’s in your head. Don’t worry about saying something that no one’s said before, just make sure you say it in your own way.
Write every day. The patch of land that gets the water is the soil that swells with life. The only way to improve a skill is to practice. Those who write without routine are less likely to be writing with consistent voice than those are arranging words within their sleep.
Believe. Writing with style won’t happen if you don’t believe in your topic. Believing in yourself comes first. A common fear among writers is that they will run out of things to say. Don’t allow the fear of running low on ideas paralyze you. The well of ideas is bottomless, but you must lower the bucket to draw from its depths.
Know What You Mean and Your Reader Will Too. Readers know when their author lacks confidence. Daily speech is filled with um’s and ah’s. Writing is no different, often stuffed with more than its share of this’s and thats. Cut the fat. Choose clarity over word count. There is always room for beautiful prose when you make it, but you must mow the lawn to highlight the garden.
Your arrangement of words gives voice to the thread of your thought. Every writer will develop their own tool box of 2 or 10 or 20 tricks (or ticks) that will help tickle their text and transform it to terrific. Mine is alliteration.
Finding your style will give you control, controlling your prose allowing the reader to truly hear what you’re saying. It isn’t always easy, but is always worth the effort.