Teens Can Write, Too!

Changing the world's opinion… as soon as we finish this math homework

Writing In Your Own Style

Here’s the thing: I don’t write lyrically.

I’ve tried to, of course. Countless times I’ve attempted–and failed–to be poetic in my writing, because I hoped that if I just worked hard enough, my writing style would magically fall into that category of “lyrical” that so many of my favorite books are a part of.

But, here’s the other thing: it hasn’t worked.

My style, simply put, refuses to change. No matter how much I try, I can’t get the whole lyricism thing down. At best, my final product comes out as an overworked, purple-prose-filled mess. At worst, it’s completely indecipherable. (Who knew a person could fit so many rain-as-a-metaphor-for-tears lines into one paragraph?)

This is a reality I’ve struggled a lot with over the past year or so. As someone with critique partners who write incredibly beautifully, I have sometimes felt inadequate as a writer. I’ve even, on multiple occasions, desperately tried to “adjust my style” midway through a first draft so I could write “better.” In fact, whenever I come across a particularly amazing snippet of a friend’s manuscript, I seemingly have to go back and rewrite my whole book in a style like theirs, thinking that will improve my writing. Basically: I read other people’s lyrical prose in awe, and then I look back at my own WIP (Work in Progress) and I feel utterly lacking. I wonder why I can’t be so evocative, why I can’t just freaking write the way my favorite authors do.

But then, when I am not obsessing over my style and comparing it to that of others, I’m happy. I really am. When I don’t try to write lyrically, my writing is natural. And fun. And is, most importantly, better. Sure, the awkwardly-teenager style I currently use may not fit the traditional conception of “good.” Hell, to a strict critic, it probably wouldn’t even be considered “good,” period. But I learned something the other day, when I reread my first few chapters and realized they weren’t half bad, and that is this: it doesn’t matter. You don’t write to win awards for how deep your metaphors are. You don’t write to master a technique just because it’s traditionally considered the best. You write to be creative. You write to be different. You write to be you, and to master your style–whatever that may be.

The great thing about writing is that everyone’s work is unique. Every writer, no matter who they are or where they are from or what their aim is, is different, and as a result so is their writing. I know it’s a cliche; I know, at this point, it’s probably meaningless. But I mean it. And no matter how much better you think Dan from across the hall is at writing than you, trying to mimic his style–even mimicking it vaguely, like I used to do–just isn’t worth it. It doesn’t help you, because Dan’s style has already been done before. Yours hasn’t. And I promise you that yours, too, with enough hard work, will be absolutely amazing.

That’s not to say it’s impossible to change writing styles, or that there is anything wrong with writing lyrically. I am forever in awe of people who write like that. But great writing comes in many forms, and “deep and poetic” does not hold a monopoly on it. So, I say, work on improving your own style first, before you try to switch to another. Then maybe you’ll see how talented you truly are.

It boils down to this: awesome is a spectrum. Just because most people like blue and you paint in fulvous* doesn’t mean your work is any worse; it just means it’s more you. It’s equally awesome, in a different way.

 ***

*THIS IS A REAL COLOR, BTW.

Also, note for anyone interested: the November blog chain announcement post will be posted on October 24th. I’m endlessly sorry about not getting up a chain for this month. And, on that note, there’s also some exciting blog-related news coming toward the end of the month. 😀

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About Michael Waters

I'm Michael, I'm eighteen, and I blog about YA books for Barnes & Noble.

28 comments on “Writing In Your Own Style

  1. Pamela Nicole
    October 19, 2014

    I thought I was the only one! Some of my favorite books have some beatiful, awe-inspiring prose too. Lol I just can’t write like that either. Mine is more like: The sky is blue. 👀 Has it happened to you guys that when you read a book you just loved, your writing inadvertently takes an eerie similar form than that of its author? It used to happen to me all the time. But right now, this post made me realize it hasn’t happened lately (must be good. Hooray!)

    • John Hansen
      October 20, 2014

      That used to happen to me all the time too! (And, from the responses I’m getting, it sounds like we aren’t alone there.)

      So glad it helped! 😀

  2. Julia Byers
    October 19, 2014

    Thank you for writing this post, John! This is such a big thing. I’m always so jealous of other people’s writing styles but I’m definitely happier (and my writing’s definitely better) when I’m just letting it be.

    Hmmm. Wonder what this exciting blog-related news could be.

    • John Hansen
      October 20, 2014

      Agreed!

      And yeah, I think it’s kind of cool. 🙂 KIND OF.

      • Julia Byers
        October 20, 2014

        I mean. It sounds like it’s PRETTY DARN COOL to me. But whatevs. WHAT DO I KNOW.

  3. Heather
    October 19, 2014

    I wish I could hear about the spectrum of awesome more often than I do! All too often I feel like my writing is inadequate, and it’s painful to read other writing… But I do it anyway. I’ll get better, eventually.

    • John Hansen
      October 20, 2014

      You’re getting better every time you write. Really. And I’m wholly confident that you are already super talented. 🙂

      Reading other people’s writing is definitely tough. I tend to avoid that while drafting, so I don’t obsess over comparing myself to others so much (but obviously that doesn’t always help).

      • Heather
        October 23, 2014

        I sure hope so! But it never hurts to keep practicing. 🙂

        Ah, that’s an interesting idea. I’ve never done that but it does make me realize that if you compare first drafts to published drafts you’re not going to feel particularly good about yourself… when unedited work shouldn’t even sit on the same scale!

  4. M. Weidenbenner
    October 19, 2014

    “Worry later about your fears–what your mother, brother, co-workers, father, or even your Angel will think. For now get it on the page. Discover what you are firecely hiding or not remembering or blanking out on.”

    “You will never get any further in your writing if you sensor your life.” Natalie Goldberg.

    • John Hansen
      October 20, 2014

      I love that! And it’s so good to see you stopping by, Michelle!

      • M. Weidenbenner
        October 20, 2014

        Thanks! It’s great to see you writing here again!

        I’m immersing myself in Natalie’s memoir writing book because I’m writing my niece’s for NaNo next month. Scared. To. Death. She was hit by a drunk driver and is a quad so it’s not easy for her to write, but wow, does she have a story to tell. It’s just a scary endeavor to pretend that I am her.

        Are you doing NaNo this year in November?

      • John Hansen
        October 20, 2014

        Wow. I wish you the best of luck with it! I find that the more scared you are going into the manuscript, the better it turns out. Hope that’s the case here!

        And yes, I think I am! I still need to finalize my idea though.

  5. Cait
    October 20, 2014

    *whispers* I’m super curious about this Blog Related News. How dare you dangle it and make us wait. *stomps foot*

    But, in other news, THIS IS A FABULOUS POST! Too true! I absolutely agree. 😉 I always read lyrical books and regret my style. But it’s just not me. I write really blunt and fast, with minimal words and short sentences. It’s not perfect and I’m always wanting to make it better, but it’s me. And I have to remember I can’t want to change me, because I’m the only one who’s going to write like this in the world.

    You can keep your FULVOUS. I want to write in GLAUCOUS!

    • John Hansen
      October 20, 2014

      NOOOOOOOO. MY GLAUCOUS. *steals*

      I am totally with you. My writing is also pretty blunt and pretty minimalist, and, while I like it, it’s so easy to get discouraged when reading a radically different style, since you automatically assume that one is “better.” But I love what you say about not changing yourself–so true!

  6. Miriam Joy
    October 20, 2014

    I’ve got quite a weird writing style, I think — it varies between incredibly casual and chatty, basically exactly how I talk, and weirdly poetic. I mean, I write poetry, so I guess that affects how I use imagery and sense in description, but at times I want it to have a blunter edge. It can be fun to take the same passage and write it in different styles not because you think one or other of them is better, but just as a writing exercise.

    Hey, we should get people to do that as a prompt some time. Take a very simple scene — a character walking into a room and saying hello to another character, for example — and write it in different styles. Lyrical. Chatty. Tense and choppy. That could be fun.

    • M. Weidenbenner
      October 20, 2014

      Hi Miriam! How’s your writing life going? I love your idea of a simple scene prompt.

      • Miriam Joy
        October 21, 2014

        My writing life is currently non-existent because uni happened, but hopefully that’ll change very soon.

    • John Hansen
      October 20, 2014

      That is a brilliant topic. Seriously. I don’t want to take it for the blog chain since it’s your idea, but if you’d like to run it from your blog, I’d love to be a participant.

      • Miriam Joy
        October 21, 2014

        Maybe I will some time. I’ll play around with it when I have a chance and see how it would work, logistically, then work out what to do with it. 🙂

  7. erinkenobi2893
    October 20, 2014

    I’ve been having the problem where I unintentionally copy the style of the last author I read… -_- Which is okay when it’s Lewis, Tolkien, or L’Engle, but Faulkner?! That’s when things start to get hairy… (My “natural” style is somewhat similar to Tolkien anyway… 😛 )

    • John Hansen
      October 20, 2014

      HA! I so want to read you writing in Faulkner’s style now. That must really be something. 🙂

      • erinkenobi2893
        October 21, 2014

        *shudders* Actually, it’s cumbersome and awkward… 0_0 Run-on sentences galore. Though I do like some of the imagery…

  8. Karmen
    October 20, 2014

    Great post. I tend to write in a short, “punchy” style, and get straight to the point, but also dabble in poetic prose every now and then. 🙂

    • John Hansen
      October 20, 2014

      Thank you! And that’s awesome! I always love a mix of the two. 🙂

  9. Pingback: On Writing Beautifully | This Page Intentionally Left Blank

  10. Pingback: Poetry Is About Seeing | Miriam Joy Writes

  11. Taylor Lynn
    October 24, 2014

    This is such a great post, and I can totally relate! After I read a particularly well-written or lyrical book, I usually go into a bit of a funk, thinking that my writing is not and can never be that good. Come to think of it, I do that with genre a lot, too, because I write a lot of realistic YA but love fantasy–I get stuck thinking that fantasy is “better”. Objectively, it’s a pretty ridiculous mindset, but I think it’s a trap most writers fall into! And it’s usually hardest to see the positive in your own work, unfortunately. But I believe that “good” writing is entirely subjective, and what some readers adore others will abhor. (And on that note, not all “good” books are lyrical and poetic–there’s a lot to be said for writing that’s natural, too. 🙂

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that I agree with you, and this post is fantastic–thanks for sharing your thoughts and struggles with us, and I hope you’re able to hold onto your appreciation for your own writing! I may not have read it, but I’m quite sure it’s awesome. 🙂

    Also, I’m super curious to find out your blog-related news! 🙂

  12. Pingback: Writing Advice, Agent Interviews, Teen Authors, And More | Teens Can Write, Too!

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