For starters, what the fuck is this beast, writing style? You hear everyone shout about it on every corner and read about it in every book on writing and watch it drop from the mouths of big famous authors talking about it like it's their comfortable underwear. You try to understand it when you start out. And that is wrong. Because. Here is the deal.
YOUR WRITING STYLE IS YOU.
Now you can toss all those smart books on style out the window. You don't need them. What you need is to write like mad, write a lot, to discover YOU. Because when you discover who YOU are, you will discover your writing style.
It's okay to copy other writers when you start. We all do that. Hell, think about you being a little baby. When you couldn't talk, when you were learning how to articulate your need to eat, what did you do? You copied your parents, or whomever took care of you. You emulated what they said, without thinking much or understanding what they said, simply repeating it.
Same thing with writing.
When you start out, you repeat what you have read.
You read and copy and read and copy and try. You try really hard. You think to write you have to, well, "write." So you fucking sweat. You learn new vocabulary, you inject new words and turns of phrases into your writing. You consult with others and use their advice and feel proud of yourself and shine like a polished teapot. Only there will come the time—and I know it will come for you because it came for me—when you will start seeing your own way of telling stories break through all this bullshit you have learned. And this is what you have to do.
Trust your gut.
Shell and shuck and peel off all what you have learned, let it go.
Listen when you write. Forget about rules, forget about everything. Just listen. Your writing is music. It has to sound right. When you tell a story, and I mean, when YOU tell a story, YOU tell it YOUR way. When you try writing it down, however, the familiar fear sets in, and you succumb to this desire to "write." You know what I'm talking about, don't you?
You worry about every little thing.
You worry about your choice of words.
You worry about your grammar.
You worry about your sentence structure.
You worry about your characters' development.
You worry about your plot.
Do I need to keep going? I don't need to keep going. I can hear your thoughts. Yes, I'm special that way. What you have to do to develop your own style is nothing. Yes, that's right. Nothing.
YOU HAVE TO STOP SWEATING SO MUCH.
Trust your reader. You know why? Because your reader is YOU. You write for YOU. Trust YOU. If you had to tell your story to YOU, wouldn't all those fears go away? If for a second you imagined you were telling this story to YOU and to YOU only and nobody would ever read it? So you could tell it YOUR way? Wouldn't it free you up? Yes, it would. Here are a few helpful things to get you in your way.
- Go read the section An Approach to Style in the famed little book called THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE. It will give you enough framework to start thinking the way I have described here.
- Read a lot. Train your ear. Listen to the music of others. Notice the rhythm. Then read your stuff. Listen for your music. YOUR music. It doesn't have to be similar to what you read. Preferably, it will be YOUR OWN. And that means, it will be different, and that's a good thing.
- Observe the story. Simply record what is happening. Don't write about what YOU want to say with your book, write what YOUR characters want to say. State what is going on, as if you were watching a movie with a blind friend sitting next to you. There is no time for your opinions, only for what's happening on the screen.
- Keep it simple, stupid. Don't embellish it with words you don't know. Do not consult the thesaurus unless absolutely necessary! Do not explain. Do not describe everything to death. The reader is not an idiot. YOU are not an idiot. Remember, you are writing for yourself.
- Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. Get that 1st draft on paper and then start working your magic. Rewrite every sentence until it sounds right. Listen to this. UNTIL IT SOUNDS RIGHT. It has to sound good to your ear, like a good tune. I will stress this again. It has to sound GOOD to your ear. Do you see what this means? Your writing will never be perfect. Perfect is boring. GOOD is good enough. Make your story sounding GOOD and move on to the next one.
There. This should free you up a bit. I hope. Another thing. Write what excites you. If you find yourself stalling, take a little break and think about your story. Don't go online whining on Twitter about being blocked or whatever. No. Stay alone. Look at the sky. Look at your socks. Stay alone until an exciting thought will come to you. It will. Just wait. Once it does, get back to writing and take your story there. Don't be afraid if the new direction is opposite to what you were writing before. Keep the excitement going. You will fix the issues in later drafts. You can fix anything, but you can't inject a stale story with excitement. You know those dead drafts you've been working on for years? Yeah. Let them go. Start fresh.