Developing Your Writing Style

English: Quill pen

English: Quill pen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I compare a writer’s style to her/his fingerprint, a unique signature style that develops over time. If you have a favorite author, then you probably know that author’s style; it permeates the work of the author as a scent picked up by the reader. The author has embedded in the story not only his soul but also his creativity, and in a way that reflects a distinctive writing personality, the writer’s style. Even when the work has gone through several rounds of editing and re-writing, the author’s style remains, embracing the story.

I think that every writer sets out to tell a story, maybe influenced by his/her favorite author, genre, but in time that writer finds his own voice and style. It shines through inevitably, and the writer chooses to develop it or ignore it. In the latest, the writer would be forcing someone else’s style into his work, preventing the free flow of the story, and his growth as a writer. No one can be the next Stephen King or Dan Brown, for example. You might admire their styles, and decide that you want to write in their specific genres, but eventually, you will need to embrace your own style. How do you develop your writing style? How do you facilitate the process?

I think that there are four ways to do this, and all four relate to one another and take time. To develop a writing style you will have to:

  1. Read – Read as much as you can, and in every genre. Read the good, the bad, and the ugly. The more you read, the more you learn the do’s and don’ts, but also you train your brain to pick up on many other things between the lines. Research falls into the read category, so research what you must. It is not possible to become an author if you do not like to read. It is like trying to make a cat lay eggs (imagine that disaster).
  2. Write – It may seem so simple, but to develop your writing style you will have to do tons/miles of writing. It is that hard and that simple. The more you write, the more you attune your brain (and soul) into developing your unique voice. Compare it to cooking or riding a bike for the first time, and the difference that practice makes.
  3. Listen – Listen to the flow of the story but also to your characters. Many times, characters know best. Sometimes, forcing the story will end up confusing/erasing your characters. Imagine going into another dimension while trying to stay in the present at the same time; there is conflict, and eventually, something is got to give. Listen to your characters and compromise. For example, when I set to write my first novel (Moonlit Valley), one of the main characters was imagined as being a bit nerdy, second to the female character, and a complete opposite to the character that emerged when I began to write. This character fought me from the start, to the point that I was forcing my writing. In the end, I let him be and Jeremy Sandbeck emerged. After that, it was easy to write him.
  4. Trust your instinct/go with your gut – In other words, listen to your Healthy Inner Voice. This is the voice that looks after you and cheers you up – the one that “feels just right.” At the same time beware of the Inner Critic – that is the archenemy of your Healthy Inner Voice, and it doesn’t feel good; it puts you down. Learn to discern them; balance the first, and ignore the second.

I honestly think that this is the best way to develop your writing style, and it is a writer’s journey.

Two Serious Writing Goals for 2013

photo by M. Diaz

photo by M. Diaz

I am loving 2013.  After the many Doomsday theories that we had to listen to over the past year, I am glad that 2013 is here.  2012 was dark in many ways, I perceived the “doom” in many people’s moods, and in the overall atmosphere, both cyber and reality.  I had many personal challenges, which I view as lessons that I must go through so I can evolve.  In a way, I view 2013 as a year of possibility and light, a year of taking journey, of flapping wings and embracing the sunlight.  2013 is just the beginning of many good things to come our way.  At least, that is how I choose to perceive it.

I have set two serious writing goals, which I want to accomplish before the end of the year (pending dates).

  • The release of my first novel – “Moonlit Valley”
  • The release of my second novel – “The Dinorah Chronicles – Ramblings of the Spirit.” (first in the trilogy)

A third goal has been set to write the second book in the trilogy, which title is “The Book of Sharon;” however, I will be extremely happy if I get to the first draft on this one.  I am hoping to release this one by 2014.  I don’t know what the 3rd book in the trilogy will be, as it hasn’t knocked on my door yet, but it will, just as the others did.

Ideally, I would love to write a novel a year and to have it ready for release the next year.  However, reality tells me that I (still) have a pending move to a very rural setting (mind the internet speed here), and a farmhouse to restore by hand, and very limited funds, so let’s see how that goes.  For now, I will be happy if I can materialize these two major goals before the end of 2013.

Do you have a serious goal for 2013?  Feel free to share it here; let’s make this year one of amazing things happening 🙂

When to Mind your Fabulous Business and Shut Up.

Duality of Mind

Image via Wikipedia

This morning, as I scanned the FB comments, I stopped at one made by Paolo Coelho – “What other people think of you is none of your business.”  I thought, excellent words of wisdom, but not easy to follow them.  The truth is that doing that is really very difficult because it goes against our human nature.  As a social species, we want to be liked by others,  and we love to be accepted and celebrated by others.  We want to share our wisdom with others, wether blogging, writing a book, talking to family or friends, thru a painting exposition …  We want to achieve but we also want those achievements to be recognized.  We do mind what other people think and say of us, and maybe we give too much importance on what others think of us.  That is why I thought that those words were such an epiphany – “What other people think of you is none of your business.”

If we lived that way we would be so much happier with the world around us and with the world within us.  We would be less critical of others and of ourselves.  We would spend less time worrying and sulking and more time dreaming and doing.  Ever tried to talk to someone who refutes or challenges every word that comes from your mouth – even if you are talking about laundry?  Well, I have, and let me tell you that it is the hardest thing to do, because it is impossible to have a normal conversation with that person.  This is when those words work well and instead of forcing a conversation or defending mine, I choose to mind my fabulous business and shut up, and in the way to happy land, I realize that Paolo Coelho is right – what other people think of me is none of my fabulous business.

Ready to Self-Publish? Not so Fast

When I started writing my first novel, I was not sure that I wanted to go through the traditional method of publishing; however, I decided to wait and contemplate the possibility of self-publishing.  Although I have not made a decision, I put aside my first novel and started on the second one – I am half way writing it.  Why do it this way?  Because it is a very important decision.

If you are contemplating self-publishing, that is great; however, make sure that you are ready for it.  Ready for the financial issues (even if you POD), the marketing efforts, but mostly, ready with your novel.  The novel (or other) must be as perfect and pristine as you can get it.  Why?  Because once it is out there for everyone to see, it speaks loud (and loads) about you as a writer and the quality of your work.

The internet and today’s technology has brought to light many people who want to write and publish their work for whatever reasons – fame, money, love of writing …  Each writer has his/her own agenda.  However, you see many people who convey that they are in a rush to publish their work; many, thinking that they will make a lot of money or will be known widely as best-selling authors.  The reality is that it is not always this way; on the contrary, it is unlikely that this will happen, although there have been exceptions.  It seems that the “hot market” has to do a lot with it.  Once you expose your talent (or non-talent) to the masses, there is no going back, and if you did not bother to polish your work and present it in the best light, this may haunt you for the rest of your writing days.

Before you decide to present your work to the world, whether self-publishing or not, see if you are truly ready (not to be confused with procrastination).

  • Learn about different ways of publishing your work
  • Make your manuscript as perfect as it can be (more than one revision, editing, or hiring the necessary experts …)
  • Evaluate your reasons for publishing and see what venue fits those reasons best.
  • Consider your finances and your time to dedicate to this full-time venture.
  • Read other authors who have self-publish or who have taken the traditional road.
  • If you have someone who can give you an honest and detached opinion about your work, ask for it. This person should be as neutral as possible.  More than one person is fine, as it will give you different points of view.
  • Trust your gut.  Many times your instinct is your best friend and agent.
  • Be sure deep down that this is what you want.

A note of caution – Rejections are a given in this journey.  Many people decide to self-publish after they have received tons of rejections.  Other people will keep trying because they know that the traditional way is what they want.  Be careful that you don’t get discouraged by all the rejections and the “not marketable enough” notes – it can kill your writing spirit.  If this is what you want to do, continue to pursue it but make sure that you are not self-publishing for the wrong reasons.  It must be true to whom you are as a writer.  If you are so fortunate to get a contract after just a few no’s, realize that these days, the publishing business is all about “hot markets,” and it moves at a fast pace.  Can you handle the many commitments and deadlines that the agent/editors/publisher puts on you?  Are you able to let go of your precious work (and writer’s ego) and be open to all the suggestions that these people will have for you?  Some people cannot and will not deal with many changes in their novel.  I have read/heard stories of changes as crazy (pure lunacy) as far as getting rid or highly modify a main character.  Most times, a writer feels and identifies with his/her characters and lives with them for long – they become a family.  Ponder that and what it does to a writer.

Finally, both paths take a lot of work, dedication, commitment and overtime hours – be sure that you can handle it and certainly, that your family knows what you are getting  yourself into, so it doesn’t take them (or you) by surprise.  Therefore, don’t think of self-publishing as a light issue, an easy cope-out, or a second choice, because it is non of that.  It is an option, a different way of doing things, and in many ways, of challenging yourself much more.  Give it the respect that it deserves (that your work deserves as well) and don’t join the waves of unprepared authors who have self-published in a rush.  Although I have not heard of anyone, it takes the most confident and self-assured, self-made, self-published author to turn down a book contract  to continue the path of the indie author.  That is why your reasons must be clear.

If you have gone through that experience, please feel free to share it here.  As  a writer that realizes the long journey ahead, your experiences are valuable to me and to other readers.

If you had your own restaurant, what would it be called?

Hemingway posing for a dust jacket photo by Ll...

Image via Wikipedia

Usually, I don’t follow the WordPress prompts or topics to write about, but this one caught my eye and I decided to write a post about it.  Following the above question, I would name my restaurant “The Writer’s Cave.”  Immediately, that name came to mind and images of what the place would look like started to pour, giving me a sensory overload.  This is what the place looks like to me – The lighting is soft, giving it a cave and cozy feeling.  Since the place is set to cater to writers or wannabe writers, each table has comfy cushioned sitting with a small desk table that you can pull/slide from underneath the main eating table where you can place your laptop or notebook.  The main table has a lamp that you can flip open for reading or writing.  The atmosphere is light, the furniture and walls have an organic rock or paleolithic design.  A few ferns will be scattered around in vases that look like pencils or pens – a larger version of course.  Your napkins, plates and silverware will have engravings or printings of a 1940’s Royal typewriter and the walls will be adorned with the pictures of Hemingway and other famous writers of all times.  The main colors in the decor will be cream, browns, black, coffee and maize tones with silver motifs.  The fabrics will have books or best-sellers printed and the people who work there will have to dress as their favorite author.  Sorry, but if you don’t like writing, writers, books … you better not work there.  In fact, most likely you will not be hired.  Music will be played sporadically but it will be of songs featured in books or related to a story.  The ladies room will have a Red Ridinghood theme and the gentleman’s room theme will be Lord of the Rings (although “The Little Engine that Could” came to mind).   The menu will include foods that have been featured in some classics or best-sellers, or the favorite foods of best-selling authors.  The best part is the pricing, catering to starving artists and writers; although it would be hard to stay in business for long.

So, there you have it, if I had my restaurant that is what it would look and feel like.  However, I am no restaurateur or have dreams of becoming one; I will be happy to sit in it and mingle with other writers.  For any restaurateurs out there, feel free to create this place and don’t forget to send me a coupon for a free meal.

Wrestling with Your Characters 2

Ernest Hemingway-studio in Key West

Image via Wikipedia

On September 30, I wrote Part 1 of this post.  I had to take a break from my novel because I was having an issue with one of the characters – somehow, I was avoiding her.  It was my issue – of that I was certain; however, I had to discover why.  I stopped writing and I got back to the beginning of the story and read every sentence, trying to find the answer to my avoidance.  A month has passed and today I was able to write two chapters.  I have made peace with my main character.

This may sound as unusual but I think it is very common for new writers to confront some personal issues when they are writing the story.  After all, when you write, you are putting part of you into those pages.  Even when you don’t realize it and your story might be fictional – there is always a part of the writer that will leak into the page.  So there is a deep connection between writer and story, writer and characters, because after all, the characters make the story – you cannot have a story without characters.  That connection will deepen as you get further into the story.

In my case, I was being confronted by the issue that I feel that I am nothing like my character – or am I?  In my eyes, I am not; however subconsciously, maybe I was secretly wishing to be a bit more like her.  That caused a road block and made me avoid an encounter with myself.  Sounds complicated?  It probably is.  It wasn’t until I understood this issue that I was able to keep writing the story.

My point to all this is that when you start writing, you never know where the story might take you – on paper, and in your mind, as well as in your emotions.  It is hard sometimes to separate the writer from the story, but at one point, they are separate worlds.  Well seasoned writers know that and many are very prolific in their craft.  I am just a beginner with a long road ahead of me.

Day 7 – Awesome WordPress Bloggers

Open book

Image via Wikipedia

The last day of the week belongs to As the Pages Turn what I consider a great blog, and therefore wanted to end this week with a special treat for you (although there is no order to my favorites, I love them all).  However, this blog if full of what I call “writer’s insight.”  Why? Because through each interview that is featured you get a glimpse of what each author’s challenges and blessings are.  You can read the interview, and you can read between the lines, as well.  You will also find book reviews, guest bloggers, and a great blog roll to keep you busy.

This blog is full of what’s new in the writing world and if you are contemplating a career as a writer, it certainly shows you what is out there as far as new releases and new authors.  Each writer is its own world, and this blog makes a good point of that.  You will enjoy the interviews and getting to know a bit each author, as well as some of the work they have put out there.  I think As the Pages Turn is worth a visit and for you to hit the follow button as well.  You will learn much from each interview.

This ends a week of Awesome WordPress Bloggers.  This was just a taste, a small sample of some of the blogs that I follow, although there are more that I would like to add; however, from time to time, I will bring one of those to your attention in a special post.

Day 6 – Awesome WordPress Bloggers

Writing utencils: stencils

Image via Wikipedia

Today’s spotlight belongs to The Short and the Long of It by Monique (Neeks).  This blogger is amazing; why?  Because you can give her any three words, even the weirdest and most difficult words (unrelated words too) you can think of and she will write a story using those words.  The issue here is that she  doesn’t just writes the story, she manages to make it interesting and the characters become alive.  But wait, there is more – the story is not too long or too short, it is the right length and it has an easy flow, with narrative and dialog, and a unique writing style.  And the titles, oh the titles to the stories are so creative.  Her blog is colorful and very welcoming, cheerful, joyful, that is the vibe I get from this blog.

If you like short stories and want to enjoy reading some very imaginative and creative ones, head out to The Short and the Long of It and don’t forget to leave the author your three words, because in no time you will be in for a treat.  Oh, and that is another thing, the author doesn’t take that long in creating that story – which is amazing on its own.  Follow this blog so you don’t miss the stories.

The Short and the Long of It is able to quench your thirst for creative stories.   Head out there and see for yourself.


Wrestling with Your Characters

Tapping a Pencil

Image by Rennett Stowe via Flickr

I’ve had a hard time writing my novel for the past couple of days – not because I was not in the mood to write, or because I was procrastinating, but because every time I sat down to write the next chapter, I got off the chair and did something else.  Now, that may have sound as procrastination, but I knew that was not the case.  I decided to think about it some more.  Why did I turned back once I decided to write that next chapter?  It puzzled me and annoyed me as well.

Pondering about the issue, I discovered that I was having an issue with one of my characters.  Yes, as weird as it sounds, this character had grown strong and had taken over, behaving and reacting differently from what I had planned.  Opening that computer file to write meant having a writer’s confrontation with my character.  This presented an issue that I disliked to ponder – had I lost control of my novel?  Was I being intimidated by one of my characters?  I had to ponder about this even when I did not like the idea.  I did.

My findings were very interesting.  I had to admit that I was wrestling with this character from the beginning of the story, like it or not.  The problem is that it is my main character.  This issue presented another bigger issue – should I stop writing the novel, should I continue wrestling, or should I listen to this character and give in to it?  In this case, is her.  Well, I needed to decide, otherwise my story would be frozen indefinitely.  I did.

I realized that I had to go back to the beginning of the story and try to understand this character’s reasons.  I decided to look for the moment when the writer-character conflict started and understand the why.  This is my compromise with her.  To some of you, this may seem bizarre and a bit “cuckoo” but it is the compromise I had to do to continue writing the story.  I agreed to put my writing aside until I go back to those chapters and realize my issue with it – after all, it is my issue, and not the character’s issue.  I created it, and I am having the problem; or is it a challenge?  Does that mean that after all, I am in control of the story?  Well, I cannot answer that until I find out, and that is another post.