Do you receive Holly’s weekly tips? I do. Holly Lisle writes fantasy novels. I don’t, but what she has to say on all manner of writing issues is relevant to all genres. Find her at http://www.hollylisle.com
Here’s today’s gem from Holly: ‘It’s disastrous to use someone else’s style as your own.
Consider—the writer whose work you love is an original.
If you set out to use her style, you can AT BEST only
ever be a second-rate copy of her. Worse, you will work
twice as hard copying her style as you would developing
one of your own.
What you love about her style is the way her mind puts
the story on the page. But you don’t HAVE her mind.
You have yours, and what comes naturally to her and flows
from her hand as a part of her would sound false coming
If you managed to make yourself a good imitator and
managed to sell your work in her style, some of the
people who liked her work would certainly find you.
But many of them would consider you a pale imitation
(and they’d be right), and they would wander away.
Whereas, if you develop your own style, the people who
find you and love your work CANNOT find another voice
like yours. There IS no other voice like yours. Your
readers will stick to you because only you can give
them YOUR stories.
You’ll find your own voice as you write. It isn’t
something you have to struggle with; it isn’t something
you have to twist yourself into pretzels to “create.”
Your voice is you, talking naturally to your reader,
telling stories that matter to YOU. It takes time to
find your voice, and a lot of words written to get
past early awkwardness that comes from trying too hard,
but once you come home to who you are as a storyteller,
no one will ever mistake you for a cheap knockoff.
Be yourself. Pretending to be someone else will
leave you miserable, uncertain of the value of your
own work, certain that you only gained any success you
ever obtain because you copied some quirk of another
You would never be able to believe that the people
who loved your work loved YOUR work. You would
always believe it was the way you copied someone
else’s punctuation and grammar that they were
Only you can tell your stories. Be sure you tell them
in your own voice.
And my response – ‘thank you for this. It’s brilliant! I think it’s so important to find your own voice – like a singer whose style is instantly recognizable as soon as she opens her mouth. I’d go further. It’s in the timbre of the voice, to borrow a musical term.
Some people have operatic voices; they sing great arias, but get them to attempt something contemporary and it comes out all wrong and out of place. Others sing rock to raise the roof, or blues to make you cry and they’d sound just as misplaced trying to sing something from Puccini.
Tonight I’m singing a Robert Burns song at a Burns’ Night celebration. It’s a well-known song, but I’m doing my own thing with it. Isn’t that what we hear on X-Factor? You took this song and you made it your own?
I’m not looking to be a great singer. I just like singing. I love writing more. I know I have to have the same kind of confidence to do my own thing with it.’
Holly always signs off with ‘Write with joy’.
I do. So does Mick although he wouldn’t admit it.