Finding A Style

astrotales

orbiting neptune
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Heya! I'm new to this site, so apologies if this is in the wrong place, but lately I've been wondering about how to go about refining my style as a writer. Reading others' work always makes me awed at how a voice can completely change a piece. Grammar and spelling wise, I'm starting to make some progress, but my writing doesn't seem to have that unique factor that really engages a reader. I was hoping you guys might have some insight.
 

Brian G Turner

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Hi @astrotales and welcome to the chrons forums. :)

As for finding a style - some people want to read/write text that contains pretty flourishes in every other sentence, so that the story reads as much like prose poetry. Some people want to read/write text that is as simple and easy to read as possible. Personally I think the 2nd is the more accessible, common, and successful method.

Ultimately, it's about finding your own voice. Which IMO is when you start writing the way you would ordinarily and effortlessly tell a series of events to someone in real-life - as opposed to trying to be 'writerly', in which every sentence ends up filled with multiple verbs and adjectives that confuse its meaning. :)
 

Jo Zebedee

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Write. Write lots. And then one day, as you become more confident and know more about what you want to say and how, you’ll find out you have your voice :)

Bad language in this but good advice;

 

The Judge

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Being rather Zen here, to my mind the only way to find your voice is to stop looking for it.

Your voice -- or voices, since you might find you write slightly differently from story to story, and it may also change as you get older -- comes from you and your entire writing and reading experience. So the only way it will arrive is for you to write and write and write.

Obviously it's important for any writer to be competent in grammar, spelling and punctuation, so continue learning about them, and I'd second Brian's advice about not trying to write in a "writerly" manner. If you have a natural lyricism, then by all means indulge it, at least while you're practising, but don't attempt to force yourself into writing poetically if it isn't your thing as it won't feel like you.

However, having just said "don't force yourself" I'll now contradict myself! If you want to feel you're doing something while waiting for your voice to appear, try writing exercises where you convey the same bit of information but in varying styles eg someone arriving at the city gates, being looked over by guards, and then being admitted into the city which is new to her. Write the scene in a dozen different ways eg in first person and third person, in present tense and past tense, in staccato basic-information or a journalistic style, in old-fashioned prose or by way of stream-of-consciousness, and yes, in poetic, flowery descriptive prose. I'm not saying your voice will emerge any more quickly, but you might discover what you find easiest and most congenial to write, which is no bad thing.

Anyway, good luck!

PS Forgot to say Hello and Welcome to the Chrons!!
 

Toby Frost

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I wouldn't worry about it too much. It's just something that naturally comes after a while of writing. I think the best thing is just to get as much practice in as possible, and the style will appear by itself.
 

DLCroix

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Welcome! This month we have had a nice crossfire in every way; we have tackled discussions about POVs, how to introduce characters, about the writing process versus readers' expectations, etc. Right here in the threads you have material for a good reading time. For now I also can recommend the book On Writing, by Stephen King, ideal for those who are just starting out.
 

Joshua Jones

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Welcome to the Chrons!

I second all the advice above. Write alot, experiment, and don't worry about it too much, because it'll come.

Also, I recommend as excellent writing practice the writing challenges here on the Chrons. They don't take inordinate amounts of time to do, and give you the opportunity to push yourself thematically and with genres you may not otherwise explore.

Again, have fun and welcome to the Chrons!
 

Steve Harrison

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Your writing voice is already unique, but it takes quite a lot of writing until you recognise it and bring it under your control. It's one those things you don't need to look for, because when you do notice it, you will also see that it was there all along.
 

-K2-

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Bad language in this but good advice;
Perhaps there is some good advice in there, but since the blogger is overcompensating to find his own voice--little more than snarky quips, pointless profanities, and absurd nicknames he struggles to wedge in every other word...to sound clever, cute, and jaded...a vast intelligence masked by humor, no-doubt his strained implication--I'm afraid I didn't hear a single word.

In any case, every time I try and find my voice, I just croak. I have too much else to work on first. Once that's all resolved, my voice will appear.

K2
 

Jo Zebedee

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blah - flags. So many flags.
Perhaps there is some good advice in there, but since the blogger is overcompensating to find his own voice--little more than snarky quips, pointless profanities, and absurd nicknames he struggles to wedge in every other word...to sound clever, cute, and jaded...a vast intelligence masked by humor, no-doubt his strained implication--I'm afraid I didn't hear a single word.

In any case, every time I try and find my voice, I just croak. I have too much else to work on first. Once that's all resolved, my voice will appear.

K2
. He’s not for everyone ;)
 

tinkerdan

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Chuck has a number of writing help books.
The above was one I found entertaining-despite his usual crass nature.
 

sknox

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FWIW, I didn't know what my voice was--I'm still not really sure. I'm definitely not aware of it as I write. But early on I was in a f2f writing group. Somewhere around submitting my third or fourth writing sample, someone in the group said something about recognizing my writing voice. I didn't even know I had one! But there was something in what I was writing that was recognizable to the reader.

So, it may well be that you don't find your voice, but that readers will find it.
 

Toby Frost

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I've got to say that I'm not sure that I have a voice, or that if I do have one, I couldn't say what it is. But I am confident enough to approach writing almost any fiction in much the same way, so it probably reads quite consistently. Does that count?
 

Astro Pen

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As others have said write loads of shorts or poems or opening pages. Play with them, experiment .
Enter all the writing challenges in chrons. Even if, like me, you always end end up in the losers bar it's good stretchy exercise.
You will have stack with more voices than a crowded bus.
Write every stylistic idea see where it takes you. Sometimes a tiny door will open into a huge room.
Some of them, that special few, will give you a feeling, a special texture and you will think "Wow did I write that?" and you will want to do more of it.
One thing I have found, and others here may agree, is that, once you have settled, the short stories and the novels end up on completely different trajectories stylistically.
 

DLCroix

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Heya! I'm new to this site, so apologies if this is in the wrong place, but lately I've been wondering about how to go about refining my style as a writer. Reading others' work always makes me awed at how a voice can completely change a piece. Grammar and spelling wise, I'm starting to make some progress, but my writing doesn't seem to have that unique factor that really engages a reader. I was hoping you guys might have some insight.
Hi, astrotales! I wanted to ask you some questions:
How much do you read? What are your favorite books / authors? Have you researched the norms and theories of writing? Have you read anything about the literary canon?
I say this because reading is almost half the work of writing and it is just as important. I mean, it is very good that you write and write; but, since you are looking for a style, you must propose it as a goal. It may sound silly what I'm telling you, but unless you are aware of that desire, it will take even longer to find that style you are looking for.
One's evolution as a writer can be compared to climbing a mountain. It will already seem clear to you that there are thousands of ways to do that. But there are those who have already made their own journey, who are the writers, and in your case those who you have read. And there are also those who directly advise you how you can climb that mountain. Those are the guides. Some are the critics; others are those who publish theory and advice. Together they have built that long thematic corpus called literary canon. Harold Bloom, for example, advises you how to read intelligently and also what to read. Stephen King took advantage of his convalescence after an accident to write On Writing, a writing manual that is still in full force and is also very simple and easy to read.
Ultimately, everything we write is the result of these two aspects: reading other authors (not just the ones we like, mind you) and the study of theory and advice. The first generates something that Harold Bloom calls influence and is a process most of the time unconscious. The second is the writing tools. The equipment you have to climb that mountain. I suppose you understand that the quality of this equipment depends on how much you have studied on the subject.
You don't need to know Semiology; you just need to know how to use the pillory and strings. More or less what is called having a correct writing. That is the first requirement. You know: subject, verb, predicate. Because first you have to know the basics to know how to treat them. No one who begins their sentences without a capital letter or does not know that the comma exists (except Burroughs, of course; but he only did that in The Nova Express) can pretend that his writing is considered experimental or audacious; it's just bad writing.
Going back to this example of the mountain, in some way some paths (themes and genres) that other climbers (writers) followed seem better than others, you identify more with some than with others. And it's like being in love, something only you know. You can't explain why you like one trail better than another; you just know.
But how should you climb that mountain? Why do some trails seem more difficult than others, or those that seem easy to imitate actually hide quite complex plots that are only discovered halfway through while read? What are the trails or methods to climb that should NOT be followed? On the contrary, which ones are advised to go up first? What problems will you run into?
Well, that's what guides are for. They are akin to old, seasoned mountaineers who just by smelling the breeze (or reading a few random paragraphs) can detect an avalanche or determine if the day is ripe for climbing. They are the ones who can guide you about the style, the form, the dilemma show versus tell, etc.
Some are literary critics; others are editors; others, competition juries. But everyone from time to time publishes some kind of manual where they summarize their experience. In fact, you met the first ones at school. They are the ones who taught you the first rudiments of spelling and writing. The use of language.
 

astrotales

orbiting neptune
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Thanks so much, everyone! I really appreciate the ideas and resources you guys have given me. I'm glad to get the advice from this site, this seems like a very active community that I'd like to get involved in ^^

@DLCroix, thanks for this. The analogy you used is excellent- I tend to hear people talking about a very specific path to the "top of the mountain", but like all you guys have been saying, it's very much an individual process. To answer your questions, I've been reading more nowadays because of quarantine, but not as much as I'd like. Hopefully, even as my schedule kicks back up, I'll be able to read more often. I have not researched the norms and theories of writing nor literary canon- I'm in high school currently and have never heard of it before. I'll make sure to start on that! It sounds like a wieldy tool for my dilemma here. As for my favorite books/authors, I've been reading a lot of mystery and dystopian novels lately, especially the Flavia de Luce series by Alan Bradley.
 

DLCroix

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Thanks so much, everyone! I really appreciate the ideas and resources you guys have given me. I'm glad to get the advice from this site, this seems like a very active community that I'd like to get involved in ^^

@DLCroix, thanks for this. The analogy you used is excellent- I tend to hear people talking about a very specific path to the "top of the mountain", but like all you guys have been saying, it's very much an individual process. To answer your questions, I've been reading more nowadays because of quarantine, but not as much as I'd like. Hopefully, even as my schedule kicks back up, I'll be able to read more often. I have not researched the norms and theories of writing nor literary canon- I'm in high school currently and have never heard of it before. I'll make sure to start on that! It sounds like a wieldy tool for my dilemma here. As for my favorite books/authors, I've been reading a lot of mystery and dystopian novels lately, especially the Flavia de Luce series by Alan Bradley.
Well you're welcome. That is what we are here for, and as you get to know us you will see that we will never leave you alone. There will always be someone willing to give you advice or encourage you. We are, in fact, one of the last trenches, and we may be defeated, but they will never see us on our knees. This strange hobby of writing, in an increasingly virtual world that is progressing by leaps and bounds towards the global phenomenon of Sleeping Beauty, is beginning to look more and more like a faith. In fact, so much has never been written before; but they are cities, entire countries with head down just attentive only to their screens.
So, since I'm talking about defending a faith, let me recommend one of my best mentors, the great Harold Bloom, who will always be remembered for his legacy. Namely, the fastest, most forceful and endearing guide to the literary canon that he bequeathed to us in his three greatest works:
The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry
The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages
The Anatomy of Influence: Literature as a Way of Life
.
 

Eli Grey

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Heya! I'm new to this site, so apologies if this is in the wrong place, but lately I've been wondering about how to go about refining my style as a writer. Reading others' work always makes me awed at how a voice can completely change a piece. Grammar and spelling wise, I'm starting to make some progress, but my writing doesn't seem to have that unique factor that really engages a reader. I was hoping you guys might have some insight.

If you're reading a work of fiction, be critical of it but not in a cynical way. Make a list of five or six or maybe ten themes, ideas, tropes, cliches, or plot devices, etc. you think the author will have included in their work. Or, make a list of those things that others have pointed out that are in the work. Note how many times the author hits on a theme or idea or uses a trope, etc. Ask yourself why the author used these things where they did. Rate how well those things were used in the piece of writing. How did they affect you? Did you like the pacing? Was the story and dialogue easy to follow? How did the writer's overall tone impact your enjoyment of that reading experience? Write a five page review on a book you've read breaking it down into categories. It doesn't have to have the best formatting or grammar. It just has to be your response on paper in an effort to comprehend the craft of writing.

I would also recommend reading in depth reviews on books you've read or plan to read. A good review will pick apart the book to examine how well the author implemented his or her ideas. Or you could read essays or general commentaries on famous works.
 
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