In Worldbuilding, What is Steampunk?

Good question, difficult answer.

Steampunk in fiction, is an aesthetic; in exactly the same way that a Western is an aesthetic – a look and feel that permeates the very fabric of your story. You can tell any type of story you like in a Steampunk aesthetic, just as you can tell any story you want set as a Western. However, as with a Western built world, there are certain tropes and stereotypes that help to move the aesthetic along and which readers expect to see.

Your characters can wear Victorian clothing and your cities can be built with Victorian architecture, but that won’t make your story Steampunk. You can fill your story world with steam engines and other gadgets, but that won’t make your story steampunk. You can include all the optimistic retro-futurism you like, but that still won’t make your story Steampunk. Which is why this is a difficult question to answer.

So how do you create a Steampunk world?

All the tropes and classic elements of Steampunk need to be there in your worldbuilding, but they also need to form organic elements of your story construction. So your Victorian-esque city, needs to incorporate the things that made a Victorian city a Victorian city: a few very rich people in control and the vast majority being exploited to provide their wealth, grinding poverty & belief in the saving power of hard work, optimism in technical progress, altruistic individuals/societies providing charity to the masses, little social mobility between the classes, a brand new middle-class.

Now here’s the thing about a Steampunk aesthetic: provided all the underlying mechanisms of a Victorian city are in place and have been woven into the fabric of your story/plot, your city doesn’t even have to look Victorian – just feel like one.

Also, bizarrely, because may proponents of Steampunk are in the US and western expansion in the US roughly coincided with the Victorian era in Europe, you can include element of the Wild West in Steampunk stories (known as Weird West). There are also Steampunks in India, historically a highly stratified, and caste society. Also in Japan, again historically a highly stratified society. You can work all these elements into your story workd if you want – hey, it’s an aesthetic, no one said it was logical.

The same goes for steam engines. What makes a steam engine more fascinating than computer technology – gears, cogs, oil, smells, sounds, you can see how it works, you can see it working, you can understand what it is doing – Steampunk taps into this desire to see, hear, smell a thing at work. More than that, in a Steampunk aesthetic, your machines become characters in the story. Your plot/story revolves around the machines in some way. Given your story/plot/story world includes these elements, you don’t even need actual steam engines.

What about those Steampunk clothes? Again, they must be a part of the story as well as the story world. What is it about the society in your Steampunk world that encourages/dictates the clothes they wear? Victorian society was highly stratified and regimented: eveyone wore a kind of uniform – the Victorians loved uniforms and dressing up / Steampunks love uniforms and dressing up – everyone could tell what class/caste you belong to and what job you did from the way you were dressed. Unless, of course, you were in your finest, in which case you were trying to conceal your class/cast/job and be all middle class. These are the stylistic mechanisms you need to build into your story world – don’t just chuck in cosplay costumes for the sake of it. Unlike the other Steampunk tropes and elements, the costumes are a must, but you can stretch the boundaries and be inventive.

Finally, what about the ‘punk’ in Steampunk? This is all about the attitudes of your main characters or protagonist. This is a mix of optimism and an attitude that says ‘stick it to society’. Plucky and adventurous heroes and heroines are the order of the day. However, let’s face it, we are pretty glad the Victorian era is in the past, aren’t we? So in some sense, the whole Victorianess of the Steampunk aesthetic is also a villain in the story world. Your protagonists are generally trying to make life better, to overcome the horrors of the Victorian/Wild West era, and progress to a better future – maybe a more equal, feminist, more socially mobile future – whilst your villains eagerly embrace all the worst of the age, for their own gain.

From a worldbuilding perspective, I hope that helps explain the mystery of Steampunk.

If multiple drafts are a thing, how can an author who is a panster still screw up the ending?

Because multiple drafts are not a thing.

Concentrate on doing one draft, with multiple edits.

I know it sounds the same but it’s not. Once you have written your draft, even as a panster, you start analysing what you have, and apply your technical skills to improving that draft. This is part of the writing craft.

Planner: a writer who does the technical story analysis before the first draft.

Pantser: a writer who does the technical story analysis after the first draft.

If your ending is screwed and you don’t know why, you have only two options:

Learn more about story arcs, story structures and character development.

Pay someone else to do it for you.

Just launching into another draft, hoping this time it will work, will achieve nothing. Except, maybe, another version of the story that needs fixing in a different way.

Gradually introducing a budding romance.

You have to plan the steps of the budding romance into your story, either before you write the first draft, or at the editing stage.

For planning purposes, treat the romance as a story in it’s own right, with it’s own romance story arc: boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy and girl reconcile, girl loses boy, both reconcile and compromise, etc. This may be a totally different shape arc to your main story. However, this is basically a story of one genre within the story of another genre.

Your love story may not be your main story, but you still need to plan out how that story porogresses and what are the main scene. Then you need to weave those scenes or scenes snippets into the scenes of your main story. Also, maybe adding additional scenes if they are key to the love story alone.

Writing in the first person has its own skill sets and requires stylistic discipline:

Watch out for tense drift. It is incredibly easy to slip from first person present tense to first person past tense and vica-versa. Even within the same paragraph or sentence. Decide which tense you are writing in, and stick to it scrupulously.

Always start a new paragraph for each new character, regardless of whether they are speaking or taking action. This is especially key if, like yourself, you are using minimal idetifyers (he said, she said etc). This clarifies exactly who is doing what and when. Yes, this means some of your paragraphs will be really short, but clariry must be the priority. Could this also be a sign you need more description?

Once the first draft is completed, I always dedicate an entire round of editing just to pick up these first-person issues.

Can I use your story to ceate Fan Fiction or should I create my own?

The famous ship reimagined by a fan of both Startrek and Steampunk

As an author, I say, sure you can play in my world. I’m even flattered you would want to. But keep your hands off my main characters!

My chacters are my friends. They live in my head and I live in theirs. They are extensions of me. You cannot possibly know their secrets any more than you can know mine. What they do, what they think, how they act, its far too intimate for me to share with someone else.

Would I steal someone else’s characters? No, that would be like stealing someone else’s friends.

In fact, I would do the opposite. If a fan came up with a character similar to one I was working on, I would curse my bad luck and feel I had to abandon that character. Why, because that character is no longer uniquely mine. Somehow, they have started to dance to the tune of someone else’s mind. They are traitors.

How about a minor character? I might give someone else permission to develop a minor character, if I had no plans for them. They would have to be dead to me first though, because you never know when a minor character might start to develop a mind of their own.

If, though, the minor character were part of a successful series, I’d be inclined to think about licencing their use to you. I will allow you to develop them, give them new life, if you give me 10% – 20% of your profits.

Would I coauthor? Only if I have complete control over the story development, product quality, and distribution. Then, of course, I would want 50% – 60% because that is a lot more work on my part. To be fair, if you came to me wanting to coauthor, I’d be far more interested in helping you develop your own world and your own story. I would rather mentor you to your own success than share, but that is for my own selfish reasons.

Would I use someone else’s minor character? No way. Minor characters are far too easy to re-write, so I would just tweak away until they were unrecognisable. Simples.

If you can develop an existing story in the same way as the original author, you have clearly developed the skills to create your own original works. You are ready to branch out on your own.

Seriously. Re-skin your own characters (authors recycle characters all the time), give them their own story world, and cut out all the original author’s characters. Your idea of the author’s world is going to diverge at some point anyway, so just take those changes to the extreme. Then rename everything and re-brand.

Okay, so your first independent story might still be close enough to the original for the influences to be clearly visible. But I bet your third and fourth ones will be much more original.

Go for it. If you want help, contact me.



Dictating a novel & using cloud based AI

If you are the sort of person who can hold plot lines, multiple sub plots, multiple characters personalities, characters arcs and character developments, in your head all at the same time and still tell a good story, you could write a novel the way you suggest. There are people out there that can do that. You might be one of the few.

The rest us, need to construct a novel in layers, making multiple editing passes, re-structuring, and re-writing until we have knocked the story into shape.

Certainly you can dictate your first draft – I do that a lot, but you need some sophisticated software. I use the Dragon speech to text software from Nuance ( if you buy version 13, rather than 15, you can pick it up for a reasonable price). You can dictate into your mobile and upload it for transcription by the software at a late date. However, to get the most accurate transcription, I find you need a good quality headphone in a quiet environment. I often do it while exercising on an exercise bike or pacing a room. I find, this way, on a first draft, I can produce 3000 words per hour, with 90% accuracy.

I do not know of any speech to text engines that are cloud based, but they are just around the corner. Google, Amazon Polly, and IBM all have cloud based wavenet Artificial intelligences (AI) producing text to speech. Some developers are even experimenting with using these AIs for real time translating, so it is only a matter of time before cloud based speech to text engines appear.

You could use Dragon to verbally edit your drafts too, but I find it easier to use a keyboard, so I switch to a software called Scrivener, because I like to have everything visually laid out before me, but you could use any word processing software.

For my last edit, I reverse the process and use text to speech software, so I can hear the manuscript being ‘read aloud’, paragraph by paragraph. I have been using MS Sienna in MS Word, but I’ve recently been experimenting with producing my own AI read audio books. I have now switched to using Wave Net Vocaliser (not cheap, but a lot cheaper than using an voice artist) so I can hear the read-back in the voice in which it will be narrated. Wavenet is a cloud application.

After the read-back, I will then insert SSML commands into the manuscript for Wave Net Vocaliser, using the Google AI, to convert the whole manuscript into an audio book.

Any or all of these files can be stored and accessed in the cloud.

Hope this helps,


Secrets of the Scene Brief

Secrets of the Scene Brief 

We all have aspects of writing we are good at and other areas we need to work on.  The Scene Brief is a writing process borrowed from script writing that enables me to focus on writing different aspects of my scenes at different times by layering techniques one on top of the other.  This is how it works:

  •  Consult your scene plan, story board, or whatever you are using to keep your novel on track, to remind you of the key elements of your scene.
  •  Re-read the previous scene that triggers this scene.
  • Write the first draft of your scene just as it comes to you.  Put the scene aside for a bit before going on to the next step.
  •  Re-read your scene plan, story board, or whatever you are using to keep your novel on track, to remind you of the key elements of your scene.
  •  Next work through the technical aspects of the scene filling out any of the steps of the story arc, character arcs, or sub-plots you missed, and rearranging any elements of the scene to make it flow correctly.
  •  Re draft your scene, packing in as much colour and description as you can using all five senses, together with characters’ thoughts and feelings.  Also, add in as many similes, metaphors, and back-story as you can – you won’t use all this material in your final draft, but you will be surprised how much you do use.  Editing stuff out is much easier than editing stuff in.
  •  I like to write visually, so I add in an additional layer where I include camera instructions – zoom in for this detail, s
  • wing round to catch that action, pan out for the whole picture.  For a zoom I slow the action down and add in the detail from the scene brief, for a pan shot I edit out most of the detail and write with a broad brush.Related image
  • Finally, bring it all together by reading the scene out loud: cutting out any excess action, description, similes, metaphors etc and editing for spelling, grammar, and word/sentence flow.

I hate reading aloud my own work, especially when my family are around – which is most of the time.  Instead, I copy and paste the scene/chapter into a word document on my laptop (I normally write in Scrivener), and use the free text to voice function to read back my work for me using an earpiece.

Building a subplot without it taking over the main plot?

Basically, the graph of your story subplots will look like this:

So this is basic story arc with eight Plot Points, with subplots threaded throughout. Note, all sub plot stories are normally complete by the time the main story hits it’s climax.

Each subplot will have its own Story Arc or character arc, with Plot Points, Story Beats and Reveals (see below). These may or may not correspond to points in the main story, but I think a novel is always more complete if main plot and sub plots do cross at various points.

Depending on the size and importance of your sub plot, you will include just enough Plot Points, Story Beats, and Reveals to tell, or perhaps only hint at, the story of the sub plot. However, and this is very important, as the author you need to know (and have plotted out) the full story of each sub plot just as meticulously as you have done with the main story. Sub plots need to be subtle, so you may only sketch out the sub plot story in the main novel, but you still need to know the full story of the sub plot or else it will not work.

Never have a sub plot with more than a third of the Plot Points, Story Beats, and Reveals as the main story. Otherwise it will compete for attention with, and detract from. the main story

Think of your novel as a series of related stories, all escalating in difficulty and intensity until the goal is reached. Sub plots are additional, related, short stories that feed into or mirror the main story and usually involve other characters who are in some way linked to the main protagonist or antagonist. Sub plots weave in and out of the main story, sometimes highlighting the main plot, sometimes commenting on it, and sometimes acting as a counterpoint.

Mixing It Up

So when you construct your story, the sub plot scenes will be scattered around the scenes of the main story/plot. Some of these sub plot scenes will be next to each other, some sub plot scenes will have a number of main story scenes between them, and scenes from several sub plots will overlap. If you are clever, then some of the drama/action/side action in main story scenes will also be sub plot scenes.

It helps to keep track of your sub plot with a spread sheet like this:

So you know which scenes relate to which story/plot at which point in the story.


If you are subtle enough with your sub plots – unless they are large sub plot like a love story – your readers will hardly notice them. Instead they will just know that your novel has ‘depth’.

Story Beats

Sitting on top of the story arc, are what are often called Story Beats. These are additional steps in your story that will define the genre of your story, whether it is a love story, an adventure/quest story, a mystery, detective story, sci-fi, or saga. Many of these story beats are defined by the genre in which you are writing, and are what your readership expect to see. There is no requirement to include these genre defining Story Beats, but your story will work better within its chosen genre if you do.

The easiest to illustrate is the love story, which must include these story beats: boy meets girl, girl driven away from boy, girl and boy are reconciled, boy driven away from girl, both reconciled, crisis, changed character for one or maybe probably both, final reconciliation or moving on. How many times you repeat these Story Beats for your story is up to you, but without them your story won’t work as a love story.

Some Story Beats will relate to your setting: historic era, Western, Steampunk, Sci-fi, etc. I write Steampunk stories, but many different types of story structure can fit into this genre, because, although treated as a genre for marketing purposes is not a true genre. By this I mean it is not a type of story with its own unique story arc, this is equally true for the Western/Wild West type story. So, anything you particularly want to include or show off about your setting, historical period, or story world, will be included on your Story Arc as a Story Beat.

In addition, some Story Beats may also be Tropes. These are basically clichés, specific to your genre or story type, or possibly your character(s) that you want to be present in you story without being overtly obvious. Don’t be afraid of Tropes just because they are clichés – basically they are a type of ‘short hand’ or ‘flag’ that lets the reader know certain things about your story, genre, setting or character. Learn to tell the difference between using clichés and becoming clichéd: the first is possible story telling tool, the latter is to be avoided at all cost, unless done deliberately for comic value.

You will find that some of your Story Beats will also be basic Plot Points on your Story Arc, that is fine, but there will be others which are unique to your story and need to be placed on your Story Arc so you know where they occur in relation to the rest of the story.

Story Reveals

In addition to your basic Plot Points and the Story Beats for your genre, there will also be a number Reveals, in your story, at least two or three, but maybe many more depending on the type of story. Reveals are points in the story where the main character(s) learn something new that causes the plot to twist and turn. Depending on the way you construct your story and the point of view you are using, there may also be an Audience Reveal: this is where the author gives the readers privileged information that the main characters are yet to discover, this can add an element of tension to the story.

Ideally, every Plot Point should have a Reveal attached that helps drive the story in a new direction. To maximise the twists and turns of your story, each Story Beat would also have it’s own Reveal – this might be relevant for a detective novel or ‘who-done-it’ type novel.

Hope this helps,


First Person Present Tense

313970_476362175725200_1967134630_nUsing first-person present-tense is intended to give your reader the immediacy of the moment, but to be convincing the writer needs firm control of the narrative and to be scrupulously consistent with the tense.

The biggest problem I have come across is that some people just don’t like reading in this tense. They feel awkward or uncomfortable, and a few just don’t think it’s a valid tense in which to write a novel. I disagree.

I’m on my second novel written in the first-person present-tense (I have written others but in the more traditional third-person) and I find it an exciting tense in which to write: it suits my point-of-view character and I can really get into their head.

First the usual stuff:


Firstly,ou will have to say “I” a lot because the narrator is the view-point character, just as you have to say “He”, “She”, or “They” a lot, or use names, in the third person past tense. However, do try to avoid starting every sentence with “I” – in fact, turn it into a game and try to invent as many different ways of starting a sentence as possible – see how long you can go without starting a sentence with “I”.

“He says”, “she says”, “I say”, all just sound too narratory for me and detract, I feel, from the immediacy of first-person present-tense, so I try, if possible, to avoid using any identifiers. What works well for me, and something I would encourage you to experiment with is to identify the speaker by their actions. e.g.:

‘Jason hovers by the controls. “Is anyone in charge here?”’

Clearly, in this example, Jason is the person speaking.

However, this technique does require you to be meticulous about not mixing the thoughts and voices of different characters in the same paragraph, e.g.:

‘I notice Jason hovering by the controls. “Is anyone in charge here?”’

This could still be Jason speaking or the speaker could have changed from Jason to the point-of-view character, which is confusing. So you must first be clear in your own mind which action is associated with which character and secondly, you must make that crystal clear to your reader.

Keep the actions and dialogue of each character confined to separate paragraphs. This will probably result in shorter paragraphs than you are used to, but just go with it and see what happens.

Tense Drift

Slipping from present tense to past tense is a real danger e.g drifting from “I’m doing this,” to “I did this.” – no matter how hard I try, it still happens. As a rule, I only use past tense when summarising at the start of a chapter, and only if time or location has moved on. Even then, it is the point-of-view character who is summarising, not some nebulous narrator.

Reading back your writing aloud, or using a text-to-voice app to read it for you, is the easiest way to pick out this error.

Showing not Telling

We’re all familiar in our writing with the concept of showing and not telling, however, in the first-person present-tense it can take on a new element. In this case, your point-of-view character is also the narrator, so whatever you are trying to show about another character, you can only convey through showing not telling. Otherwise your reader is going to think, “How do they know that?” and the narrative spell of the novel will be broken.

In other words, the reader cannot be privy to a scene or a development, or character trait, no matter how important, if the point-of-view character is not present in the scene where that information is revealed: either they need to directly observe the scene or be informed by another direct witness.

This can get confusing. I find it useful to plan out all the scenes in a grid that records what every character is doing while other every scene plays out. This way, I know exactly who needs to be in which scene, which scenes the point-of-view character actually witnesses, and which parts of the story must remain hidden.

Enrich your writing

Your point-of-view character can only receive information through their five senses. So concentrate on providing plenty of sensory information for your reader. This will result in an intensely intimate reading experience for your audience.

A technique which may be of use here is something screen writers use, called the, ‘extended scene brief.’ Basically, after you have written your first draft, you go over the text again adding in as much color and sensory information as you can. Concentrate specifically on information received through all five of the senses. This extra scene description can be used or rejected when you come to the first edit of your manuscript. I’m always amazed how much of this additional information I eventually use.

Now for the more difficult First Person POV technical stuff:

Witness Reliability

Should your viewpoint character always be a reliable witness? Two people seeing the same event will never have exactly the same story. We all make assumptions and mistakes when trying to read other people or situations, and we all filter that understanding and recall of events through our own experience and understanding of life. In fact, studies have shown we are exceedingly bad at reading other people. So no, your point-of-view character will never be a 100% reliable witness. Anything they observe, or are a part of, will always be filtered through their understanding, prejudices, and desires.

You can have a lot of fun with this, especially if you have more than one viewpoint character. If your characters constantly misunderstanding each other – this makes the reader the only one who truly knows what each character thinks. Your aim here is to make the reader shout out, “No, don’t do that!” If you can achieve that level of reader involvement you have nailed it.

Also, in the first-person present-tense you are always inside your point-of-view character’s head, so this must be represented in your writing. Your character’s hopes/fears/angst need to be present. However, as with most people, what they think is often not what they say. Often this is only hinted at in the third-person past-tense, but in the first-person present-tense it is right there laid out for us:

“How are you feeling?”

“Good.” Except for the splitting headache and the nauseating hangover. “Yeah, absolutely fine.”


One of the consequences of using first-person present-tense, is being forced to use a lot of dialogue – often this in the only way to convey what is happening, so don’t shy away from it.

In the first person present tense, character relationships need to be developed and expressed through dialogue, which is a good technique anyway. However, long descriptive paragraphs, even if directly observed by the character, will only serve to break up the dialogue, which is not good, unless, of course, you are deliberately trying to slow the pace of the story.

This takes us back to the identifier technique I highlighted above. Little snippets of detail mixed in with identifier action can help build a picture of the scene in which the dialogue takes place. (This is also the way we build character: a slow but continuous drip of consistent character information throughout the novel).

To be successful, this technique requires the development of a good vocabulary. Usually you have room for only one choice descriptive word, and picking just the right word makes all the difference. The example I like to quote is Mrs Weasely ‘galloping’ up Diagon Alley towards Harry Potter: That one word, ‘galloping’ paints exactly the right description of both Mrs Weasley’s action and her character – brilliant.


When I first started writing in the first-person present-tense, I was actually advised, by an experienced writer, never to use prefiguring in this tense, because the point-of-view character cannot unknow what they have already experienced or seen. If the target of prefiguring is the point-of-view character, they would be right.

However, I would argue that whatever tense you are writing in, the reader is always the target of prefiguring. The whole point of prefiguring, is to create a foresight or hindsight emotional response from your reader.

There cannot be any foresight on the part of the point-of-view character, because your action is always taking place in the present. Any foresight at all must be on the part of the reader. If your character is walking into a trap, you really want the reader to be the only person who realises. We’re back to manipulating the reader’s emotions so they shout out, “No, don’t do that!” all over again. Foresight requires prefiguring.

Hindsight is closely related to foresight, but in this case we are aiming for the reader to slap their forehead and shout, “I should have seen that coming.” Hindsight also requires prefiguring.

Prefiguring in the first-person present-tense does work if you go about it in the right way. I use it a lot.

Firstly, you need to be sneaky. Your prefiguring has to be so blatantly obvious that the reader skims straight over it without noticing, only to recall it later, either as foresight or hindsight. Dialogue with two meanings is a good technique for this, because the reader will automatically assign the meaning that best fits the current scene, only later realising there could have been more than one meaning when the alternative meaning fits a different scene.

Secondly, because you are in the first person present tense, you can only prefigure in snippets, so you may have to build your prefiguring in separate pieces that only slowly fit together in the reader’s mind – like a jigsaw-puzzle. I find identifier action is a good place to hide prefiguring snippets. This is because once your reader is used to the idea of using action/description to identify characters in dialogue, they tend to start skimming over the details of the identifying action/description in order to get to the dialogue: just picking out enough detail to identify the speaker.

Of course, if you fail to deliver on that prefiguring or don’t offer a better/cleverer solution than your reader has pieced together from the prefiguring, they will feel cheated or let down – yes, if you are clever, you can use prefiguring to build a false sense of foresight that increases the impact of your clever end twist.

The good news about prefiguring is that in your novel you are god, therefore you can rewrite previous scenes/chapters to include prefiguring once you know what/how you need to prefigure. This is one of the useful purposes of editing.

I’ve posted some sample chapters of first-person present-tense writing on my website if you want an example of this style of writing. Read a few chapters and see whether you feel comfortable with it.

Hope this helps,


Overcoming a Story Blockage

What you need to do, is take a serious look at your story structure and decide how the story evolves and where it ends.

Your story should look something like this:



(Diagram by Christiana Wodtke (The Shape of Story))

If you don’t know anything about story structure you may need to do some research at this point.

You probably already have some idea of the Crisis, Climax, & Final Conflict, but given you are only 15k words in, it would suggest you are labouring with the struggle and how that builds tension to the final crisis.

Here are a few tips:

Write down a story outline.

What needs to be revealed between where you are now in the story and where you need to get to. ‘Reveals’ are the information/character changes, that need to be disclosed/discovered by the characters in each step of the journey. Each ‘Reveal’ scene/set of scenes/chapter, should be more intense/important/dramatic than the one before. By concentrating on the information ‘revealed’ at each stage of the story you can plan your way from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’.

Sub/parallel plots, involving minor characters, can also be woven around the reveals of he main story to add interest.

Hope this helps you out of the doldrums.



About the Author

Nick Travers

Nick Travers

Author of Dystopian Steampunk fiction. On Wattpad/Twitter


More Answers from Nick TraversView More

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Developing Your Writer’s ‘voice’

Writing VoiceFind your authentic voice is simply a matter of finding a writing style that flows naturally for you and develops from regular writing.

It involves your use of vocabulary, use of grammar, and the way you construct sentences and dialog.

Learn the grammar rules, then break them creatively until it all ‘clicks’. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different styles, points of view, types of story, genre, writing tenses, characters etc. In fact, the more you experiment the better. Realising you have a voice to your writing is a real confidence booster – it is a style unique to you.

If you want to develop a particular style of voice, then find writing in that style and analyse what makes that voice different from your own (word choice, vocabulary, sentence construction, and grammar). Draw up a set of rules that you can apply when editing your writing that will help produce the style you want.

Applying your voice or style happens largely at the editing stage of writing, so second or third edit after you complete your first draft.

Whilst it is true that practice helps to refine what you produce in your first draft, you will always need to edit to achieve the style/voice you want.

That’s the theory; now to the practical stuff. Here’s how you do it:

  1. Write, write, write, edit, edit, edit, applying all the grammar rules rigorously (White & Strunk’s little book, Elements of Style might help with this).
  2. Write, write, write, edit, edit, edit, applying sentence structure and grammar artistically (Noah Lukeman’s little book, A Dash of Style might help with this).
  3. Experiment, experiment, experiment (repeat as often as necessary).
  4. Start writing a novel/novella length piece of writing. Somewhere between chapters 5 & 15 you will hopefully realise you have found your voice.
  5. Modify as necessary

There is, unfortunately, no short cut to this process. Some will find their ‘voice’ quickly, some will take a long time to find it, some will change their ‘voice’ as they change character or genre. There are no hard and fast rules.

The best way to really get a handle this and develop your own ‘voice’ is to post chapters to an online writing forum, like Wattpad, and then provide constructive feedback on other peoples stories. It sounds counter-intuitive, but you will discover far more about your own writing preferences and style by feeding back on someone else’s work.

Hope this helps,


A Dystopian steampunk Author

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