I'm taking a break from polishing a story for a holiday anthology - love writing about Christmas in June! - to work on my second blog for this group. Doing this makes me feel like I'm talking to someone!
As the owner of a secondhand bookshop I live amongst millions of words everyday. When I open the shop each morning I greet the shelves with Good Morning Everyone, and ask how they are feeling today. (No replies to that one yet, but how exciting if there were!) Even without any audible, ghostly reply, my books speak to me.
Since writing my own books I've become more aware of the individual voices of a writer. How many of you have admired the construction of a phrase, wondered how the writer decided on those particular words and even said, oh, I would love to have written that! When some wording makes me pause, I read it aloud to get the feel of it on my tongue, hear the mood, soak up the flavor of each word and study how it's pieced together.
In 2004 I took an online writing class and one of the assignments was to write in a favorite author's voice. If you want to write like a certain author, said the instructor, then write like that author. Open the book, pick a passage and start typing. It was an excellent lesson in investigating and interpreting what makes up the individual writer's voice.
I worked the assignment with several of my favorite authors and have since repeated it many times. Anita Shreve, to study eloquence and how a setting can be a character which I work to utilize in all my books but especially my historical romances, Almost Silenced being the latest; Susan Johnson to heat up a sex scene with delicious naughtiness, something I tried out in my first erotic romance, Make Mine A Double, as yet unpublished; Robert Crais showed me wit and how sentences don't have to go on forever to make them work, tools I used in Charades, the first of a series to be published this fall; Robin Schone and Madeline Hunter's sparse use of voice tags which lessens distraction from the meat of the story. That lesson I've made a conscious effort to use in everything I write. The voice lessons I learned from Hemingway, Steinbeck, Tolstoy, Stegner, Whitney and many others who I consider the classic writers, are innumerable and invaluable.
What better way is there to study our craft than to walk in our favorite writer's "shoes"? What I discovered is that the words they've written don't feel anything like those that come out of me. I can put on the shoes but they feel like I'm wearing them on the wrong foot, or have two shoes from mismatched pairs. As much as I admire their way with words and their stories, they don't fit me, and mine would unquestionably not fit them.
Whose writing do you admire? Who has made you sigh over the perfect word choices that you would never have thought of? Have these writers made an impact on your own style of writing?
I've walked in the shoes of my favorite writers and have enjoyed the stroll but am always relieved when I put on my own pair, the really broken in pair. They're the perfect fit, for me.