Writing Style

I recently wrote a post about how my writing style, especially for my dissertation, has involved long stretches of planning, thinking, researching, and otherwise NOT writing punctuated by short, intensive bouts of writing. I recently described this to the director of my university’s writing center who described it as “binge writing” — apt, and also makes it sound sort of risqué.

There have been times in my writing life where writing every day, whether I feel like it or not, has been an incredibly important tool. Most notably, I wrote (almost) every day for several months during my first semester back at school after Clarion West. This helped me to focus on my fiction rather than getting caught up in being sad and contemplative about Clarion being over. I think this was also a really important way of dealing with the fabled writing block that plagues some writers after Clarion. I wrote every day while checking in with friends and even if the writing wasn’t great, it was writing — curse avoided. (It does make sense to me why some people wouldn’t write as much directly following the workshop experience. I suspect it’s to allow for the same sort of non-writing processing that I’ve found helpful with the dissertation.)

I also used the website 750words.com for a while, writing (nearly) every day for about four months. This was during the prospectus-writing process and the early days of the dissertation. I was having trouble keeping my fiction projects in mind alongside the constant, more immediate work of the dissertation process. Writing fiction every day to a word limit helped force me to make some head space to keep my characters and story lines in mind. As much as my previous post championed “binge writing,” I think that part of the reason I’ve been able to write so freely more recently and feel more organized about my longer projects is that I stored up a LOT of good material during that period of writing every day. It was also helpful to see some of the analytics that 750words.com provides. It reminded me how often I (over)use the word “just” and it also helped to clarify some of the major themes and key words of the three-ish different projects I was playing with.

Here’s an example of some stats from a random day, where I learned that I swear less than average:

All this is to say, I’m wondering if a mix of writing styles is actually what works for me. When I asked my students to read what other writers had to say about writing, I reminded them that what worked for each writer — and what, in turn, might work for them — would really vary. What if writing wisdom and insights into process actually vary even within the trajectory of a single writer? It makes sense, really. But it also makes writing seem that much more complicated. It makes me wonder if my focus on encouraging students to be aware of their own writing habits and style might be fruitfully expanded to also encouraging students to try out new writing practices. (Of course, with some students I am most concerned with getting them to write AT ALL!)

What is your writing style? Is there something that works better for you? Does it vary depending on the type of project or what stage it’s at? How do you work with students to encourage them to be aware of their own writing style(s)?


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