#WW Finding Your Style as a Writer

24 Jun

#WW Finding Your Style as a Writer

So, I just turned 24 yesterday. That means, I’m 113 in cat years (according to this calculator.) Since I’m 113, I thought I’d share some of my personal, cat lady wisdom, and by “personal” wisdom, I mean self-awareness in regards to my writing style. (Plus, a good portion of you have let me know you’d like to hear more about my writing and what goes on behind it, so I thought this was a good excuse to share some information about how I’ve gone about writing novels . . . a little extra insight, so to speak.) That’s why I’m going to splurge a little bit. While this looks like a long post, it’s really divided into two parts: Finding Your Style and Aspects of my Style that I Figured Out

Feel free to read one or both.

Finding Your Style

This July, my first novel—November Snow—was published eight years ago. Eight years. (49 years in cat years.) I’ve definitely learned a lot since then, but one of the things that took the most time was figuring out my “style.”

We hear that word a lot. STYLE. It is normally followed up with “finding your voice.” And all those years back, this entire conversation would’ve freaked me out. It made me feel inadequate—mainly because I could not pinpoint my “style” or “voice.” Now, that I’m a couple novels deep, I get it, and I’ll tell you a secret.

And we're writing...

And we’re writing…

It will happen naturally—so naturally, you won’t even realize it—so don’t worry yourself silly. (Us authors are good at that.)

But here’s the other side of that token: Not only is it different for everyone but also discovering it is different for everyone. It takes a level of self-analysis, but that’s just my little opinion. For me, it took a couple of novels and a large amount of readers to point out a few reoccurring themes for me to realize that there was a pattern to my writing. That pattern was my voice and style. Basically, pay attention to what beta readers and reviewers are saying. You might learn something about yourself. But it’s also important to decipher that pattern:

What is you (your voice and style) vs What is other (maybe the genre, for instance)?  

In order to explain what I mean, I want to share what I learned personally over the last eight years. Since a lot of what I learned came from beta readers, many of the works I’ll reference aren’t published yet. While I will refer to my published works as November Snow, Minutes Before Sunset, Seconds Before Sunrise, Death Before Daylight (The Timely Death Trilogy), and Take Me Tomorrow (The Tomo Trilogy), my unpublished works will still go by their abbreviations. If you’re a beta reader, you’ll recognize the titles: HBBL, TGO, D, TMG, S.

What is other?

These are themes that happen because they simply work for whatever reason. For instance, there are dances in both Minutes Before Sunset and Take Me Tomorrow, which caused a few readers to think I have a thing for dances. I do and I don’t. I mean, who doesn’t love a good dance scene? (Insert my love for a cheesy trope.) But while it’s cheesy in Minutes Before Sunset, it’s rather chaotic and uncomfortable in Take Me Tomorrow. There isn’t a single dance in November Snow either. (Sorry.) But there is one in HBBL and in TMG…but not one in TGO or D or S. And all of the dances happen under very different circumstances. That being said, there’s a larger factor to consider here. The characters’ ages. Most of my characters are young adults. They are in high school or some form of high school, and high schools—more often than not—have dances. So, it’s not just about me liking them. They happen naturally. They work with the story and with the lives of the characters. This isn’t technically my voice. This is the genre or the setting. It happens, not because of me, but because of the circumstances.

What is you?

These are themes that happen because of me being me (or you being you). These are your life experiences, your character, seeping through your words. For instance, in many of my novels, you’ll probably always see a character who struggles with memories. Mainly because I struggle with memory loss, although I’m not quite to the point in my life where I’m very open about that. In fact, I’m pretty sure this is the first time I’ve publically stated I struggle with memory loss. But it is a part of my identity as a person, so it will more than likely be seen in my novels one way or another. For instance, the second book of The Timely Death Trilogy, Seconds Before Sunrise, has A LOT of memory loss. It’s practically the central theme. The Tomo Trilogy is that way to some extent as well, but you don’t see the effects of it until the second novel, Take Me Yesterday. That being said, memory loss doesn’t appear in anything else. Not HBBL, not TGO, not D, not TMG, not even S…okay, wait. No. S has a stupid amount of memory loss. But you get my point. Even when some themes come from my personal struggles, they don’t always show up in my work. But here’s the difference: memory loss affects the voice of the character. It affects the vocabulary used and the emotions involved. It develops everything else and with everything else. The difference with “other”—in my opinion—is “other” just happens. (The dance discussed above, for instance, was an event in the novel that pushed the novel forward, but the dance itself did not affect the character’s overall personality.) The “you” is your style because it is your unique voice, your vocabulary, your way of explaining.

The “you” is the way you write about the dance; the “other” is the dance happening. 

Aspects of My Style I Figured Out:

Now that that has been said and done, I thought it would be fun to show three other ones that I’ve realized about my style. This is really just for my readers who might want to get a larger grasp on who I am as a writer and what future novels might entail, as well as why current novels are the way they are:

Perspectives:

While I generally write my novels in dual first POV—like Eric and Jessica telling The Timely Death Trilogy or Daniel and Serena telling November Snow—I do have exceptions. For instance, the only POV in The Tomo Trilogy is Sophia Gray (although I have admitted changing that in a possible future rewrite, but I probably won’t.) This happens because I love writing in first POV and I love writing from both a male’s perspective and a female’s perspective. Fun fact: I actually prefer writing from a male’s perspective.

Family structure: I grew up in an unusual household. At first, it was the “normal” household: two parents, two kids, one dog. All-American, you know? But then my mom died. And then I had a stepmother and three stepsiblings. And then my father divorced. And then it was just my brother, my father, and I. So, you’re going to see a lot of different types of families in books, but I can also admit that you’ll probably rarely see a mother-daughter relationship. Not that I can’t do it. I can. But I would rather explore other relationships in fiction. In fact, I remember as a reader after my mother died, I wished there were more novels where daughters were close to their fathers or brothers. So, you’ll see more of that in my work. But there are exceptions. On a side note, I also write about orphans a lot, mainly because my mom died and my dad traveled, so I was often alone as a kid. I find a lot of comfort in writing about characters would had to be independent.

Violence vs Romance: I’m a violent writer. The Timely Death Trilogy is actually my least violent work, and if you get a chance to read the first few chapters of Death Before Daylight, keep that in mind. It’s still lighter. November Snow is often seen as my most violent. Why? I used to wonder about this myself, and I think I just realized why recently, but that’s probably for another post in the future. (Hello, July.) In contrast, I find romance difficult to write about. I dread writing kissing scenes. I think I get weirded out because I feel like I’m being a Peeping Tom on another couple . . . and I’m being a Peeping Tom who is writing about it. It gives me the heeby jeebies. That being said, every single one of my novels have a romantic factor in them. HBBL is probably my only romance-romance, and I doubt that I’ll write another novel that is just romanced based again. I like dystopian. I like sci-fi and fantasy. I like the plot to be character-oriented and action-orientated and in a new world. Love just falls into the slots.

I know this post has been longer than usual, but I’m trying to listen to what you all have expressed wanting to see! I hope you enjoyed seeing a little more in-depth information about my life and work. Maybe it’ll also help you analyze your own writing to see if there are certain themes that correlate with your voice as a writer. Or maybe you’re just a reader and learned something new about my stories. Either way, thank you for reading!

~SAT

Advertisements

16 Responses to “#WW Finding Your Style as a Writer”

  1. eclecticalli June 24, 2015 at 1:18 am #

    I was just talking with a friend about this! I feel like sometimes people put too much effort to try and discover those things — when they are something so intrinsic to who you are that you need to not so much “create a voice” as “discover your voice.” It’s there all along, it’s just a matter of figuring what it is.

    • Shannon A Thompson June 24, 2015 at 8:54 am #

      Exactly! I think putting pressure on yourself (or overthinking it) can also prevent you from finding/discovering it. Charles talks below about people trying to write like someone else, and I think that happens a lot. They overthink and mimic people they like rather than allow themselves to be themselves.
      ~SAT

  2. FrancinaSimone June 24, 2015 at 1:37 am #

    Finding my voice didn’t happen until I really did a lot of soul searching into myself and my character. I agree completely, it’s not something you can invent. It is who you are and how you see the world.

    Then agaib genres can really add yheir own color or bring out a different voice altogether.

    I do love a good romance plot though!! I LOVE writing those peeping Tom scenes and giggle like a school girl after…and then feel weird because it was all made up in my head…hahaha.

    Great post!

    • Shannon A Thompson June 24, 2015 at 8:56 am #

      A great addition! You have to know you. I completely agree. I wonder if that peeping Tom thing will ever change for me. I feel like I’m in a transition right now in my own writing, but I’m not quite sure what that transition is yet. I have a feeling it has to do with more romance, and I think I’ve been fighting it. ;] We can do funny things to ourselves.
      ~SAT

      • FrancinaSimone June 24, 2015 at 10:35 am #

        Haha I know all about fighting with myself!!! It’s must be a criteria for the job.

  3. Charles Yallowitz June 24, 2015 at 7:11 am #

    “It will happen naturally.”

    Wish everybody understood that. Keep meeting authors who want to write like somebody else and their stuff seems forced. It’s really tough to find and establish your style though. Many people appear to be interested in transforming authors into what they want instead of what the author should be. I feel into that trap long ago and it took me a few years to revive my personal style.

    Love the explanation of ‘you vs other’ too. Gives me a lot to think about with my own themes. It’s been pointed out that I have a lot of ‘father/son standoffs’ in my stories while daughters don’t really butt heads with parents. Probably should do something to alleviate that since it’s starting to get ridiculous.

    • FrancinaSimone June 24, 2015 at 7:25 am #

      “Many appear to be interested in tranforming the authors into what they want…”

      You’ve summed up my whole college experience, except for one professor who actually set me on my own writing path (always asking questions never giving answers).

      It really is a shame to see people in inffluential positions forming cookie cutter writers. Really geinds my gears, lol.

      • Charles Yallowitz June 24, 2015 at 7:36 am #

        College was strange for me. 4 years of it and nobody told me that present tense writing was uncommon (or even frowned upon). Never realized that situation until I published my first book in 2013. There was more of a focus on hidden themes in my courses for some reason.

        It was actually after college and in writing workshops that I got the style altering. I actually listened at first because I thought everyone knew better than me. Still, nothing about the present tense though, which probably explains why so much didn’t work.

        Cookie cutter is a great way of saying it. I kind of feel like that’s what people are looking for too. Just look at how one series becomes big and then all these copies appear and do well.

      • Shannon A Thompson June 24, 2015 at 8:59 am #

        Studying writing in college was very odd for me too, Charles! I actually switched from fiction writing to poetry, because my fiction writing professor wanted us all to be literary/modern masters of short stories rather than explore our own voices and goals. I switched to poetry out of frustration, but then I found myself in love with a form of writing I never thought about before. That’s where I learned the most, I think, in a place I least expected to be.
        ~SAT

      • Charles Yallowitz June 24, 2015 at 9:17 am #

        I did both fiction and poetry because of how the major was set up. I didn’t have a professor that pushed for literary masters, but there always seemed to be a focus on what was beneath the words. It was like everything was a symbol and the ‘author stays quiet while everyone critiques’ sessions didn’t help. You could just see people peering too far into something that had no meaning to you and it was oddly painful.

        It’s cool that you fell in love with poetry. It’s a fun writing form that has more versatility than people realize. I tend to use it as something to reflect upon things. Although, I have notes about how to tell my fantasy series through a book of poems with each character having his/her own form.

    • Shannon A Thompson June 24, 2015 at 8:58 am #

      Agree! I love how Francina called it cookie cutter writing. There is so much of that. I often see phrases that I’ve seen too many times before – and unusually phrases, like someone had their favorite novel out and was skimming the wording as they wrote themselves. I think it’s okay to seek inspiration, but like you said, we have too many copies out, and while I know that’s also a marketing ploy, I wish we saw more people striving to find their own tide rather than riding the wave.
      ~SAT

      • Charles Yallowitz June 24, 2015 at 9:20 am #

        Part of it might be the rise of the ‘super author’ over the last couple of years. For some reason, a lot of the newer big authors are marketed as coming out of nowhere and being discovered like an actor/waiter. So people believe that it’s entirely about timing and following the trend. It gets strange dealing with authors who will be so into a genre that is hot and suddenly a new big trend appears and they leap right into it. For example, early on I ran into an author that was working on a Hunger Games type story that sounded good. 50 Shades got hot and suddenly they’re all about BDSM erotica. Bizarre is the best word for that transformation.

    • eclecticalli June 24, 2015 at 10:22 am #

      Yes! I think it’s one of those fine lines, too. Like, it’s great to have authors you admire, and to identify what it is in their work that you admire. It’s even great to try to incorporate those things into your writing, but you have to do it in your own style. For instance I love Riordan’s humor, I adore the poetry of Zafon’s language — but I will never try to write LIKE them, just to keep in mind the things that I enjoy and find the ways to carry that kind of thing out in my own style.

      • Charles Yallowitz June 24, 2015 at 10:48 am #

        Good point. Guess it’s a fine line between incorporating things you admire and emulating an entire style.

  4. joysofbookworms June 28, 2015 at 2:43 am #

    Happy belated birthday!! I really enjoyed learning more about your style and recognising those elements in your work 🙂 – though admittedly, I could not work out the abbreviations

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. June’s Ketchup | Shannon A Thompson - June 29, 2015

    […] Finding Your Style as a Writer: There is no reason to fear your “voice” and “style” discussions. It’s different for everyone, and it always will be. What matters is doing what is right for you and being aware of yourself as you grow into yourself. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: