And so, we return to this series. I have spent time setting us up for success by helping you dive deep into your own psyche, and now, we turn to some very action-packed posts. These next 2 posts are probably some of my favourites out of this whole series, so stick around for them. 😉
When I first began blogging, I used to do monthly overviews. Every month, I’d take a look at my blog stats, writing progress, and a little bit at my personal life and share how they were going. One of the creative endeavours that I would give an update on every month was my drawing.
As you’ve probably noticed, I stopped doing monthly updates a long while ago, and only give a quick recap at the end of each year instead. The lack of updates on the subject of my drawing means that most people probably don’t actually realize that, besides being a writer, I’m also an artist.
To be fair, I am actually pretty bad at staying consistent in how often I draw, since I spend all my free time writing instead. 😆 However, that aside, there is a very prevalent question that is always floating around in the art community:
How do I find my unique style?
There are so many different artists, and some have extremely recognizable styles. A fan would be able to say who created a drawing simply by looking at the style.
Personally speaking, for many years, I really disliked my art style. I wanted to change it, to make it somehow different. Yet, for reasons I myself don’t understand, when I draw, my hands fall into familiar places and draw a certain way. By this point, I’ve figured that I’m pretty much stuck with this style, since it’s how just how I naturally tend to draw. Instead of being unhappy with it, I’ve tried to maximize upon it, improving where I see I need to and just trying to learn to be a better artist.
Every once and while, though, I still see advice on finding a style.
Most of the time, advice on this subject mostly ends up boiling down to just draw a lot.
The same goes for writing: a lot of the advice on style really ends up saying to just write a lot.
Which most beginner writers seriously aren’t going to find helpful. 😆 I mean, like, come on. That’s it?
So today I am taking it upon myself to try and break down this subject for writers, based on some of the best advice I’ve seen out there for artists – and therefore, bringing in an entirely new perspective for us writers.
Tips on Finding Your Style
I think a lot of the time, writers envision style as what they want their writing to sound like, or the vibe that it gives. On the other hand, when it comes to art, style is entirely how it appears on paper. If you want to change your art style, then it really comes down to the details. Tweaking one thing can change the overall picture.
That means the first tip is, of course…
How will you know what you want your own style to be if you don’t see any other styles?
As an artist, this would mean simply looking at other art and seeing what you like. There are some websites out there that artists like to hang out on, so you probably would end up on one, browsing through art – and maybe even posting some of your own.
As a writer, you will naturally gravitate to writing what you like read. So, reread some of your favourite books, and try picking up some new ones!
…and then Copy.
That’s not to say that you should plagiarize. 😆 But a step that artists take in developing a style they like is by attempting to draw the same way an artist they admire does. By practising, they can then build up their skills to look like that, or at least figure out how that person draws the way they do.
As a writer, this applies in the sense that you can attempt to emulate a book you love. For example, my one high fantasy manuscript that I wrote really reflected a lot of the elements that can be found in The Ranger’s Apprentice series. I was obsessed with that book series in junior high, and because of that, wrote a lot like that: in that type of genre, with a lot of sass, and a lot of weapons and training. I truly think that manuscript helped me grow as a writer. I don’t write exactly like that anymore, but when I once took a look at it again, I could see a lot of great elements going on in it.
The more you look around at different styles, both in art and in writing, the more you see that you like. There’s so many different kinds of styles, and you can really fall in love with so many.
As an artist, you may start to notice details about different elements from different styles as you try copying them. For instance, the way one style draws eyes versus another. You can start picking and choosing what you like best from each style and use them in your own; you may like how a nose looks in one style, and mouths in another. So, you take those and incorporate them into your own style, merging the two styles together into your own.
If you have read my post on why you shouldn’t listen to bloggers, then you’ll know that I essentially did the same thing while creating my own process for revising. I researched revising: reading blogs, watching videos, listening to podcasts, and combing through books. I took what I liked and what resonated with me from each source, and left behind everything that didn’t. Once combined, all these things put together made my own unique process.
The same goes for your style.
To know what you’re looking for, think more about this in terms of writing voice. We writers use words, so it’s almost more accurate to call it that. As you read a book you like, notice how the writer is telling the story. You may notice patterns over time of what you like best, or what resonates with you the most. Maybe you like humorous writing the most, or super sarcastic banter, or really deep and poetic writing. Take what you like from all the different books you read, and try to combine them.
Your own unique style.
What Makes You Unique?
This section actually doesn’t apply so much to art. In art, your style affects what you draw, but usually doesn’t affect what you choose to put into a drawing, or what subject you’re drawing.
However, when it comes to writing, you can really put yourself and what makes you unique into your stories, making your style shine.
You are unique, just like everyone else.
(See what I did there?) So, try to think of something you really like about your own personality. For example, while I’m super polite out loud, I can get pretty darn sassy in my head. I like to let that side of me loose on the page. I tend to have a very dry, sarcastic sort of sass to my words in general, because that’s just what I’m like. If you don’t have that kind of mental dialogue running through your head, you probably would find it a little difficult to write it. But, as it’s a part of me, I can use that.
Doing this authentically inserts a piece of yourself into your writing. And, of course, this whole series is about helping you find your own strengths as a writer. 😉
Insert Pieces of You into Your Writing
The more you can emotionally relate to your own writing, the better. If you really get the emotions a character is feeling, then you can write them better.
Readers see the whole story through the eyes of the character, and feels what they are feeling. The character is the core of your story, so this emotional attachment you can create within yourself gives you a fundamental way to connect with your own story. That can really spark life into your writing.
If you don’t understand how to do this, I would suggest trying a very literal way of doing this (which has its own benefits in and of itself) and then try tackling inserting your emotions.
This first one is a trick I constantly pull in my own writing: I take something about myself and give it as a trait to a character. It’s a little like what I just talked about with the way I took a piece of my personality and put it into the way I’m writing, giving my style that dry sarcasm that exists in my head.
I also talked a little about this idea in my last post on following your heart in your writing. This helps you to enjoy what you’re writing more. Not to mention, you also have the benefit of knowing exactly how you feel about this topic.
As a coffee lover, I have my own opinions on coffee that I give to my characters, or experiences that were influenced by coffee that I can give them. This has the benefit of adding realism and relatability to the character, as other people may have experienced what I have.
When you do this, literally inserting a piece of yourself into your writing, it can become incredibly easy to come up with character’s thoughts on the subject, because you’ve had many of your own. This can influence your style immensely.
Bonus points: this helps develop your character’s believability, realism, and gives them a more clear voice as well! 😉
If you’ve been following this series closely, then you’ve probably read the first post in it: your Why.
Your Why is something very important to you, and something your character must learn as they undergo their arc. This means that there’s a lot of room for emotion. If your Why is important to you, then it’s likely something you yourself learned through experience.
You can insert those experiences into your writing. This emotional insertion of yourself into your story is what can make any genre relatable, even if it’s high fantasy or out-of-this-world science fiction.
Yes I had to say that. Sorry not sorry. If your character is feeling fear and you have felt fear before, you can write what that was like. If they are heartbroken, you can write that. If they are gripped in the hands of grief, then you can write about the squeeze.
This is especially good for your Why. You’ve had experiences relating to it. If you’re writing about how the world is amazing place full of hope, then you’ve likely had to survive feeling like you were wandering in a cruel wasteland of darkness, completely devoid of hope.
If you know much about character arcs, then you’ll know that characters have to start at the opposite end of the spectrum that they’ll end at. They’ll learn your Why by the end of the story, so to show that learning and growth, you have to start with them believing the exact opposite.
If you had to learn your Why, then you know what the arc is like yourself. You know what it’s like to begin not knowing it – or even believing the complete opposite. You know what it’s like to learn about this idea. You know what it’s like to have to fight to hold onto your new belief. And you know what it’s like to win it. To be able to walk confidently through life with it in your arsenal.
Either of these can help develop your style. I’d recommend combining them for the best results; when you do this literally, you develop your character’s style, and when you use it emotionally, you develop your style. Two voices that are extremely important in your book and can add layers of depth and resonance.
Write What You Like
You looked for stuff you liked when you were reading other books, trying to copy them, and splicing it all together. But you don’t always have to read a book to find something that can help with your style.
Writing about what you like personally – a move I’ve advocated quite a bit in this series – adds a uniquely you-ness to your story.
Try writing a book simply because you want to. Insert everything you love into it, and see what happens. I can practically guarantee without even knowing you that it will help you develop your style.
As I mentioned above, I wrote a manuscript I really liked that was high fantasy. I think it really helped me find my own voice/style. Comparing it to the manuscripts I wrote before it, I could see how I was developing in my skill, but also how I suddenly was able to write without sounding… bland.
That book was filled with elements that I still adore, but haven’t really written about all in the same book since: a fantasy world with a medieval vibe, royalty, dragons, assassins, magic, and, of course, lots of sass and banter. I really loved that book (still do, honestly) and I think that focusing on elements that I wanted to write and that I loved really helped me just simply start writing the way I wanted to.
And (You Knew You Couldn’t Escape without this One), above all, Practice
Seriously. Just write. The way I normally hear it described for when people finally get writing voice is that it just ‘clicked’ one day. And that’s kind of true. I never really concerned myself with my writing voice and just wrote what I liked. And, at some point, I just got it.
Bonus Tips on How to Practice
Bonus Tip 1: Keep a Journal
You know how you enjoy telling friends and family stories about what happened to you during your day, what happened when you were at work, or when you were hanging out with someone? (You know, back in the day when everything still wasn’t shut down and we could do stuff like hanging out with people.)
Well, when you keep a journal, you can try writing these stories out as if they really were stories. You can see them in your mind because you lived them, and can practice writing them out: giving the right information at the right spots, keeping the dialogue flowing, and keeping things interesting. The way you like to tell stories will easily come through because you are telling a story about you that happened to you – one that you can see super well in your mind’s eye (which means the added bonus of getting better at describing).
Bonus Tip 2: Run a Blog
When you are explaining how to do something to another person, you really get into your own head. You see the outcome, you see the goal, and you must figure out how to get someone else there and the best way to do so.
As it’s not happening to anyone else, and is just all in your head, your own mental dialogue is what gets written down in a post. This can help you see what your writing style is, even if all you’re only writing non-fiction. (Not to mention, you also get better at editing! At times, you have to do developmental editing to a post: completely reevaluating how you’re telling it, or even chucking out parts when you don’t need them. And, of course, line editing: you need to make sure everything makes sense, your ideas are conveyed, and it all flows well. For instance, I had to severely line edit all the stuff in this parentheses. It was all in one sentence before, so you can just imagine if that made any sense at all.)
Bonus Tip 3: Write People You Know and Love as Characters
I will admit to this: I wrote myself and my friends into that high fantasy manuscript I’ve been talking about in this post. 😂 But when I read it a few years later, I found that the characters all had their own distinct feel and voice. It surprised me that I had done so well.
But think about it: you know yourself and your best friends really, really well. You know what they’d want to do, or what they’d say, or how they’d respond to a situation. By writing people you know really well as characters, you get the chance to try writing a character who you know through and through.
I do believe that, to a certain extent, the only way to really write characters consistently who have depth and seem real is just through a sort of innate knowledge of what to write and what to figure out about a character. You don’t need to know exactly what would be found in the back of their fridge like some character questionnaires require you to figure out, but you do need to know them on a deeply emotional level. (That was something I really was missing in some of my earliest manuscripts, and as a result, you could have inserted any one of my characters into a scene and the way they acted could have fit all of them. They were essentially the same person. 😅)
By writing a story at least once like this, you really get the feel for that knowing. I won’t say that just by doing it once makes it suddenly easy to do so in all your stories; I’ve continued struggling in my own manuscripts. But I least know what it should be like.
Being able to write knowing your characters deeply gives them their own voice, and can really jumpstart your own style, as you are writing you into your own story.
Bonus Tip 4: Fanfiction
I know that sometimes beginner writers can’t even nail down their own character’s voice, much less their own. Something that can help both with developing your ability to portray a character’s voice in your writing and to find your own style simultaneous is by writing fanfiction. You already know the characters super well, if you like them enough to want to write about them. That makes it easy to write in their voices. And this pretty much is everything I’ve described shoved into one.
- Fanfiction’s source can be from different places, meaning that you’re reading widely. (Though it can also be on things like movies and video games.)
- You are copying someone else’s work.
- You’re not technically splicing, but the pieces you find here that you like will carry over into your future writing.
- You bring your own unique perspective to whatever fandom it is.
- Usually what you like enough to write fanfiction of will include elements that you already like. Characters could have traits that you like, such as a love for coffee. 😜
- You like this. Obviously.
- It gives you practice.
- Bonus! You can even share your writing with the fandom online and get feedback, which always helps writers to further develop in their abilities. 🙂
There’s a lot of information in this post, and a lot of bonus tips. I hope that it really helps you to find and develop your own style and voice. 😊
If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:
This post was actually requested by Jen last November, so it has been in the works for a while. (I hope it was helpful, Jen! 😃) If you want to see me write up posts on subjects that you want to learn more about, make sure to subscribe! You can send your requests straight to my inbox when you reply to my emails, and get the added bonus of getting to chat one-on-one with me. 😉 Not to mention, if you liked today’s post, you’ll really want to see my upcoming one! I am doing a sort of companion to this one on finding your unique writing process – which is a post I’ve kind of been promising on and off since the beginning of last year. 😆
How did you like this post?
Do you have a unique style/voice in your writing?
Have you ever tried writing yourself as a character?
Or writing fanfiction?