Trouble With Your Latest Story? 10 Ways to Reinvent Your Writing Style

Trouble With Your Latest Story? 10 Ways to Reinvent Your Writing Style

Are you stuck in the writing doldrums? Has your prose become lackluster and stale? If so, it might be time to change up your writing style and infuse some fresh life into your words and stories.

Every writer has his own writing style–a particular combination of skills, techniques, characteristics, and practices that develops into his unique voice. But, what happens if your style becomes clichéd and predictable, tired and trite?

If it’s time to give your writing style a makeover, consider the following tips for a new approach and greater results.

1. Change Your Pacing, Change Your Writing Style

Enter the scene late and leave it early.

This screenwriting tip from author and screenwriter William Goldman’s Adventures in the Screen Trade applies as much to novels as to scripts. But what does it mean “to enter the scene late and leave it early”? It means preventing the pace of your setup from bogging down in unnecessary introductions that establish how the characters arrived in the scene.

Try changing the pace by cutting the first paragraph in each chapter and reworking the second one. This will help compact your information into fewer words and thrust the storyline forward.

Similarly, if the last paragraph is mostly filler, cut it and reword the one before it to tighten up the delivery of information critical to the scene’s conclusion.

2. Don’t Edit While You Write

 This one’s old, but it is critical to developing flow in your writing.

It makes sense, right? If you’re editing, you’re not writing. And by trying to do both at once, writing can become slow and laborious, lacking in flow and rhythm.

Because the voice of the inner critic, the one who’s dying to start editing, can be much louder than that of the muse (after all, it criticizes everything, not just writing), you may need to referee between the two. Let the critic know its turn is coming–after you’ve finished writing.

3. Establish Good Writing Habits

This is another old chestnut, but a few good habits go a long way towards success.

If you want to become an accomplished writer, you have to write often and consistently. It’s called practice, and through practice, improvement is achieved.

A few essentials for better writing habits are:

  • Write daily.
  • Write at the same time each day. Have a schedule, without distractions, that you can adhere to. Be prepared to write as soon as you sit down.
  • Cross the finish line. Don’t let a project remain unfinished because something new and shiny has caught your eye. Finish what you start.

4. Tone Up

The feel of a good story is affected by its tone. Along with mood and style, it determines the emotional impact that is, or isn’t, achieved.

Tone is considered to be the attitude of the story’s narrator. If the tone of a story isn’t well established, then confusion and disinterest will result–not the results most writers strive for.

To establish a strong tone, ensure your words match the character’s thoughts and actions in the moment. To develop a deeper connection for your reader, be consistent with diction and syntax that will mirror the narrator’s perspective and responses within a scene. And maintain that consistency until there’s a reason for the character to change his attitude.

5. Write in the Present Tense

Challenge yourself to leave the past behind and write from the present tense. If handled well, present tense can infuse your writing with power and excitement.

Fiction written in the present tense can be very exciting for the reader, with live, streaming events pulling them into the action. Fun for the reader, but a bit scary for the writer who’ll need to master a singular perspective, smooth time shifts to introduce the past, and relevant the character thoughts.

6. Simplify Your Writing Style

Use simple words. Replace complex words with simple, straightforward language to keep the reader’s attention on your story, not wondering about a word’s meaning.

Write shorter sentences. Learn how to hone long sentences into two or three shorter ones for greater impact and focus.

Avoid redundancy. Trim away unnecessary duplication of words and ideas to keep your work clear and concise.

7. Master the Art of Conflict

Conflict creates an emotional pull. It lures your readers into the story and piques their curiosity as to how it will be resolved. And when done well, it will provide a satisfying outcome.

For maximum effect, conflict must affect the characters in ways that make them change, take action and grow. Without conflict, characters will remain as they were at the start of the story, leaving readers disinterested and disenchanted.

8. Change Your Voice, Change Your Writing Style

The voice your readers hear when reading your stories is your writing voice, and it can become predictable and stagnant.

To bring new energy to your fiction, change the style of your writing by exploring different voices; if you usually write in a conversational voice, experiment by switching to an informal or formal voice, etc.

9. Change Your Routine

Routines can become mindless and habitual, opening the door for distractions and excuses.

For effective writing, learn to recognize your writing strengths and weaknesses, your energy peaks and ebbs, and the time of day you’re most focused. Schedule accordingly.

10. Show, Don’t Tell

Create greater reader engagement by replacing the passive voice with an active one.

Don’t bore readers by telling them about the story; absorb them by showing the action with descriptive text. Add greater vibrancy to your story by using imagery and metaphor, add specific details, and use solid, well-constructed sentences. To liven up your storytelling, bring the subject and action to the forefront of your sentence and relegate the object to the background.

Changing your writing style can seem like a daunting task, but these ten tips will help to enliven your writing with fresh perspectives and new energy. And isn’t the effort to change worthwhile if it engages and entertains your readers?

Tell me your opinion: Which of these tips can you use to strengthen your writing style?

Trouble With Your Latest Story? 10 Ways to Reinvent Your Writing Style

Sign Up Today

hwba sidebar pic

Sign up to receive K.M. Weiland’s e-letter and receive her free e-book Crafting Unforgettable Characters: A Hands-On Introduction to Bringing Your Characters to Life.

About Steve Aedy

Steve Aedy is a freelance writer and content manager at Fresh Essays—a company that provides online editing and writing services.

Comments

  1. Thanks so much for sharing with us today, Steve!

  2. Thank you for these tips, K.M. I enjoy using most of them. Most recently, I’ve experimented with arriving late and leaving early as well writing in the present tense. Both strategies present challenges, as you’ve outlined, but the reward is a stronger story.
    Contrarily, I do edit while I write–with no ill effects. In fact, I find that it helps, after a break, get me back into the story. I’ve also left an old project to start something new. I’ve found, at times, that is necessary because I may need to learn new techniques in order to finish that old project. Different horses for different riders.

    • I also edit while in the midst of writing. Usually I review quickly what I wrote the day before, edit that chapter(s) and then move on. Definitely takes longer to complete a novel this way however. #3 – good writing habits – CRITICAL!
      Thanks for a good post!!

  3. Great ones, K.M. The one I’ve fallen back into a bad habit of is editing while I write. I’ve been stressed lately and I can tell how “centered” I am (or not) by how loud my inner critique is.

    I need to keep him to the curb and write like I’m on fire. I can always pretty and polish it later. The trick is getting those words onto the page. Thanks!

  4. The insight you give is priceless. Thank you.

  5. thomas h cullen says

    Say only what you want to say.

  6. Steve Mathisen says

    Excellent stuff! Encouraging too. 😀

  7. Thanks for the fresh ideas! I’m partial to number eight, changing your writing style. I wrote a quick one-shot in second person and it turned out really interesting! It helped me step away from my usual first person, past tense.

  8. Just love this, it talks to me. Thanks.

  9. Sorry to be pedantic, but you say “Know the rules for spelling, punctuation and grammar” and in the next line you write “shinny” where you mean “shiny”!

  10. I’m always amazed you can keep up a great blog AND write books. I especially love your posts because you explain things so well I actually understand. When you’re new to the fiction-writing world there are so many terms to understand, reading can cause more confusion. I read a warning about “head-hopping”, but they didn’t define the term. I figured it out by reading another article, but it took extra time.

    You’re so generous, freely giving what you worked so hard to learn. You make it easy to share by posting pinnable images and having social media sharing buttons. You’re giving value to the Pinterest boards we’re creating for our writers association under the name “The Christian Writer’s Coach.” Thank you for all you do for writers. You’re a blessing!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I’m so glad you’re enjoying the site! Steve Aedy gets the credit for this great article. I’m glad you enjoyed it as well!

  11. These are wonderful. I love the quote “Enter the scene late and leave it early.” That is a golden rule. This article is golden. I am tweeting it now 🙂

  12. A SUPER helpful post. . . thanks!

  13. Number two! I have been in edit mode on my last manuscript, tweaking and rewriting every time an agent or beta reader makes an important suggestion. So I’m having a hard time actually writing my newest ventures. Now I understand why I can’t pound out more than 500 words at a time…because I’m constantly going back, looking for passive voice, sticking in descriptive words and rearranging my sentences. I’m going to gear up for NaNoWriMo by actually writing…and leaving the editing for later!

    • Hi Janelle – I know how you feel. I have the hardest time “letting go” of the feeling that there’s still something that needs fixing, improving, reworking….. My MS is with beta readers now. I’m readying myself to take every suggestion and marinate it for a while. Sometimes a good idea is just a good idea – not necessarily an improvement to what we’ve already written. Best of luck!

  14. Writing in present tense… good advice. I am writing a story like that, and it is true: it is more vivid and strong.

  15. The first two points in particular already pulled me in. I’m horrendous at editing while I go which hinders me from moving forward. I edit so much I end up thinking the story itself is rubbish and I walk away from it.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.