Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Writing style and avoiding imitation

I’ve been reading Laini Taylor’s fantastic DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE. It’s a delicious novel full of everything a reader/writer loves—well-developed characters, a fully imagined world, and rich, beautiful language. I adore this book and I'm only a few chapters in. If I weren’t under
deadline, I would have already finished it. It’s that good.

But reading it got me thinking about style. See, I tend to analyze what I read, especially if I love a novel, in hopes of learning a thing or two from those that I admire. I’ve been told my writing reads slightly lyrical, and while I would describe Laini’s writing as lyrical, I recognize immediately that our styles are very different. (Now, let’s take out of the equation that Laini Taylor may be a genius and I certainly am not.) She has sentences that are as long as some of my paragraphs. But it works for her, and it works for this novel.

And I think that’s the point. As writers, we have to find our own style and our own way of conveying our story. We can’t simply copy or mimic the style of others. It’s obvious when writers do this, and I think it makes for an unnatural read.

So, how do we find our style? We write. And read. And write some more. Before you know it, your style will become very obvious to you. It’s easier to write in your own personal style than to try to adhere to that of others.

Have you found your style? I hope so. It’s a wonderful thing—embrace it.

~ Melissa


  1. Thank you for this post--it's something I need to think more about.

    I don't know if I've found my style yet. I feel like I need to take a lot of time to read in order figure it out. But I always do more writing than reading. I know I have a different voice for my MG writing than my YA writing. I think it can be very careful at times, and perhaps somewhat "old-fashioned." But I try to make it flow as much as possible.

  2. I heard Arthur Levine say that most writers 'channel' others. I make a point of not reading (oh, I can hear the gasps) anything when I'm ready to write the first draft to any story. For me it's a real price to pay, but essential.

  3. Love your new blogger background. :)

    I really enjoyed this book. This author definitely has a particular style. I *think* I have a style but we'll see as I write more novels.

  4. I definitely have a style, but I think it evolves over time.

    Okay, I'm having a blond moment. Are you a member of GRW? Are you going to the meeting on Sat?

  5. Rain -- It sounds like you are on the right track to finding your style. And I would definitely have a different style for MG than YA, ya know, if I actually wrote MG. :P

    Mirka -- I used to refuse to read as well, but now I find reading to be one of the most vital things I do when I'm writing. It fuels my creative juices.

    Karen -- Thanks! You'll see why I redid it soon--I hope!

    Ciara -- I totally agree. My style has evolved as well, and I'm sure will continue to as I crank out more novels.

    As for GRW, I have no idea what that is! But now I'm curious! :)

  6. I think all writers must do what you mentioned, I know I do. As I read I notice things about the writer's technique that I never noticed when I was "just" the reader. I really did a lot of that when I was first starting out. I've also tried some of things I noticed, but in the end we write in the style that is uniquely our own. Good post!

  7. Well, like Steven King says in his book, it's OK and even good to copy styles as you're learning to develop your own. Learn from others and eventually you'll fall into your own.

    Great post!

  8. Catherine -- I'm the same way. It is almost taxing to read at times. :)

    C.R. -- I definitely agree that we should learn from others. Clearly they did something right!

  9. I thought I read that you were in Atlanta and thought maybe I met you at a meeting. Your name was so familiar. :) It is Georgia Romance Wrtiers of America.

  10. Ciara -- I am in Atlanta and was wondering if there was a RWA division here!