This Is How You Improve Your Writing Style

Follow Before You Lead

Here’s what most people want you to believe about writing…

You keep writing and somehow you’ll find your voice.

Pursue your passion.

Don’t give up.

That’s what most people write and want you to think.

But it doesn’t really work to improve your writing style…and here’s why:

— You’re making the same mistakes over and over without knowing it

— You’re stuck in your own head

— You aren’t being stretched.

The truth is, here’s how you develop your own style: you copy.

That’s right, copy word for word what other people have written.

Don’t claim it as your own. Don’t say its yours. But copy it.

What’s the benefit?

— You’ll see how the masters of the trade do things

— You’ll understand the consistencies in their writing

— You’ll get new ideas of your own to try

— Once you go back to your own writing, you’ll have new tricks.

With , you’ll learn to follow before you lead. You’ll read what your heroes have done and then copy what they did.

But how what and how much should you copy?

What should you copy? Find the authors in the genre that you want to be part of. If that includes fantasy, then copy those. Sci-fi? Then choose that. Legal thriller? Literary?

These are probably the authors you’re already reading anyway, and you already have them on your shelves.

How much should you copy? A lot. I’d say at least 2000–4000 words of just direct copying before you get a sense of style of what a person is doing.

Really though, it should be the whole book. Because then you’ll not only learn about style, but plot development and characters.

And you should try more than one author.

Once you get that down, and start working on your own writing, you’ll see your style develop.

Remember, you’re trying to follow before you learn to lead.

You’re breathing in before you’re breathing out.

You’re learning a style before creating a style.

You’re copying before you’re writing.


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I’m Josh Spilker, a writer and author. I blog about the writing process at Create, Make, Write. For more like this, sign up for my newsletter here.