Writing Styles: One or Many?

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For most of the last century, America’s cultural landscape—its fashion, art, music, design, entertainment—changed dramatically every 20 years or so. But these days, even as technological and scientific leaps have continued to revolutionize life, popular style has been stuck on repeat, consuming the past instead of creating the new. Like clothing fashion, books seem to have developed their own anticipated styles. I guess you could drop that 2012 guy’s pants below his shorts and put a hoodie and some sunglasses on him. (If you would call that current acceptable style.)

You often hear comments made about a writer’s style. Reviewers remark on disliking or liking an author’s style. I can read a book and say whether I liked the writing style, or not.

Writing style refers to the manner in which an author chooses to write to his or her audience. A style reveals both the writer’s personality and voice, but it also shows how she or he perceives the audience. The choice of a conceptual writing style molds the overall character of the work. This occurs through changes in syntactical structure, parsing prose, adding diction, and organizing figures of thought into usable frameworks.

A WRITER’S STYLE IS WHAT SETS HIS OR HER WRITING APART and makes it unique. Style is the way writing is dressed up (or down) to fit the specific context, purpose, or audience. Word choice, sentence fluency, and the writer’s voice — all contribute to the style of a piece of writing. How a writer chooses words and structures sentences to achieve a certain effect is also an element of style.

Style is not a matter of right and wrong but of what is appropriate for a particular setting and audience.

To read these descriptions of writing style, especially concerning personality and voice, one would think that style is almost innate. That it cannot change. But note what they say about choice.

For several weeks I was awash in stream of consciousness producing sentences of internal monologue, detailed description, and using associations to move from idea to idea.

Recently, I felt that my writing was getting serious and emotional. I needed a break from it.

I picked up my crime novel that I had placed on the back burner and read through it. That prompted a flurry of new ideas and I put down over 2000 words in one day.

The writing style is completely different from my historical story. Totally.

The sentences are shorter, there is humor, and things (especially clues) are plainly stated and described.  It is rational and scientific; there is no literary dallying with side-issues, no subtly worked-out character analyses, no “atmospheric” preoccupations.  There is no method to hold up the action and introduce issues irrelevant to the main purpose, which is to state a problem, analyze it, and bring it to a successful conclusion. I am having fun with it.

Having only written one book in recent years, I went back over some old manuscripts. The writing styles were clearly different.

My published book is a historical novel. There was much setting the time period, and description, character development and some internal dialog.

With all of the talk about building an author platform, I have seriously considered starting a new blog that focuses on crime novel writing or a specific image to that effect. Experts say that you need at least ten published books and preferably a series if you want to make your mark as a genre writer. What do you think?

I can’t say that I am a historical writer, fantasy writer, romance writer, crime fiction writer or any such thing as a defined writer of fiction. I am exploring.

Do you have a style? Could you deviate from it and feel comfortable or have you found your comfort zone? Is it innate talent for you, or do you feel it is a learned skill? Do you feel a genre specific platform is necessary?

30 thoughts on “Writing Styles: One or Many?

  1. I do have a distinct style, which came from playing around in the same stories for years. I never realized I was developing it either. I’m rather comfortable with what I’m doing and the genre-specific angle is where my goals are. I have tried stepping out into other genres, but I keep coming back to fantasy. Nothing really wrong with that since many fantasy authors remain within the genre.

    • Definitely no right or wrong! You also have a fantasy based blog. I am wondering if it would be worthwhile to develop a crime novel based blog. A platform to start with. I didn’t start this blog until AFTER I published and did not have a clue about branding in preparation for publishing. If I work this crime novel into something worthwhile, I want to be better prepared. Worth the effort?

        • Crime novels in general…the process of writing crime fiction, reviewing crime novels, discussing renowned characters and settings and authors techniques, introducing my own characters, my participation in the organization called “Sisters in Crime, discussion about female crime writers…that sort of thing.

            • Someone told me there are lots but mostly on blog spot not WP. I tried to Google it but didn’t come up with much. Mostly crime novel reviewers.

              Some crime fiction authors, like Tim Baker, have blogs, but not necessarily dedicated. My husband has discovered him as an author through my blogging (I ran across an interview) and really likes his work. He has several books out, at least eight, but he is obscure without a strong platform. maybe it is just not something they do, too restrictive. I dunno.

                • Honestly, Tim Baker is the only one I know of. There are lots of Florida regional authors like Tim Dorsey and Carl Hiaasen and others. They are not self published. Florida lends itself to wacky characters, the poor and the wealthy. It has probably been overdone, but I don’t know any female regional authors.

                    • I need a strong female assisting my detective. He has a transsexual who is slowly becoming his sidekick, but a strong female psychologist, ME, or legal or law enforcement figure needs to be developed, I think. This could be fun.

                    • I have Dr. G (our local Medical examiner) right here in Orlando. I did my S,A.N.E. training under her. As a real figure, I don’t know if she would appreciate a spin off though. I wonder if there are any legal implications to that with her being so highly renowned and having her own expert TV show. She’s famous. I’ll have to think on this.

                    • There’s probably some legal implications if she’s that high profile. You can loosely base a character on her or use her for the inspiration, but that’s probably the limit.

                    • I was thinking of having a strong female leading the cold case team that is always in the way of the detective. They are often at odds concerning evidence and information. Yet have to have some sort of working relationship.

  2. What a great topic for a post. I tend to change my writing style but only because I write in different genres. I think it’s important to match style ot genre or feel of the book. But saying that, everyone’s writing process is different and some books are great not going that 😀

    I guess it comes down to the individual!

    • I have two distinctly different styles in mind and both have their distinctive rules. Seriously contemplating a separate blog to focus specifically on one style.

  3. Where do you get your great graphics, Susan? The banner in the introduction, for example.

    Good topic once again: This is the sentence that really resonated with me: A style reveals both the writer’s personality and voice, but it also shows how she or he perceives the audience. I think that is how you have achieved a great blog following; you are very aware of who your readers are – bravo to the blogger in all of us!

    • Thanks Marian. I am seriously looking at starting a more genre specific blog for some of my writing that may not belong here.

      I steal my images. I am waiting for a cease and desist letter.

  4. You’re lucky that you can write in a variety of styles/voices like that. That’s a fabulous idea to focus on crime writing in a blog. I imagine you will have some eye-catching headlines, too ;).

    • Toying with the idea. It would be fun to set it up even if it takes a while to build an audience. Maybe I could get some big name authors interviewed…who knows.

  5. Great topic! While I am always open to someone suggesting a revision for the sake of craft, if someone tells me to change my style or voice, I typically turn a deaf ear. It’s like telling me to change my whole personality when maybe, we just shouldn’t be friends 🙂

  6. As I blogged about recently, I feel like I have fallen into a particular style and I don’t like it. It’s why I’m taking a break

    • Change it up. I thought it would be hard to do, and it was at first. Once I changed my mind set about the material, the writing style changed with it, almost like getting into character for an actor.

    • >>>>Hahaha Humorous style. YOU make funny words and pictures! How’s the book doin!? Where do you promote? It’s not like you can do 99 cent book deals through promoters and ads.

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