Saturday, 7 September 2013

How Important is Writing Style?


To know how important it is – or not – it’s best to get a feel for what writing style is all about.
Plenty of writers are under the impression that in order to be a successful, published author, they must create and promote their own distinctive and characteristic writing style, but the truth is by doing that, they could be cultivating some bad habits instead.

The truth is, writing styles are not something that writers typically think about, but rather something that develops naturally over time.
Writing style is as much to do with individuality as it is about writing.  It’s about how the writer presents the words to the reader, how well he or she knows the beauty of the language, how well a fiction world or fictional characters are blended together, how each sentence starts and ends, how each paragraph is unified with the narrative, how narrative and description are invented.  It’s how well a writer tells their tale.

In order to force style into their writing, writers tend to be deliberately arty or literary, or even worse, they try to be clever.  They do this by copying successful, famous authors and their writing styles, little realising that what works for the popular author, doesn’t necessarily work for Joe Writer.  That’s where bad habits creep in, so purposefully creating a writing style doesn’t work. 

Writing style develops as the writer does.  A writer’s work starts to become multifaceted and multidimensional, where before it may have been flat and uninspiring.  The writer begins to notice a difference in his or her work. There is a great force at work the more a writer actually writes – self-awareness. 
Becoming aware of the nature of the written word and truly understanding the intricacies created through description is a light bulb moment.  That’s because the style of writing has come to a point where it stands out to the writer – it has evolved naturally.
And once it does happen, the writer will instinctively know because writing will become almost seamless, and much easier, and the writer will become comfortable with their work.

But how important is it?
It’s only as important as an individual wants it to be.  Style is about individuality and originality.  Often readers can spot an author’s particular style, whether that might be short and succinct, colourful and lavish, brash and gritty, or just plain quirky.  And readers get to like certain styles.

What if I don’t develop my own style of writing?
You will; it just takes time.  It’s not an instant process.  Sometimes it can take months, sometimes years.  It depends upon how much work the writer does, how quickly they develop and the experience they gain.  It personally took me almost a decade to finally find my ‘style’.  But once I did find it, I became immediately at ease with my writing.  It was like climbing into a lovely, comfy seat moulded just for me.

Good writing – and writing style – invites us to read.  It should never be about trying to be different or cool or trendy, nor should it be about fitting into what you think publishers want, because they will see right through it.
Take the time to develop and cultivate your own style. Your writing will be better off for it.


Next week:  The power of verbs and nouns

5 comments:

  1. Do you vary your style to suit the plot or scene?

    I couldn't see Raymond Chandler describing drinking earl grey tea from delicate bone china in one of Danielle Steel's works. Neither could I see Steel's style doing much for a bare knuckle fight.

    Is there a time and place to be prosaic and scope to be more poetic, without being overly flowery?

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  2. Hi Bryn

    My style can vary, depending on the genre and themes. Darker/horror stuff is written in a slightly different style to the thriller stuff. Genre can dictate style to a degree - think romance versus horror, or humour versus thriller.

    There is definitely a time and place to be prosaic (heightened tensions and emotions, conflicts and key scenes etc.) and there are opportune moments to be poetic. This can be done without being flowery. It all comes down to balance and narrative structure.

    'Flowery' prose comes about when there are too many adjectives. Poetic prose, however, occurs when the writer has an innate relationship with the written word - the writer has it he/she doesn't. (That's why stories are crap when writers try to do it and it doesn't work. Poetic prose is a gift, not something one can shoe horn). Not all writers can express poetic or indeed prosaic prose, but stories can benefit from them.

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  3. That's reassuring. Stephen King is resolute about the over use of adjectives and over descriptive text that gives the reader's imagination no scope to create imagery in their own head. You seem to concur.

    Thank you again - I'm finding your blog both informative and a great aide memoire.

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    Replies
    1. Well, you know what Mark Twain said. 'If you catch an adjective, kill it.'

      Glad you're enjoying the blog.

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