Every writer has a style. Not some; not most; every. Some may not be as noticeable as others – for example, Charles Dickens’ tendency to alliterate his phrases may not be as noticeable as Lord Byron’s same tendency in his poetry. Your style might not be as simple as a tendency to alliterate – it may be the tense you tend to write in, or prefer. For example, some authors like to use present tense (see Elisa Carbone and Kaitlyn Deann), while most use past tense. That is a style that definitely stands out and will be associated with that author.
Also, it may be something else entirely. Robert Browning created the dramatic monologue – which resulted in one speaker relaying an entire story, including the thoughts, intentions, and actions of other characters. Browning was well known for this aspect, and dramatic monologue is frequently featured throughout his writing. Lord Byron created the Byronic hero – a hero who feels more strongly, acts more thoroughly, and figuratively “sees” more than the average person. This character is also commonly expressed through his writing.
As a writer myself, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of knowing your style and following through with it. You may love Jane Austen’s witty sarcasm, but that doesn’t mean it will work in your writing. I have experienced this many times over. I am a great admirer of Jeffery Overstreet’s writing, especially The Auralia Thread Series. His writing is like nothing I’ve ever read. It is beautiful; full of metaphors, similes, vivid imagery, assonance, alliteration, consonance, apostrophe, and more. I stand in awe of his writing.
Then I try to do it myself…and it’s a major fail. Granted, I often alliterate sentences in my writing without even realizing it. In editing, I’ll go back through and find numerous sections of alliteration that I never intended to be there (i.e. “Shawn shrugged his shoulders.”). Even so, Overstreet’s style does not work for me. As much as I adore it, I can’t write like that. Every time I tried to write with such imagery and beautiful diction, I would get stuck. Now, I do have a few scenes in my book that are full of metaphors – and that actually worked with me. I am exceedingly proud of those sections (probably more than I should be). Other than those few times though, trying to write like that just didn’t work. Trying to write with such rigidity – having to think about what possible metaphor or simile I could use – really locked down my creative thoughts.
So what’s my style? I’m not exactly sure, but I know it has something to do with taking a creative thought, expanding on it a bit, coming up with a decent idea of how I could use it, and just sitting down and writing. I have a secret to tell – one that pretty much all authors would gasp at.
I never outlined my novel.
Not even for a chapter. In fact, I had absolutely NO idea what was going to happen when I began writing my book. I had one character, but I didn’t know anything about her except for age and the fact that she was female. I had a very temporary setting – which is only in the first two or three chapters of my book. Yet somehow…a very exciting and captivating story emerged. What did I do? I just wrote. It was literally like watching a movie, or reading a book. I was able to watch as the plot and characters unfolded – the only difference was that I held the pen.
However, I did make sure that my characters were developed well. For me, a book is just flat without good character development. As a result, I took a notepad, and wrote down the names of all of my main or at least fairly important characters. Then, I outlined their character traits, and made sure that each character was unique in his or her own way. So in essence, I did outline something for my book – I outlined character traits. BUT, I didn’t outline anything like plot or structure, which are most commonly in an outline. I do think that having an outline would have lessened the number of revisions I made – therefore, in beginning my second novel, I’m creating a fairly decent outline before I start writing. It’s mainly just the ideas jotted down on paper, but hopefully that will reduce the number of revisions.
In sum, I would urge you to stick to your own style. If you’re not sure what “your style” is, do some writing, and figure out what makes your writing “click.” Ask yourself questions. In what writing technique does your writing seem most fluid? When you’re going by an outline, or when you’re just letting your thoughts pour out on paper? Maybe you do admire another writer’s style, and it seems to work really well for you – perhaps you have the same styles. I just know that when you discover and explore your own style, your writing will feel much more natural, and WAY more fun.