After many years of muddling through horrifying fashion trends and multiple wardrobe rehauls (i had an “i wear only black” phase, a “tshirt and jeans” phase, a “baggy clothing” phase, “designer only phase,” etc.)…I have come across my own personal style. I know who my fashion icons are and what I can pull off (and what I can’t). I know what I can highlight and what I’ve got to hide.
But WHAT is your WRITING style? Lit Agent X asks, What is your personal writing style? What authors are you drawn to? What are your own aesthetics? What do you do well? What do you want your writing to accomplish? Notably, she asks the following questions (sorry–this is a LONG quote):
Better if you already know your strong suit — Do you write funny? Or can you create an ambiance that gives people chills? Or would you rather have them on the edge of their seats? Maybe you want your writing to turn them on or romance them. Maybe you wish someone had written certain books for you and there’s nothing out there like it yet… so you’ll be the first.
What about plotting? Are you focusing on your characters’ internal growth, or focused on racing them through to solve a mystery before the world is destroyed or their loved ones lost? What pacing do you like to read yourself? What most fascinates you?
What settings draw you in and make your fingers itch for your camera?
Which people in your life have you puzzled over and wondered why you felt compelled by their personalities even as they should have annoyed you or had nothing else in common with you? What aspects of them stuck with you?
What feeling do you want when you read a book? (This is a more important question than it would seem — Not as obvious of an answer as you might expect.) I’ve gotten pitches at conferences and queries for books that have puzzled me because they ended terribly (everyone dies) or else they have such relentlessly dark plot lines… and so I ask. I’ve surprised a few writers who’d never really considered that. Would they read someone else’s hardship journal? Would they enjoy it if they were reading a thriller and every character died in the end? Do they like reading about aimless young men who hate the corporate world and get trapped in a downward spiral of drugs / alcohol / debauchery? Usually not.
What’s the best way to give other readers what you want?
If you’re still not sure about your writing style, or even if you are, consider trying out an experiment with a writing group — ask them what they like best about your work and really listen. Ask them for solid adjectives describing your strengths.
I’m not saying to ignore your weaknesses in the hope your dazzling strengths will overshadow them, but playing up your strengths is equally important to improving your weak points. Knowing what your books are doing right helps you know how to position your books, find your audience of readers, and make your work stand out from other writers’.
Now there’s some food for thought. I know what I’m bad at (but I am not so sure of my strengths)…but there’s where you can go wrong: you can spend all your time focused on and/or hiding your weaknesses that you forget to highlight your strengths (a lesson in the creation in my own personal fashion style).