writing practice and style improvement

When reading a story, there’s always one thing that makes us keep reading, however, we mostly don’t really notice it - it’s the style an author writes in, the way they play around with words. Skilled authors know how to write in many different styles, but for the beginning it’s often easier to at first find one style that suits you.
Today we’re looking at different forms of writing practice that will help to develop and improve our very own style.

Style doesn’t come from nowhere, it needs to be practiced as much as any other aspect of story writing - in fact it’s one of the most time-consuming things to get right. There are, generally speaking, two ways to improve your style. The first is rather simple, just read a lot of quality literature. That doesn’t always only mean books but also works you found on the internet that have a style you really like. Try figuring out how exactly those texts are written and what draws you to that style. Is it the frequent use of adjectives, the repetition of feelings in other words, the general use of classic stylistic devices like alliterations or anaphoras, or perhaps the ongoing use of deep metaphors? This will give you a general idea of the direction in which you will have to go to improve your style, and perhaps you’re so skilled that you can adapt that style without having to practice it.

If you want to find your own style or don’t really find a style that would suit you, or if you just want to improve the style you try to make your own, it’s always a good idea to practice writing until you get that certain style you want to achieve. However, it’s often tricky to find enough ideas to write about.
An easy way to find a topic to write about is to start with one word. That word could be the word of the day - as you can find it on pages like dictionary.com or wordthink.com - or a word that just happened to float through your thoughts. You might as well take a book, flip to a random page and point to one random word until you get one that isn’t and or or. Taking that one word, start writing a drabble centering around it.
What a drabble is? A drabble is a form of text that has exactly 100 words (not counting the headline) and describes a situation very pointedly. It originated as a form of fanfiction but is also to be found in prosa. Drabbles are a rather easy first step on the way of becoming an author as they are rather short, thus forcing you to choose your words wisely.
Writing such drabbles frequently gives you a lot of practice, and practice always pays off. If you want to, you could also try oneword.com - a page that I used a lot in my early stages of writing. It gives you one word and sixty seconds to write about it. See it as a challenge.

Another thing you could try is the 120 words challenge. I found it as a project on fanfiktion.de - essentially it’s a list of 120 words or phrases you can go through, writing a short story, a drabble or a poem for each of them. Even if you don’t speak German - go click that link, choose one of the threads that show up and scroll down a bit. Usually all of the threads list the 120 words or phrases in both English and German.

If just one word or phrase doesn’t offer enough for you, try making something out of three. I’m sure you’ve seen those before - just three random words you are supposed to tie together into a story. Some people use this for telephone pranks, we’re using it for story writing purposes. If you can’t come up with three words on your own, you can use some of these:

Birthday - knife - toast
Blood - sunshine - coffee
Rain - soup - kitchen
Book - cat - poison
Penguin - celebrate - octopus
Zoo - bouncy castle - clock
Bell - demon - flower
Shamrock - sheep - clouds

Also, those words don’t have to be used in the order in which they show up. Try experimenting with them and make them into whatever you’d like to. Also, make sure to share your results with me, I’d love to read them!

Another thing you might want to try is taking an already existing story and re-using the idea it was based on. As you’re only using the idea for practicing purpose nobody will be mad at you (as long as you don’t post it as your very own work).

Last but not least, we want to look at different styles in general. A nice exercise would be to put one sentence through a lot of different styles. Let’s look at an example.

Standard: She was on her way to buy lipstick.

Dramatic: Lipstick, the most essential beauty product of them all. The intense colours, the endless varieties. One step to the counter, one swatch on her pale skin - it was perfect.

Colloquial / bad language: F*cking lipstick. Why did those bastards always have to break off? It was the second one she had to buy that day, and what for? Only to fit in with all of those stupid beauty gurus.

You could put this into very many other variants - from rather extravagant to very emotional or rather boring, whatever floats your boat. This exercise helps to tailor your style to the situation you want to describe and the emotions you want to bring across. And really, it’s just a lot of fun to play around with sentences since you don’t have to follow any rules for this one. Just take a couple of sentences and give it a go!

If you’d like to see more projects like this, make sure to leave a comment down below or let me know on my social media. I found that projects like such don’t only improve your style but also help you overcome a writing blockade, so let me know if you want to see more of those!