User names and passwords. I hate ‘em. But it’s tough to navigate the WWW (World Wide Web) without engaging them. Your password is your identity and is uniquely yours. It gets you into a place where no one else can go - into the heart of the web.
The experts advise us to create a different password for every internet site that we log onto. Right. It’s really hard to keep coming up with these passwords. A strong password should include numbers, letters (some uppercase) and maybe some random characters like #@% :). And apparently ‘123abc’ is not a strong password.
Your writing style is also your identity and is uniquely yours. It gets you into a place where no one else can go – into the heart of the reader. But just as it takes intentional effort to come up with those passwords, the same can be said of creating a writing style that is unique and shapes your identity as a writer.
As an agent, I sometimes struggle through portions of an author’s offering. Often I read aloud those passages that I find to be awkward and clumsy. I have found this to be a quick exercise that helps in determining how the writing flows. There is a natural rhythm in speaking (unless you call auctions or bingo).
This exercise can help in determining the rhythm of your story or narrative. Do you run out of breath due to excessive run-on sentences, or poor punctuation? Are some sentences so short that it’s hard to gain any momentum? Start. Stop. Start. It’s like driving in rush-hour traffic. Long and short sentences are not bad, just think about mixing it up. This is just one exercise to help you craft your unique writing style.
(But remember: DON’T say your password out loud!)
In the sixth grade our English teacher gave our class the assignment of imitating the style of one of our favorite writers. I picked Ray Bradbury. His was a very visual style. I liked the way he described things with few words. He was able to select the right word at the right place. Jonathan Swift referred to this as putting “the proper words in proper places.”
So by studying, and imitating, Ray Bradbury’s style, I learned at a young age to appreciate the creative use of adjectives, metaphors and similes. This is just one component in developing a unique style.
These days I write mostly songs (and an occasional blog). I know what I want to say, but chances are, somebody else has already said it. Now it’s up to me to either discard the idea, or work at coming up with a different, and hopefully fresh way of putting that idea ‘out there’. I will write something, and immediately love it. This could possibly be the best thing I’ve ever written! The next day I play it out loud and I hate it. This could possibly be the worst thing I’ve ever written! And then we go back and revisit it and figure out how to salvage it.
Have you done that with a sentence? A paragraph? A chapter?
What makes your writing style uniquely yours? What’s the style that’s going to get you into your reader’s heart? I can't wait to read it. And yes, sometimes I still move my lips when I read.