Writers Should Struggle Against Style

Brad Beauregard

Photo by Margit Studio

I often hear writers say they’re struggling to find their voice or their style. So it was unexpected to read this piece from Brad Beauregard about avoiding the adoption of a style. Here’s a brief excerpt:

Sometimes writers talk about style as something you can pick up when you buy groceries, something you might stumble upon in the dollar-or-less bin at the thrift store. But style isn’t an outfit we don and toss in the laundry at night’s end. Style is a body roadmapped with scars and tattoos, the sediment of time spent struggling, failing, and starting over. Style is the house you accidentally build while you’re tearing walls down and throwing them in the burn pile. But most important, style is the thing writers struggle against, not toward. I say writers struggle against style, not because they always do, but because I believe they should.

What follows is an unconventional perspective, but a worthwhile one. At the very least, it should reduce your anxiety about solidifying or identifying your style. Click here to read the full piece—or click here to read the rest of Glimmer Train’s monthly bulletin with wonderful advice and insight for writers.

Posted in Creativity + Inspiration.

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the publisher of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors, and was named Publishing Commentator of the Year by Digital Book World in 2019.

In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. Her book for creative writers, The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), received a starred review from Library Journal.

Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.

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Without a style is being without a lot of limitations, I guess. When a writer takes on a style, readers expect to be able to follow that style through every new release they crank out. I like to think that everything I write is different from everything else I write; everything is a creation in it’s own right. 

florence fois

I draw the analogy of a pop singer who was lambasted because she sang too many different “types” of songs. I remember how I loved that she stretched her voice to give us a taste of many different “styles” in music. Linda Ronstadt was the singer. Also, we might take note from Rachelle Gardner’s advice to experiemnt with multi-genre even if it means using different names with different publishers. Like letting your voice sing in more than one octave 🙂


[…] Writers Should Struggle Against Style | Jane Friedman […]

[…] Writers Should Struggle Against Style – Jane Friedman […]

Roberta Morris

This makes sense in the design world of “form follows function” – though I do mash-ups with form all the time.  Why?  I need to think about this for a long time.  Food for thought.  Thanks


 I think most writers probably aspire towards literary, yet resign themselves to genre.  Straying from “revising your perspective over and over again,” as Brad suggests, they settle for craftsmanship over artistry.  This is not necessarily wrong.  Genre pays the bills.  Not  everyone has the talent to produce a masterpiece, let alone one that resonates with the reader.   Along the way, some writers forget about things like plot and structure, and then try to justify it as creative, when it is really just bad writing. We can learn to practice different voices, and thus exercise mastery of our craft, but if we forget… Read more »


While I think imposing strict limitations on our writing is a mistake, I have a question about style as branding. If we’re getting paid to write, and our writing is therefore a product, how do we keep it from being fragmented and without unity while still developing as artists and not getting trapped in a “style”?