Friday, April 06, 2012

The Voice in the Crowd

We've all done it. We pick up a book, fall in love with the writing, then close it, depressed that we'll never be able to write like that. Quite a depressing state. . . if we let it get under our skin.

But the last thing you want to do is try to write like someone else.

1. If you try, changes are you'll come across clumsy since it's not your voice.
2. If you manage to pull it off, you'll be remembered for who you sound LIKE, not who you are.

That's why you want to read a variety of good material. When I wrote the first draft of book two in the Carolina Slade Mystery Series, I studied Sue Grafton, Janet Evanovich, Lee Child, Sandra Browne and Lisa Gardner. I didn't want to write like any of them, but I wanted to absorb the naturalness of their flow, plotting, dialogue and characterization. I like tight sentences, so I'd read Evanovich. Child gave me action scenes. Lisa Gardner gave me characters a reader could respect, love and cry for. Grafton taught me how to mesh a series.

Sure, flatter the author, even saying you wish you could write like her, but then go home and write like you. Then one day maybe someone will wish they wrote like you, with a unique voice like nobody else.


Gdub said...

very neat. very good.

injaynesworld said...

Excellent advice. I do that all the time -- read some excellent writing and then doubt myself. After 25 years of writing for television, where I had lots of confidence, I'm trying new forms of writing and feel like I'm starting all over. But that whole unique voice is absolutely the key. Thanks for the reminder.

Unknown said...

It is such a difficult leap of faith to take, but so essential. Read everything you can get your hands on, but write from your own heart.

Anonymous said...


I loved this post. Some friends of mine are terrified of reading other books while they are writing. I, on the other hand, am just a book addict I can't deprive myself of my favorite stories.
Like you, I read my favorites for entertainment and also to study their techniques. Often, when I'm struggling to create a certain scene or sequel, I'll go back and read one of my favorite books that has a similar story line.
I still write my own story in my own voice but I think I improve it by the analysis I've done of successful writers.

Hope Clark said...

I have to read while writing. It keeps me motivated. But I do stick to my genre during that time so I won't screw up my thought process.

Sylver Blaque said...

" a variety of good material." Best advice ever!

I've started a new section on my blog called "Blogger Bubbles," in which I quote wise bloggers. You have and continue to share so much wisdom that I've included a quote from you:

This simple quote packs a powerful punch & helps me write diligently every day. Thank you, Hope. Keep the wisdom coming!