I was in a writer’s workshop years ago and somebody asked what the perfect writing style was, so they could adopt it. This led to a lengthy conversation about what would constitute the perfect style and I played my part of the conversation. I was young and foolish and probably exhausted from a long day of work. It would be the following morning that I woke up with the true answer in my head. It’s really quite simple if you think about it. The perfect writing style is:
No, I’m not being lazy. That really is the most simplistic and true answer. I hear young authors worry about how their style sizes up to the masters or their peers. Many of them begin to adopt the praised parts of various styles and create a mess that takes years to untangle. A shed full of tangled Christmas lights can be easier to fix than a Frankenstein writing style. So, one thing I would tell young authors is to find their own center style and evolve. What works for one author might not work for another, but you could always try. Just be ready to say ‘that didn’t work’ and try again.
A key word that I just said was evolve, which is essential for a writer’s style. I remember several classmates using styles that I found atrocious, muddled, or simply sloppy. There was one person who wrote with horrible spelling and claimed it was his style. I would put myself into a category of poor style during this time because my writing was all skin and bones with very little character development and subplot. I stubbornly considered it my style for a month before I accepted the fact that I was using that as an excuse to never grow. An aspiring author’s style must remain fluid and adaptable in order to absorb new aspects of writing. Again, don’t absorb everything and be ready to reject certain things. We can evolve our writing in a way that goes back and forth.
The tricky part is to know what works and what doesn’t because we are our own worst critics and greatest fans. We can have blinders on about an aspect of our writing that doesn’t really work while at the same time despising a part of our style that does work. I’ve got no idea why it works like this, but it’s the way the muses made us. This is where family, friends, and anybody else who is willing to read your work can come in handy. They will give you an outside eye about your style that can help you fine-tune it. I stated a while back that critics and reviews are very important to a writer’s growth and this is true as long as the criticism is constructive. I’m not talking about the ‘this author sucks and should jam their pen into their eye’ criticisms that I see on Amazon at times. The only thing we learn from a review like this is that some people shouldn’t be allowed near the internet without a psych evaluation.
A final important note: develop a style that’s comfortable. If you’re writing in a style that garners heaps of adoration while you despise your own work then you’re doing something wrong. I know the reader is the main target of our art, but we cannot abandon our own enjoyment from the act of writing. That will lead down a rather empty path.