With literally tens of millions of books available on bookseller platforms, how can an author stand out from the pack? One way you can distinguish yourself is to develop your own unique writing style and voice. As a writer aspiring to perfect your craft, it is often helpful to seek inspiration and advice from the great authors who came before you. Let’s take a look at what renowned author Kurt Vonnegut had to say about writing with style.
Why Should You Examine Your Writing Style?
According to Vonnegut, taking the time to examine and craft a unique writing style is actually a mark of respect for your readers. He explains that taking the time to form interesting ideas to share with the reader and then organizing those ideas into consumable, enjoyable content, shows an intention to please. This, the author states, is the starting point for developing a “winning style.”
How To Write With Style
There is good reason to consider any guidance provided by a writer of Ken Vonnegut’s caliber. His writing oozed with style — a wry, dark, satirical, original style. His trademark writing style featured long sentences that were light on punctuation and thick with meaning. In his 50-year-long literary career, Vonnegut authored such blockbusters as Slaughterhouse-Five, Cat’s Cradle, and Breakfast of Champions. What follows are some thoughts and practical writing tips garnered from Vonnegut’s article, “How To Write With Style.”
Find a subject you care about
Vonnegut makes a salient point when he encourages writers to focus on a subject that they feel passionate about. It is that passion that draws the reader in and motivates them to devote time to reading your article, blog, or book. Vonnegut believed that truly caring about the subject matter is more important than “your games with language.”
Do not ramble
While Vonnegut fills this space with a succinct and pithy, “I won’t ramble on about that,” the point he wishes to convey is something we should take to heart. No matter how passionate we writers may feel about our subject, there is power in brevity. Keep a tight rein on the temptation to blather on and on.
Keep it simple
Just as we should strive to keep a lid on any tendencies to ramble, Vonnegut also notes that short, sweet sentences can be golden — and powerful. A brief little sentence composed of just the right words and inserted at just the right place can add a crisp punch to a paragraph, chapter, or even an entire book.
Have the guts to cut
Writers sometimes fall victim to their own pride, and stubbornly resist making the needed cuts. The takeaway is to avoid falling in love with your prose. Be brave enough to recognize sentences that don’t add anything special to the subject, and chop away when needed. Hone your writing skills by focusing on what adds to the work.
Sound like yourself
Vonnegut explains that the writer who embraces their authentic voice, a voice that is an offshoot of their own unique upbringing and heritage, will resonate best with the reader. Readers can sense whether they are digesting something genuine or contrived.
Say what you mean to say
Citing examples such as Picasso’s art and jazz music, Vonnegut implores writers to avoid a writing style that is too artsy or convoluted. Instead, we should express our thoughts and feelings in a direct, unambiguous way to create a comfortable reader experience.
Pity the readers
Speaking of the reader, Vonnegut drives home the importance of keeping them in mind as we write. While encouraging the writer to explore whichever subject matter they see fit, they should never lose sight of the purpose of writing. That purpose is to convey our ideas and stories in a cogent manner, versus the use of overly stylistic and self-serving devices for the sake of being unique.
Bonus Tips for Writing With Style
Here are some additional tips for discovering your own voice:
- Use a dictation app. To capture the essence of your conversational style, it can be helpful to use a dictation app. These voice-to-text apps allow you to create authentic-sounding dialogue and a more defined author persona by using your own unique speech patterns.
- Keep a journal. Writing our thoughts and feelings down in a journal is about as authentic as it gets. As you write your journal entries, see if you can pick up a sense of your natural writing voice, and then begin to cultivate that.
- Explore pivotal life experiences. Spend time reflecting on the meaningful events and traumas that have punctuated your life. See how these have shaped who you have become, and write from that perspective to develop your own unique voice.
- Get granular. As you write, practice describing your settings and characters in great detail. Draw from your personal experiences, travels, and relationships to add color and tone to your scenes. As you flavor the manuscript with rich detail and intimacy, your authentic voice will emerge naturally.
Work With Gatekeeper Press Today
When tackling writing your first book, you will benefit from some professional editing and proofreading. The publishing experts at Gatekeeper Press can guide you along the path toward identifying and cultivating your own unique voice and style. Contact us online for more information!