Learning Your Writing Style

As I read through writers’ comments in discussion groups on websites like Goodreads, I am struck by the number of new writers who are struggling to find their writing style. As if style is some kind of tool one just picks up and starts using immediately.

Truth is, style takes some authors years to develop. Some learn their own style rather quickly. Others never do develop a style they can call their own.

One piece of advice I learned from early on in my own writing career concerned the use of imitation as a means for identifying one’s own style. Copying—not plagiarizing—another author’s works verbatim.

As an example, I love both Ernest Hemingway’s and Stephen King’s writing style and, of course, their story-telling skills. So I copied…

I copied several of Hemingway’s short stories word-for-word, as an exercise toward learning a style of my own. Did the same thing with Stephen King.

Now, after years of practice, I’ve developed my own style. One that falls somewhere between King and Hemingway—and dozens of other writers whose style I studied if not imitated.

That kind of copying—not plagiarism, please—can be a good thing for any writer seeking to develop a style!

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