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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Finding Your Style

Just like we all have a style (whether we realize it or not) within our fashion choices, all writers have a preferred writing style.

I think, however, many of us confuse it with voice. The two do go hand-in-hand. A writer's style, in conjunction with their voice, can usually tell a reader quickly exactly what writer they're reading. The difference, however, is that voice is what you have to say, while style is how you go about saying it.

Voice has to do with content, message, theme, and a view of the world. Style has more to do with word choices, sentence structure, grammatical quirks, and punctuation.

I've been reading work in a lot of different genres lately, and the styles I find vary drastically from one genre to the next--but they also vary significantly within the genres.

In historical romance, for example, it's not uncommon to find a style that utilizes long, flowing sentences, complex phrasing, parenthetical asides, and some words that might send you to the dictionary. The writing is often soft and fluid, flowing. In a modern crime drama, you'd be hard pressed to find many that don't utilize a lot of short, terse, to the point sentences. Maybe even a lot of sentence fragments. The writing here is often rigid and exacting. No extra words. Nothing that isn't imperative to the meaning.

I'd have to say that my writing style is more fluid. I tend to use long, flowing sentences in combination with shorter, punchier ones. I use all of the punctuation at my disposal. Sometimes, I have to stop myself from using some of them too often. It isn't uncommon for critique partners or beta readers to stop me and ask if I really want to use THAT word, when THIS one is much easier to understand.

I'm reading an author right now who combines complex sentences that are almost to the point of run-on sentences with short, terse, choppy fragments in a way that should hurt my grammar-loving tendencies. Instead, I'm enthralled by the rhythm she's created in her sentences and paragraphs, and I can't seem to get enough of it.

What sort of writing style most appeals to you as a reader? And if you're a writer, do you know what your writing style is?


  1. Hmm. Very interesting, Catherine. I've never really given any thought to my "style". I just write the words, sentences, and stoies as they come to me. I probably us a variety of sentence choices depending on which character's head I'm in and what is happening "on screen" at the moment. But it's one of those things I don't think I want to over-analyze or I might not be able to write at all. I'm very strange that way, I know. :)

  2. I'm tempted to start my comment with a "Hmm" as well. LOL. I feel like *you* could probably tell me my style better than I could myself. Like Ava, I tend to write as the words come, being mindful of whose head I'm in and also of variety in sentence structure. At least, I think I do all those things!

  3. I tend to write intuitively, but I think my overall style is to use fluid sentences interspersed with shorter sentences. And I gravitate toward sets of threes.

    There seems to be a bias in some writing books against longer sentences, but I think you make a great point about acceptable styles in different sub genres. When I was first starting out, I had a contest judge be very critical of my style. I didn't know enough then not to take the criticism as the voice of authority. My writing began to sound stilted and weird for regency, so I picked up some new novels by the best sellers of my sub genre for reassurance and never looked back.

  4. Ava, I don't think you're strange at all. In fact, I think it is great that you can vary your writing style to suit the character whose POV you're writing in!

    LOL, Jerrica. I'd say that your writing style tends to be flowing and easy to read with a good variety in the rhythms created.

    Samantha, I've noticed that bias against long sentences too, and it has spilled over into what a lot of people will tell you as being the gospel truth. I think much of that comes from people trying to write long sentences that come out clunky or convoluted, or that really are just run-ons. However, it is entirely possible to write fluid, well-thought-out, complicated, long sentences that make perfect sense and are still grammatically correct. I'd say that you're pretty good at them--but also good at knowing not to overuse them. :)

  5. Although I write historicals as well, I tend to write with a tad more clip than most. My sentence structure varies but overall I tend to use shorter sentences. I think. Correct me if I'm wrong for those of you that have read my stories. And I think it's due to my choice in writing action/ adventure stories. Although, there are times I do write long, flowing sentences as well. It just depends on the scene I guess. Great blog, Catherine, as usual.