How to Find Your Trademark Writing Style

    No doubt you have some favorite authors.

    It’s likely that one thing you love about their books is their writing style.

    Many commercial authors have a very simplistic—almost superficial—writing style.

    Other successful authors write in a wholly unique manner unlike any other.

    There is no right or wrong, good or bad—only personal tastes. We can all name writers we can’t stomach whose books are bestsellers.

    But what do you need to consider if you’re hoping to develop a trademark writing style? Here are some tips.

    1. Whom Are You Writing for?

    First, think about the genre you are writing in, if you’re writing fiction. Genre determines a lot.

    Novels are a product you are producing for a consumer: the reader. When you describe your novel on sites that sell your book, you have to provide a description for it. This is a way to accurately define your novel so a reader can see what you are marketing to them. Armed with this information, they may decide to purchase your product or not.

    This also applies to writing nonfiction, whether memoir, self-help book, or historical biography.

    By defining your target audience and examining other books aimed at reading markets similar to yours, you can get an idea of the writing styles appropriate for your book.

    You may find this a distasteful way to approach the writing of your book, but it’s not far from how a literary agent or publisher is going to consider your work. For the bottom line in the publishing industry is “will this novel sell and who will it sell to?”

    If you’re writing a novel solely for your own enjoyment, or plan to publish or print it just for friends and family, that’s a different matter. In this case, you may care little about whether your writing style fits a certain genre or fits the expectations of a particular audience.

    So ask yourself: Who am I writing this book for? Do I want to appeal to a wide audience? Do I want to brand myself with a trademark style?

    2. Deliberately Tailor Your Writing Style

    The answers to these questions are important because if you hope for commercial success, you are going to have to tailor your writing style to be somewhat similar to other authors writing in the same genre.

    If you write in different genres, as I do, each novel will have a different writing style, to a certain extent.

    Yes, you can write any old way you like, but you first need to keep in mind whom you are writing for and what genre you are writing in.

    3. Start by Imitation

    Often, when learning to write a novel, a writer may spend countless hours focusing on getting the basics in hand: plot, structure, characters, and all the tricky components that take time to master.

    Usually writing style is ignored at first, and a writer’s early attempts to just get words on the page are often clunky and/or derivative. This is just part of the growing process.

    Just as a toddler begins to speak by listening to and imitating the adults who speak to him, a new writer will often try to copy the writing style of other authors. Which is a great thing to do—at first.

    By studying and imitating the writing style of great writers in your genre, you can get a feel of how to write your stories.

    4. Emulation Is Fine for a Time

    At some point, you will have to let go of your tightly gripping hand and cross the street by yourself.

    There is probably no magic moment in which you suddenly have your own writing style, but I can recall many moments when I felt my unique way of writing beginning to emerge.

    I started taking chances, letting my imagination wander freely. I shut off the infernal internal editor and experimented.

    More and more moments came in which I was writing freely, with flair, unhindered and unburdened by the “supposed tos” that were nagging me from the bleachers.

    I think by about my fifth novel I hit my stride.

    5. It’s Just a Learning Curve

    This process is similar to learning how to dance, do gymnastics or play basketball.

    There is a huge learning curve at first, but with diligence and a measure of talent and ability, you “get the hang of it.”

    Note, though, that this is not something you get and then are stuck with. Your writing style is fluid, versatile, adaptive. Or it should be.

    Even better is the fact that you can have various styles—as many as you like.

    How to Fine-Tune Your Unique Writing Style

    There is no secret formula to developing a trademark writing style, but here are some suggestions that may help you:

    1. Read something terrific before you start writing.

    A half hour spent reading exquisite prose can often inspire you and jumpstart your stalled creative flow. Read a diverse assortment of great books to immerse yourself in many styles.

    2. Be specific about your tone.

    Tone is a subtle thing, and it overlaps sound, style, and voice. Whereas voice is really generated and inspired by your characters, tone is something more consistent throughout your book. It’s the overall feel you give the narrative and story.

    3. Consider how much “author” presence you want to seep through.

    Some writers are very present in their stories, giving their opinions on what they write about. But sometimes that’s not appropriate for the genre or type of story being told.

    4. Be true to yourself.

    When you write, try to listen to what your body is telling you. There’s an uneasy feeling, a discomfort a seasoned writer feels when she veers away from a true and honest writing voice and starts forcing the style for one reason or another.

    5. Allow yourself to freewrite and experiment.

    Turn off the infernal internal critic and play with your thoughts and words.

    6. Read your work out loud to yourself or someone else.

    This can help you hear the cadence and rhythm of your words. Getting feedback from a listener can also help. (Just be sure to pick someone whose opinions are constructive and insightful.)

    So, if you want to develop that trademark writing style, spend some time considering your genre and audience, and study successful books that are similar to yours to see what kind of writing style the authors employ.

    Play around with your writing and give yourself some freedom to experiment. Then trust your gut to tell you whether you’re being genuine or derivative or phony.

    In time, your beautiful trademark writing style will emerge.

    What challenges have you encountered and/or overcome in searching for a strong, honest voice in your writing? Please share in the comments!

    About the author

      C.S. Lakin

      C. S. Lakin is a writing coach, copyeditor, award-winning blogger at Live Write Thrive and novelist of thirty fiction and nonfiction books. Her Writer's Toolbox series helps novelists master the craft of fiction writing. Want to nail your genre to ensure the best path to success with your novels? Get HALF OFF Lakin's popular Targeting Genre for Big Sales online video course by clicking THIS LINK (good until the end of 2018).

    • Oh, I’m in search of my writing style now, and I must confess it’s not easy! When I read something terrific I always wanna copy out its author’s style. Moreover, I think I’ll do it… But I usually fail with that, and I just keep on reading this book 🙂

    • I’ll add those beautiful photos and quotes to my rotating computer background to have inspiration all day long. Great quotes. Thanks.

    • Excellent post and very much on point!

      The imitation/emulation comparisons are very accurate as well. This is how learning works.

    • Thank you for this article

    • I think it takes a lot of time and ton of reading to master writing. Having your own writing tone helps in distinguish yourself from the crowd.

    • Holly says:

      Oh this is a hard one for me – how to get all the facts across regarding a neurological medical condition (without sounding like a professor!) and still let it all free flow? I favor real statistics and facts – they are just too important to leave out. Looking forward to the e-book. Thanks in advance.

    • It took me nearly twenty years to find my own voice. I also write in different genres and for each I reserve the appropriate style and voice. After so much work it was rewarding to find a style and voice and realise that I wasn’t copying anyone.

    • Hi,

      I will use your method for writing style.All points are very helpful for me.I totally agree with you. which make it easy to understand. Thank for sharing this great post with us.Keep on your work.

      Regards,
      Pinki Chaurasia

    • People need to realize that writing isn’t just a thing that any fool can do it, nobody is going to be happy if everybody has a newspaper, but that is why we professionals exist to give our style of writing to you.

    • David says:

      When I write I just don’t think to much about my style, I write the way i want to and that is the only thing in my life that own and nobody can took it from me, so that is my writing style I am addicted to it!

    • Chris says:

      I have to be honest – I never really think too much about my own writing style. I just write in a way that comes naturally to me and in a way that I’d enjoy reading myself.

      The bulk of reading I do is online in the form of blog posts and articles so I suppose my style is very similar by default.

      Great post 🙂

    • Oh, I’m in search of my writing style now, and I must confess it’s not easy! When I read something terrific I always wanna copy out its author’s style. Moreover, I think I’ll do it… But I usually fail with that, and I just keep on reading this book 🙂

    • I found my voice through blogging. Writing personal posts in the first person works best for me.

      Thank goodness my next book is more of a memoir than one of short stories! 😉

      Letters to Julian: Lessons, Memories, and Regrets of a Single Mother should be out this year, too. 🙂

    • This may fall under be true to yourself. However, the one thing that I find adds to the voice is simply letting go of fear and writing as fully, deeply or even oddly as you want. Don’t be afraid of what your spouse or parents may think (difficult when you write dark work like I do). In my early works, I always backed off from being too dark or too controversial for fear of what people may think. Now, I work more to simply write fearlessly and honestly.

    • This may fall under be true to yourself. However, the one thing that I find adds to the voice is simply letting go of fear and writing as fully, deeply or even oddly as you want. Don’t be afraid of what your spouse or parents may think (difficult when you write dark work like I do). In my early works, I always backed off from being too dark or too controversial for fear of what people may think. Now, I work more to simply write fearlessly and honestly.

    • Roisin says:

      Thank you for this article. I’ve been trying to develop a particular writing style for my brand new blog (launched yesterday!). It’s taken me ages to get my writing closer to what I imagined it would be like. It’s better but not exactly how I imagined.

      Usually I have to rewrite things a lot more than I’d anticipated, and I normally do a lot of rewriting for types of writing I’m more familiar with. In your experience, does the rewriting process get quicker with practice? How long did it take for you? It can be so tedious writing down something I don’t like and then wracking my brain trying to figure out how to make it sound exactly the way I want it to!

      • Roisin, there are no real standards for how much time it takes to get into the groove of a comfortable, honest writing style, which will affect how much rewriting you do of your material. With a blog, you may want to sound conversational, like yourself. You may find it helpful to just talk and record yourself (you can use your computer or even voice memo on your smartphone), and pretend you are chatting to a friend about the topic you want to share. Play around with thoughts and style. You might even pretend to play-act out a role of some character you might picture as the “blogger” of your site. The main thing is to just have fun and share clearly and succinctly the things you want to get across to your readers.

    • Chelsea says:

      Nice tips – and it’s good to see some advice beyond the typical “write like you talk” – which can be a true recipe for disaster.

      I see a lot of newer writers “writing like they talk” which turns into a bunch of self-centered navel-gazing that totally bores their readers. Taking *who* you’re talking to into consideration is one of the single most important things for establishing an effective, unique writing voice.

      • Hi Chelsea, as I go into detail in my 12 Key Pillars book, voice is all about characters, not the author. The genre and character determine the “voice” for a particular scene, which includes the narrative too, regardless of whether written in first or third person. People confuse voice with writing style. The overall style and tone are formed by the genre first, to meet readers’ expectations. What you do, then, with that style to make it unique yet fit the genre, is up to the author. Writers shouldn’t write like they talk unless they talk that genre naturally, and if that’s the case, it may just work fine.

      • Allwebup says:

        Thanks for excellent post everything explained clearly.

    • Great post and tips to share. I often say that I write like we are sitting at my kitchen table or on the couch. I guess that could be my writing style.

      Thank you for sharing all the ideas here. I will be sharing it in my next newsletter to my readers.

      • Hi Monna, glad this helped! Developing a unique style is fun and exciting. It’s a great feeling to find your style, like slipping into really comfortable shoes you can walk around in. And you can try different ones on for size!

    • Yatin says:

      Thanks for the lovely tips. I really like the fifth point on free write and experiment. Ya, we need to shut down the internal critic to listen our real voice and sketch all possibilities in a free manner

      I agree with all your points, but I would like to modify the first point. We must watch out for wonderful authors and read their wonderful content. I think we must not read their articles just before writing because in that process, we might loose our real voice.

      Thanks for your time and sharing this wonderful post.

      • Great article . Yes Article writing should be the trademark for being unique and more readable

    • Alex says:

      Excellent post and very much on point!

      The imitation/emulation comparisons are very accurate as well. This is how learning works.

      Reading my favorite authors just before sitting down to write was a tricky thing for me when I started writing – the authors’ voices easily overlap your own voice when you are a beginner.

      Today, I still try to avoid reading before writing and would rather listen to my inner voice, evoking the vibe I want to express. But everybody has their own preferences.

      • Hi Alex, I agree. Beginning writers often end up copying other authors in a way that is either derivative or clunky. But, like copying someone’s painting style (which is considered helpful to do), writers can learn a lot from emulation. If they are copying to learn some skills, that’s useful. But some copy just to sound exactly like another author, and that isn’t going to work in the long run.

        I enjoy and am inspired by reading something great before I get going with my own writing. This helps me, particularly, because I spend sometimes twelve hours a day editing and critiquing very poor writing, and that can detrimentally affect my writing as well. So I suppose the good writing/reading counteracts the bad influencing my creativity.

    • Thank you for the tips. It sounds like it just takes alot of deliberate practice, and studying what woks for others, until you find your own style.

    • One of my greatest challenges has been to silence my self-doubt long enough to allow my own style to shine through. I have an academic, business and technical writing background, but have always longed to express myself in more creative ways.
      Now, as I finally venture in that direction, I often feel caught between wanting to emulate and wanting to break free; between wanting to lean on my logical brain while wanting to let my right brain take the stage.
      It can be so easy to slip back into my comfort zone, the very zone I’ve been longing to escape!

      • That’s exactly the process. Sometimes listening to music, writing when you’re really tired or late in the night (i might say after a couple of glasses of wine here, too, but don’t want to encourage alcoholic dependency …) can loosen the hold that infernal critic/editor has on us and our writing style.

        One other thing that I find helps when I’m exploring with my style is to get into a new document (don’t work on your WIP directly) and explore writing a scene with the idea that this is just an experiment and you can delete it when done. Then allow yourself to be totally free, creative, silly, insane. Get into your character’s voice and mind and let loose. I’ve often found this is my best writing, my best scenes, and it often generates amazing insights and ideas that come out of nowhere to use in my plot and character development.


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