By Leslie Anglesey
Your writing style is something that is uniquely your own. While you can admire another writer’s voice, it would be a mistake to try to mimic it. You will only end up creating a pale imitation of the work you are trying to master. Stand up, take a deep (virtual) breath and be yourself. Follow these 10 tips to develop your own writing style.
- Read other writers’ work.
If you want to get a feel for how words fit together, read how other writers use them. Read for enjoyment and with an editor’s eye. Ask yourself why the author would choose to use them.
- Start by writing short paragraphs.
If the idea of crafting a lengthy work makes you feel intimidated, start with something smaller. Try writing a single paragraph describing something that made you laugh or your favorite movie.
- Focus on getting your idea down first.
For a first draft, all you need to be concerned with is getting your basic idea down. You can always edit and revise it later on.
- Experiment with some different styles.
Keep in mind that writing is a solitary activity. You can work at it and choose not to share the content of your latest project with anyone unless you want to. If you are curious about a new genre, find a class or experiment with it on your own.
- Make friends with a dictionary.
Part of developing your own writing style is to make sure that you are using words in the right context. If you are reading something and you aren’t sure of its meaning, take the time to look it up in a dictionary.
- Use a thesaurus to add new words to your vocabulary.
Do you have certain words that you find you are always relying on when you write? If you and your friends tend to use the same phrases, it will be difficult for you to stand out from the crowd. The next time you find yourself using a stock phrase to describe something, stop and look it up in a thesaurus. See if there might be an alternative that will describe it more accurately. If not, you don’t have to use the suggestions, but you will have learned some new words to consider for next time.
- Read your work out loud.
Does your writing sound like the way you talk? If it doesn’t sound like it was written in your spoken voice, you may want to work on it until it does. Keep polishing it until you feel that it reflects your inflection and tone.
- Turn off your inner critic.
As you write, there will always be a part of your brain that will tell you that your work is unfinished or can be improved. You may even feel that other people can or have done it better, so why should you even try to get something down. This inner critic can be very harsh, and will likely judge your work even more severely than a real editor would. To the extent you can, try to shut it down and just focus on letting your work speak for itself.
- Take some risks in your writing.
Once you turn off your inner critic, make a decision to step outside of your comfort zone in your writing. Nothing you write has to be forever. You can choose to delete it and start over if you want to. Think of the blank page like a playground, not something that is scary and intimidating. You can’t hurt yourself, so you really aren’t taking a risk at all. You are always in control of your writing.
- Write every day.
If you think about writing as if it were a muscle, you will appreciate that you need to keep it limber. Work it often and it will reward you by being easier to work with. If you don’t use it, you’ll find that it is stiff and hard to get into the groove. Ideas won’t flow as freely as if you make a habit of writing every day.
Set aside some time to be creative regularly. It doesn’t matter if you are writing a novel, working on essays, blogging, or writing in a personal journal. Take time to explore the world of words regularly to develop your own writing style – and don’t forget to enjoy it.
Image via Flickr CC: Alan Cleaver