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I'm 22 year old and when I read myself, my writing style feels juvenile. By that, I mean that everything seems enveloped in a drape of purity, of carelessness and that whatever happens will end well.

I tried many things so it doesn't happen: choose mature subjects (distopias, dilemmas), write horrible situations (violence), describe the environment a lot more than what I was doing (going from 2/3 lines to a whole paragraph), and I worked on my characters to make them feel more realistic.

Yet, I still feel like I'm writing like a child. Is it because I'm reading myself? What could I do to fix that?

If it is relevant for whatever reason, my native language is french and I'm writing in french.

  • Welcome to Writers SE! Vaguely related to "How to write a mature teenager?". Side note : adding violence and horror to stories only for the sake of making them more "adult" is a sure way to make them feel even more juvenile. – Babika Babaka Jan 10 '18 at 11:09
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    Well, at least I tried, as some say! It wasn't totally "for the sake of making them more adult", it was a whole plot inside the story oriented to that so I could see what I could come with (kinda like a side quest in a game). But it wasn't really satisfying in the end. – Keker Jan 10 '18 at 11:13
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    Not really long enough for an answer but... READ, READ, READ! If you choose some books that are the level of maturity you'd like to achieve and read lots of them then you will pick up lots of new vocabulary which you can then use in your writing. – Fabjaja Jan 10 '18 at 12:13
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    @Fabjaja Doing this already :) As I'm growing up, my tastes are more oriented towards more mature books anyway, so :) And while I definitely made some progress, I don't feel I achieved what I wanted. The answer of Secespitus reflect that quite well. – Keker Jan 10 '18 at 12:25
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There is no real way to learn writing in a completely different style. The best way is to practice it and read as much as you can from author's whose style you feel is at the right level of maturity. Other than that your personal real-life experience is the one thing that will give you a different point of view that will feel more mature to a reader.

An important thing to do though is to get input from others.

Is it because I'm reading myself?

If you ask me everyone is his own harshest critic. You will always feel like something is missing or something is underdeveloped or something is over the top or any of a couple dozen other problems. "Would it sound better if I changed the word order?", "Did I use that word before?", "Did I explain this with just enough details to make the reader long for more?"

You will never be truly satisfied if you are striving for a perfect script. Give it to others, see what they say about your writing. Do they like it? Great, ask them if they can name something they think is good about your writing. They don't like it? Even better, there surely is something they can point out that they didn't like so you can work on it. (Just make sure they are similar to your target audience.)

The next thing is to make sure that your style fits your target audience - there is no use in trying to be overly mature when your target audience is indeed more in the teenage years.

Get things done and put them out there (or just in the hands of your friends) to get some feedback and then make something else. Write, write and write to get experience. At the same time read, read and read to get more input from other author's you look up to (you always need a role model at any point and for anything you want to achieve in life). And above all: live your life. Your writing will improve naturally with time. Trust in yourself.

  • Other than that your personal real-life experience is the one thing that will give you a different point of view that will feel more mature to a reader. ... pure gold! – NofP Jan 10 '18 at 14:10
  • Thanks for this answer :) I will continue to read authors that I look up to and, well, live my life while writing. Meanwhile, I'll probably share way more what I write. Thanks again! – Keker Jan 10 '18 at 15:04
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Nothing appears more juvenile than working hard to appear mature. Stop trying to make your writing something it is not, and concentrate on finding and developing your own voice, whatever that might be.

Even if your writing voice still has a childlike quality, or an intrinsic optimism, it will still feel mature, because nothing is more mature than confidence in who you are.

I'm much older than you, and it's taken me a long time to learn that great writing comes from writing what you really care about, not from trying to produce "great writing."

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I really like this question. I might change it slightly to ask,

"How might a person write in another style?"

Consider Painters

It is well accepted that painters and artists in the visual media will :

  1. at times
  2. for learning purposes...

Copy The Masters

Now, this will drive people crazy because they will instantly think I am talking about plagiarism (at the least) and breaking copyright laws (in the worst).

I am not talking about that at all. I am actually speaking about :

Learning The Music Of Writing

Have you ever noticed that when you read, the words make noises inside your head? The best authors know this is true and :

  1. edit their works to make the sounds the best they can be
  2. manipulate their sentences to create cadences for the reader
  3. edit so sentences are easiest to read (so the images play out on the movie-screen of the reader's mind, instead of lying flat on the page as words.

How Can We Learn the Music / Style / Voice of Writing?

Is it even possible to learn other styles? Of course it is. Journalistic style is different from a poetry so there are obvious differences. But you have to take note of those differences so you can create styles yourself.

A Way Forward

I have used this method myself and it can be quite fun to investigate voice and style. Here's what you can try -- yes it is work, but it is well worth it.

Steps

  1. Find a book you like.
  2. Read only the first page.
  3. Determine the over all feel of the page (shocking, happy, discovery, action, etc) What sense do you get from reading the page?
  4. Count the words in each sentence and write them above each sentence in the book.
  5. Find every verb in that first page and underline each one.
  6. Find every noun on the page and circle it.
  7. Find each adjective and put a light squiggly line through it. Read the sentence again without the adjective and see if the sentence works.
  8. Find each adverb and see if you can create a stronger verb to be used in place of the adverb and verb you find. For example if you find angrily picked up replace it with grabbed.
  9. Finally, and most importantly, take a shot at writing something that sounds quite similar to the original authors. This allows you to see what great writing might sound like. I call this shadow-writing. All the great artists in the pasts (Da Vinci, Michelangelo, etc.) copied the masters before them to learn. You must do the same.

A Very Nice Writing Practice and Warm-up

Here's an example of specifically how I've done this myself. Hopefully you'll see that you can do it too and it'll create a great new writing practice for you.

Here's my example using one of my all-time favorite novel beginnings, The Partner, by John Grisham. I've shortened up the example as to not take too long. enter image description here

Sample Analysis

enter image description here

Finally you do your shadow-writing.

Shadow-Writing Example

He discovered it before anyone else in the sleepy town of Philsbruck, Minnesota had even opened their eyes for the day.

He discovered it buried under a wagon, behind Tom's house in a large field where he and Tom had ridden motorcycles, when they were younger and still friends.

Mine isn't exactly the same, but it is similar. There is some repetition. There is some mystery about what he found and who he is. You see, you begin to learn by doing this kind of deep analysis. You learn and then you transform this into your own writing.

These are specific things you can do that will make your writing an order of magnitude better and to learn style from other authors.

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    Damn, this is really nice! Instant upvote! I'll try to do what you did, see where I'll go with this and what I can get from it. Thanks a lot! :) – Keker Jan 11 '18 at 10:54
  • @Keker Thanks, I'm glad you liked it and I hope you find it useful. – raddevus Jan 11 '18 at 12:49
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I've been struggling with this as well, @Keker.

I'd ask you this: Would you describe all sections of your manuscript as childish? Are some better and more mature in style than others? This thought ties in part into what Chris said in his answer. To the point: the things you feel passionately about are things you will have more nuanced knowledge about.

The portions of my story that feel most juvenile are the pieces that need to be there - but that I don't actually have much experience with. It reads 'juvenile' because it is not sophisticated. My approach to bring this up is to research those areas to add detail, develop it more.

It's helping.

If you can pinpoint certain scenes or chunks that feel most juvenile, consider researching the pieces of that scene to learn more about it. Ask yourself if there are parts of your story that you sort of 'hand wave' because in your mind it doesn't matter if the details are right or not. then learn more about those details.

Example: I'm currently learning the makeup and definitions of villages in comparison to towns.

This may sound like a trivial thing to worry about - but it matters to tone and style for those portions of my story that are set in a town. I need to also research what sorts of road surfaces would be available to these towns in this era. At the moment the roads are a mix of cobbles, dirt, and paved - because i have no earthly idea which is most accurate or if all three are reasonable. I don't know if there would be sidewalks, or what they'd be made of. I don't know how many guest houses a town like this should reasonably have, or how developed the medical center should be. I've handled all of this in a very hand-wavy sort of way but need to nail down those details - and that will add a little more authority to the setting; the reader will understand that they are 'in good hands' when they read it, and I think this creates a more mature tone.

  • Okay, I didn't thought "actively" about this, but you're so right it's scary. Indeed, every scene, action, character I think about is fine imho, but the text tying up everything together isn't. I had a phase where I began researching to describe, but I went way too far and lost motivation and what I wanted to do at first. Thank you very much :) – Keker Jan 11 '18 at 10:59

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