It’s difficult not to compare oneself with another writer, particularly someone more successful than you. (And there will always be someone more successful. Veronica Roth isn’t as famous as J.K. Rowling, and while Harry Potter is adored, it isn’t as prestigious as the works of Charles Dickens). Writers tend to examine the habits of others and compare, generally with a critical eye. They see posts on Facebook about writing sprints and count how many words they managed today. They read about the extensive outlines of a New York Times bestselling author and think to redo their own planning. Yet, just like every other profession, what works for person A will not work for person B. (Akin to raising children – better get a big bag of tricks because what works for your first kid will undoubtedly fail with the next).
Sure, I could have writing blitzes. I could plot all my novels to the nth degree. I could set a word count goal for each day. But something tells me, it wouldn’t work out. I might sit and stare at my computer for four straight hours. I might be confined to a plot structure that isn’t working. Or I could write ten thousand words of pure, unadulterated crap. Instead, I should utilize my own best writing style.
So how does a new writer find their writing style? Well, guess, and the test is a fine method. Try writing at different times of the day, or in large or small blocks. After, review what you have written and measure it for length or, more importantly, quality.
Another method is to analyze your personality type. If you are an organized person, who likes to plan your life in detail, then chances are your writing style with imitate the rest of your life. You’ll most likely do best with chapter outlines, character profiles, and scene breakdowns. However, if you are a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants sort of person, your writing style will have a bit more freedom. You’ll likely do better with loose outlines that you can deviate from as needed, letting the characters decide the plot of the story more than you.
Another strategy for discovering your own writing style might have to do with your daily schedule. If you’re a mother of three and you write best in long stretches but can’t achieve that with toddlers or teenagers running amok through your household, you’ll either have to adapt your style or never accomplish anything. Sometimes the lesser option is, at least, an option. Some writers wake up early to get thoughts on paper before they begin their hectic days. Others stay up an extra hour at night or jot notes at lunch hour. Fitting time in for writing might get tricky, but the old adage is, “If it’s important, we make time for it.”
The best advice that I can reiterate for finding a writing style is to not copy anyone else’s and not compare your strategies, word counts, or process to anyone other than your past self. Remember, the student who studies the night before the test doesn’t always fail, and the student finished the exam first rarely gets the best mark.
Jenna Greene is a writer and teacher from Southern Alberta. She lives with her husband, Scott, and three-year-old daughter, Olivia. She has written five novels for a YA audience. (Imagine, Heritage, Reality, Reborn, and Heroine). In her free time, she dances and coaches dragon boating.
Jenna can be reached at:
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