Finding a writing style is like buying a swimsuit; some you look good in, some you don’t. Some people look good in everything (these people disgust us to no end) and some people have to wear a t-shirt to the beach no matter what because either they are insecure or they just don’t look good in anything less than a mu mu and wrongly believe the t-shirt helps. (If I’ve insulted anyone let me express my deepest apologies but let me also point out that you don’t have to read this.)
The other week I went swimsuit shopping with my aunt and sister because my sister was going on a trip and wasn’t allowed to bring her two piece. We found several very cute suits for her to try on and she looked good in all of them. My aunt and I were disgusted (or at least I was) and totally jealous because we knew there was no way that we could ever pull off their look the way she did. Moral of the story? Some people look good in one thing and some don’t.
Finding a writing style and genre are just like swimsuit shopping. Choosing can be hard, especially if you have several your good at. One writer, your favorite writer say, might be a really good mystery writer while your mysteries are either really bad because mystery isn’t your thing or they have the potential to be as good as your favorite mystery writer and though you copied their style to the letter without plagiarizing they just aren’t as good. Just because something is the latest trend like Twilight it doesn’t mean you need to write a teenage vampire love story to be a good or famous author. You don’t write something because it’s big and likely to make you money for the same reason you don’t and shouldn’t wear the same swimsuit as the hot girl or guy that everyone is staring at across the pool; because it might not be, and likely isn’t, something you’ll do well in.
I have several friends who read certain genres and they think that because they read it it means they can write it. I read their stuff and I want to tell them, and usually do because I can’t keep my mouth shut, how horrible it is. Some of them however are very good but i can see the styles of the authors their emulating because I read the same stuff they do so I give them my honest opinion: ‘It’s good but you need to work on it.’ I tell them this because they may have found a genre but not a style. This is like choosing between a one piece, a bikini, tankini, or something with a skirt. (Guys this is the difference between trunks and a speedo) Style is where you choose color, backless, print, etc. In writing it’s where you truly become a writer. Stephen King is super descriptive, Jack London used grammatically correct run on sentences, Charles Dickens wrote a cliff hanger every three chapters or so and Andy McDermott is action packed cover to cover. Everyone is different and has a different style.
When it comes to genres I personally prefer fantasy writing and sword and sorcery, but I read and write a little of everything though fantasy is my “swimsuit.” As for my style? I like to be descriptive most of the time, but I also like to be vague. Even more I like to make every chapter able to stand somewhat on its own like a series of short stories. The point is that you have to find your style in order to become a truly good and unique writer. When Jack London started out he emulated several authors of his time and was a beautiful mimic but had no real style of his own. It wasn’t until he found his own style that people actually started to pay attention to his writing.
Some of you may be asking; ‘what if I’ve tried everything and none of it works?’ and here’s my answer; you can do one of two things but first ask yourself if this is really what you want to do. After that you have two options a) give up because you think you can never find a swimsuit you’ll look good in or b) you can lose some weight until you can find a good suit for yourself.
Now what in the name of Sam Hill do I mean by losing weight, because I am not calling you fat. I mean that you need to practice (exercise so to speak) until you’re good at something. Very few writers start off with actual talent. They write and write and write until they have it down. Just like when you can’t wear that bikini because of extra weight you train and exercise and eat right until you’ve lost enough weight to wear it and wear it well.
What about the t-shirt thing? A t-shirt means you are a) one of the people who is in need of practice or b) you’re insecure. As a writer and artist insecurity is common. You show the good stuff to people but not the great stuff, hinting at that rockin’ beach bod but not showing it to them because you’re afraid they’ll find flaws. Let me say this: Flaws are a part of your style! Flaws make the style unique to you. Go ahead and show the flaws, either you can fix them or not. You’ll find people who love your writing because of the flaws. If you have to tweak a few things go ahead but remember, perfection doesn’t exist, not even super models are flawless (air brushes are marvelous things) these flaws are who you are so don’t be afraid to come out of the dressing room because odds aer your suit is perfect for you.
As for you people I am disgusted by because you look good in and do well in everything, you have the same problem as my sister. You have to choose what you like best (unless you can ‘afford more than one swimsuit’ or manage several different fronts) and work with it. It wasn’t hard for my sister because she knew what she wanted but it might be harder for you. If it is there isn’t too much I can do for you because it’s really all up to you. I can’t tell you what to do. It’s all well and good to emulate your favorite author but let’s face it, you’ll never be as good as they are at what they do. Just like you’ll never look as good as the hot girl or guy at the other side of the pool. Find you’re own style, your own voice and you’ll find that people respect you for it more than if you emulate someone else. Who knows? Maybe you’ll be better than some of the best authors out there.
There is one more problem with finding the right swimsuit. People have a tendency to stick to the beaten path and familiar streets (bear with me while I mix a couple of metaphors.) Recently there has been some construction in my area and we’ve had to find new routes to go pretty much anywhere. I was with my Aunt and we were driving around. I thought that a street led to where we were going so she took that street at my advice. As it turned out that street was a dead-end. My aunt wasn’t happy but it was kind of fun to explore something new.
I talked about finding a style or swimsuit but let me say that once you find your style don’t be afraid to try others, explore new roads. Who knows? You might find a suit or route you like better. As a writer however you should never limit yourself to one route or suit. Experiment because the more you do, the better you’ll get. Just because only one swimsuit fits it doesn’t mean you have to take only one route to the pool.