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Developing Your Writing Style by F. Allan Roth

Today I have with me F. Allan Roth, who will be teaching us about developing your writing style! He and his wife live in Idaho. He is the author of Fighting the Promise (, a post-apocalyptic novel set in the mountains of Idaho. He is also the author of a commentary on the Book of Mormon titled A Missionary’s Musings on the Book of Mormon (

So without further ado, developing your writing style.

Developing a recognizable, unique writing style is one of the hardest problems new or inexperienced writers face. I have a three-step process that helped me polish my writing style and that also helped many of my writing students at Brigham Young University and Ricks College (now BYU-Idaho).

What I’m about to tell you will probably contradict everything your composition teachers ever taught you. That’s okay. It works. The three steps are these:

1. Reading to analyze style.

2. Writing to emulate style.

(These first two steps are repeated several times before moving to the final step.)

3. Synthesizing your own style from what you’ve learned.

Reading to Analyze Style

Anybody who wants to write well needs to read, read, read. But reading to analyze style is tightly focused reading. Find an author—in your genre—whose writing you absolutely love, and read carefully to see how she wrote the parts that you like the most.

Stop if you find yourself “getting into the story.” Go back and read for understanding rather than for the joy of it. How did your author build her sentences? What kinds of words did she use? What point of view? How did she write dialogue or describe settings? How did she describe the main characters’ feelings or thoughts? How much physical description of characters? Read and re-read, taking notes as necessary, until you think you understand how she created the passages that you fell in love with.

Writing to Emulate Style

When you think you understand how your chosen writer wrote, try to emulate her style. Not the subject matter or characters or setting, just the style. Write short exercises of a thousand words or so, but just write exercises. DO NOT try to write chapters of the novel you hope to publish—yet. These are just practice exercises. You’ll probably need several tries before you begin to approach your author’s style. As you write, notice which of this author’s techniques feel natural to you and which feel wrong to you.

When you think you have a pretty good feel for your first author’s style of writing, pick another author—in your genre—and repeat steps 1 and 2. Repeat this process at least three or four times. More if you can.

Synthesizing Your Own Style

By the time you have studied the writing of four or five authors, go back to your notes and review which techniques felt most natural to you in your exercises. Did a first-person deep POV feel right to you, or did you prefer a third-person limited POV? Did you like using the flowery, ornate prose of regency romances, or did you prefer the terse language of tough-guy detective stories? What techniques felt the most comfortable to you? What techniques best fit the story you dream of writing?

Then start deliberately working these techniques, only one at a time, into your serious writing. Don’t try everything all at once. You aren’t going to become Hemingway or Asimov or LeGuin overnight.

You’re going to become you.

Mr. Roth would love to have you follow him.

Twitter: @FAllanRoth1

Facebook: FAllanRoth1



  1. This is advice for writers who take their craft extremely seriously and want success through hard work and discipline. It's absolutely necessary to fine tune and practice until your fingers bleed.

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