Friday, August 01, 2008

VW #5: Styling

The winners of the VW#4 giveaway are:

Art & Books: Nadia

Goodie Bag: CrystalGB

Winners, please send your full name and ship-to address to, and I'll get these prizes out to you.

I. Three Sisters, Three Styles

Style is defined by the American Heritage Dictionary as A quality of imagination and individuality expressed in one's actions and tastes. Style affects our choices and defines us to others, whether it's reflected in a whim of the moment or whatever footprints we leave in the Sands of Time.

My little sister has great style. She's one of those women who can snip a few holes in a dirty potato sack, draped it over herself, tie the waist with a length of frayed raffia and look as if she just stepped off a Paris runaway. She's tall, dark, and striking, and if that's not enough reason to hate her, she has that thing we call physical presence. When she walks down the street, even in a dirty potato sack, people stop in their tracks to admire her.

Now if I tried to do that, people would probably stop, too -- long enough to offer me their spare change and tell me where the nearest homeless shelter is.

My older sister is seriously charming. If you're at a party, and there's a cluster of smiling people standing in a circle, my sister is the one in the middle. She's tall, fair, gorgeous and smart, and yet to my knowledge no one has ever hated her because they're too busy listening to every word she says. If she had ever gone into politics I think she'd be running the country by now.

I've tried to be serious and charm people a few times at cocktail parties, but my nerves always kick in. If I don't end up tying my tongue into a square knot, I run and hide in the bathroom or kitchen.

As a short, chubby belligerent redhead, I did get the short end of the sister stick. I'd love to be a clothes horse or a world class charmer like my sisters, but I'm not, and I'm realistic: I never will be. In fact, because I was such a shy, forgettable klutz, I never tried to impress people or charm them. I settled for the one thing I could do (other than fade completely into the wallpaper), which was make them laugh.

In my family, I've always been the one who tells the funniest jokes, who can do the best imitation, and who sees the ridiculous in everything. I can't tell you how many detentions I wriggled out of in school because the dean was too busy trying not to laugh while I mimicked whatever teacher sent me to the office (usually for disrupting the class.)

When writers talk about style, we generally refer to an author's personal writing style or "voice." If a writer's style is distinctive and strong enough, their work is instantly recognizable, even if their name isn't on it. That's the sort of writing style everyone wants (except maybe anonymous trolls looking to start flame wars.)

But what is personal style, and how can we use it to market the work?

II. Writers with Style

I'm going to embarrass a couple of my peers here to illustrate some excellent examples of a writer's personal style. To keep it fair, I'm going to pick on two writers I've known from the blogosphere for years, and two I don't know from Adam but who I feel have a strong, recognizable style:

Alison Kent -- Kinetic Energy

If I had to pick one word to describe Alison Kent, it would be powerhouse. Her style is vibrant, well-defined and sizzling with energy. She leaves her personal mark on everything she does, from her writing to her blog design. Her enthusiasm for the biz is not the cheerleader pom-pom variety, though. At times Alison has been more controversial than I am (and believe me, that takes some doing.)

Alison is quite down to earth; she asks tough questions and doesn't pretend she knows all the answers. She's involved in at least ten thousand things at the same time but always manages to make it look effortless. Sometimes I wonder if she's a writer or a force of nature.

Alison's personal style is bright, focused, and very magnetic. She makes everything sound like fun, and what's more important, she has fun with everything.

Gennita Low -- Clear Identity

Someone told me there was a romance writer out there who also works as a roofer, which led me to Gennita Low's weblog, A Low Profile, and one of the best examples I've seen of capitalizing on identity as style.

The weblog title is a play on Gennita's name, and offers an easy-going writing style and casual sense of fun. Rather than downplay the fact that she's a roofer (an occupation I've always associated with big, beefy guys who aren't clumsy, or aren't roofers for very long), she incorporates it as an integral part of her style. She also uses the acronym GLOW to identify herself, which is as brilliant as the word itself.

Gennita Low's style may seem humble, but in a business choked by too many writers with homogenized, interchangeable styles, hers stands out like a beacon. The fact that she does it simply by being who she is is what really makes her glow.

Lilith Saintcrow -- Unforgettable Impact

Has there been a writer who has come on the publishing scene with a more imagery-rich pseudonym than Lilith Saintcrow? I don't think so, at least not in the last ten years. The first time I saw her byline, I thought "Wow." I have a lot of nerve, but even I'd be hesitant to go out with a handle like that.

I also don't know Lilith Saintcrow personally, but I have read a few of her novels, and she's one of rare souls out there in WriterLand who actually delivers on what her name promises. She is dark and dangerous, and has a lot of nerve (in the best sense of the word) and she uses it in her work as well as her weblog, Writer on the Dark Side.

Lilith Saintcrow is as direct as her style, and even better, she's unapologetic about it. Her name fits her like a glove and sticks in your mind. As styles go, this one is unforgettable.

Jordan Summers -- Subtle Edge

If you've ever visited Jordan's weblog, you know how open, friendly and calming she is (whenever I get ticked off at the internet, I go hang out at Jordan's. She's better than a weekend in the Keys.)

Jordan is thoughtful, kind, and different. She is ethereal and edgy at the same time, if that's possible. When we talk shop, she always brings something new to the table. She makes you wonder. She makes you think. And then she brings you back for more.

I had the hardest time naming Jordan's style because it defies definition, and then I knew why. For all her friendliness and philosophical attitude, Jordan remains an enigma to me. She can't be easily defined, and her style is that aura of subtle, edgy mystery that surrounds her, and that she instills in everything she does.

III. Determining What Your Style Is

The word style actually comes from the Latin word stylus, which mean "a pointed instrument used for writing."(1) So long before the fashionistas and interior decorators claimed it, style belonged to the writers of the world.

You may already have the same kind of handle on your personal style, but if you don't, you need to determine what it is. I think writers tend to be more clueless about style than other professionals because ours is such a solitary profession. We're alone a lot, and usually too busy writing or obsessing about writing to pay attention to things like personal style. We like to take online personality quizzes like this one, in reality they aren't specific enough to really help us.

The first step in determining your personal style is to think about what you enjoy most. This can encompass so many things it can be a bit confusing, so you'll need to prioritize. We'll assume you love to write. What else do you love to do? What makes you happy? Where are you most comfortable with yourself? Answer these questions and make a list of your top ten answers.

Once you've made that list, go in the opposite direction and answer these questions: What do you hate to do? What makes you unhappy? Where are you the least comfortable with yourself? Write up a second list with your top ten answers.

For the third step, you'll need to poll family, friends, and/or people who know you well (and pick people who will be honest with you.) Ask ten of these people what they think your biggest strength is, and make a list of their answers. Don't be surprised if they tell you something about yourself that you didn't know or consider a strength.

Now, if you can do this without getting into a fight, also ask your people what they think your greatest weaknesses is, and make a list of those as well (this is hard to listen to, but it's just as important to know as your strengths are.)

Once you've got your four lists, sit down and compare them. Here, for example, are mine:

What I Enjoy

Listening to Music
Exploring Art
Creating Anything

What I Don't Enjoy

Being in Crowds
Having Arguments
Wasting Resources
Negative Thinking
Vindictive Behavior
Pointless Debate

My Strengths According to Others

Leadership (eek! I don't want to be a leader)
Absorption (apparently I'm a great concentrator)

My Weaknesses According to Others

Contrariness (oh, yeah, that's a big one.)
Not a Team Player
Too Organized (Not quite at Monk OCD level, but, evidently, pretty close.)
A Sucker for Strays
Defiant of Authority
Infuriating (or, to quote the source, "You have a gift for pissing off people.")

It took a lot of trial and error on my part, but I think over the years that I've worked in the biz I've learned how to use my strengths and what I enjoy to develop a recognizable style. Humor has definitely been the main factor; the more I've relied on my sense of humor, the easier it's been to communicate with my peers, talk shop and navigate through the prolific amount of crap Publishing throws at an author.

As for my weaknesses and what I dislike, I've probably used them just as much but on a more subconscious level. I genuinely don't like crowds or vindictive behavior; I'm not a "team" player and I do piss off people on a fairly regular basis. So while I was brow-beaten about the importance of going to writer conferences, my dislike of them grew to the point that I stopped going to them. I think that's been a plus for me and for the con-lovers as well (who wants to hang with a surly, unhappy author at a con?)

When you compare your lists, put together your strengths with what you enjoy, and think about how they affect your personal style. Do that same with your weaknesses and dislikes. You should be able to get a handle on what your personal style is and, of equal importance, what it isn't.

V. Styling Your Marketing

“A good style must, first of all, be clear. It must not be mean or above the dignity of the subject. It must be appropriate.” – Aristotle, from Rhetoric, III, 322 BCE.

I have to agree with Aristotle, above all else, style should be appropriate to you the writer before you try to use it for marketing your work. You can't force style -- believe me, I've tried -- and imitating someone else's style only makes you come across as unoriginal or a camp follower. It's hard to put aside what you wish you had and use what you've got, but once you make that decision you give yourself permission to be who you are.

It's time to go back to your four lists. First, for each of the things you enjoy, list a personal strength that compliments it, and then imagine a way to use both to market your work.

Here are mine:

1. Humor/Communication -- write humorous blog posts and Dear Reader letters for booksellers.

2. Reading/Humor -- lead a fun discussion about books with a group of readers.

3. Organizing/Productivity -- share organizational tips with a business women's group.

4. Outdoors/Organization -- use nature photographs to illustrate a writing concept blog post.

5. Listening to Music/Independence -- arrange an interview with a local radio station.

6. Exploring Art/Creativity -- do a booksigning at a museum or an art festival.

7. Discussions/Problem-Solving -- get involved in a discussion on someone else's web log.

8. Creating Anything/Patience -- hand make OOAK promotional items.

9. Meditation/Absorption -- write a nonfiction piece on the benefits of meditation for writers.

10. Teaching/Leadership -- give a writing workshop at a local school or university.

I have actually done all of the above except #5. In the past I've been invited to do a couple of radio interviews, but I've always been self-conscious about my voice, which is on the high/nasal side and sounds a bit like Minnie Mouse when it's recorded. Still, if I ever get over myself, someday I'd like to try it.

Once you've put together the things you enjoy with your strengths, do the same for your dislikes and weaknesses. This list will be more nebulous, but it should still give you a rough idea of what types of marketing and marketing-related situations you should avoid. Here are mine:

1. Bigotry/Stubbornness -- don't support any writer organization that discriminates in any fashion (which is basically all of them.)

2. Being in Crowds/Not a Team Player -- don't go to industry conferences or participate in author panels of any kind.

3. Having Arguments/A Sucker for Strays -- don't get involved in public discussions of volatile industry issues.

4. Wasting Resources/Too Organized -- stop trying to plan every moment of every promotional project down to the nanosecond.

5. Negative Thinking/Irreverent -- don't trifle with the narrow-minded, the disgruntled, or the hateful online.

6. Vindictive Behavior/Impassive/Unemotional -- don't respond to author baiting.

7. Ass-kissing/Defiant of Authority -- avoid the asses who expect to be kissed.

8. Group-Thinking/Contrariness -- don't join a group blog.

9. Posturing/Infuriating -- stay away from anyone who Googles themselves incessantly.

10. Pointless Debate/Impolitic -- don't get sucked into online flame wars.

It may take you some time to work out your style and how your style can work for you. Again, the best thing you can do is to be yourself. You are one of a kind, an original, and the genuine qualities that make you who you are are the ones you'll find most valuable to you when you market your work.

1. From What is Style?, an article on writing style by Richard Nordquist.

Today's LB&LI giveaways are:

1) A MusicWish (any CD of the winner's choice which is available to order online, up to a max cost of $30.00 U.S.; I'll throw in the shipping)

2) a goodie bag which will include unsigned copies of:
Talyn by Holly Lisle (hardcover)
Queen of Swords by Sara Donati (hardcover)
The Hob's Bargain Patricia Briggs
Wild Hunt by Lori Devoti
Pleasure Unbound by Larissa Ione
At Risk by Alison Kent
Through the Veil by Shiloh Walker
plus signed copies of my novels Omega Games and Twilight Fall, as well as some other surprises.

If you'd like to win one of these two giveaways, comment on this workshop before noon EST tomorrow, August 2, 2008. I will draw two names from everyone who participates and send one winner the goodie bag and grant the other a MusicWish. Everyone who participates in the giveaways this week will also be automatically entered in my grand prize drawing on August 5, 2008 for a brand new AlphaSmart Neo. All LB&LI giveaways are open to anyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

Other LB&LI Workshop Links -- new links are being added every day, so keep checking the list for new workshops (due to different time zones, some of these will go live later in the day)

Worldbuilding with a Wiki by Sandra Barret -- Architecting your world using a free wiki.

Brainstorming by Jove Belle -- A discussion on brainstorming.

E-Courtesy by Joely Sue Burkhart -- Simple ways to protect yourself with courtesy on the internet.

The Anatomy Of Sex Scenes by Jaci Burton -- Writing sex can sometimes be the most uncomfortable part of writing the book. But it doesn't have to be. A few key pointers that may help charge up your sex scenes and drag the writer out of their 'discomfort' zone.

Creating Great Beginnings - the Why and How by Sherryl Clark -- If your beginning works, the rest will follow. We're going to look at why it's crucial, what is the contract with the reader, Dos and Don'ts (and why/why not), story questions vs hooks, situating the reader, and writing backwards. I'll also invite readers to send in their first 200 words for feedback.

Look for the Music--assess your prose by LJ Cohen -- a week of workshops using poetry and poetic techniques useful for novelists (tune in each day this week as LJ presents different poetic tools with examples of how to use them in your own writing.)

Gender Differences for Writers by Cheryl Corbin -- Male and female body language, speech and thinking differences.

Research for Writers by Bianca D'Arc -- a librarian/writer's view of where to find the best information and strategies for how to use it.

Marketing on a Budget by Moondancer Drake -- How to make the most of marketing your book on a limited budget.

Writing Effective Description by Karen Duvall -- a week of workshops on how to write vivid description using all the senses, covering one for each day of the week.

WRITING PROCESS: Conceive, Develop, Write by Jamal W. Hankins -- An overview of my writing progress from story concept to actually writing a story.

The Voices in Your Head by Alison Kent -- When discussing "voice," where and how do character voices fit in?Also: All Authors Should Be Wordsmiths

Voulez vous écrire avec moi, ce soir? (Working with foreign languages in your writing) by Kristi -- A technical discussion of features you can use to make non-English text read correctly in your writing. Mainly focused on features in Microsoft Word, with a few resources that can be used regardless of platform.

Everyone has to Edit by Belinda Kroll -- Five steps to edit: putting the first draft away, being brutally honest, showing not telling, telling not showing, and focusing on those nitty gritty details.

Balancing Motherhood and Writing by Dawn Montgomery, Kim Knox, and Michelle Hasker -- How to write a 1000 words in the zen of toddler meltdowns. Motherhood is a full time job and holding a family together is only half the battle. How do you find *your* time to write without losing your mind?

Self-Editing by Emma Wayne Porter -- The things your editor secretly wishes you'd do before submitting, and how to survive Track Changes afterward. Checklists and Stupid Word Tricks included.

Not Going to Frisco Workshop by Joan Reeves aka Sling Words -- Writing Biz Reality

Cover Art: From Form to Finish by Mandy M. Roth -- Tips and tricks for filling out your cover art forms, the steps and stages a cover goes through, the finished product and a walkthrough on using your cover to make your own static banner ad.

When Only the Right Word Will Do by Shannon Stacey -- Using word choices to add humor, help you show instead of tell, strengthen your voice and heighten characterization in deep POV in your second draft.

Hey Fatty (Or Does Your Character Need That Flaw) by Amie Stuart -- I’ll be blogging about Characterization, flaws and motivation all week, using TV, movies, books and my own writing for examples.

Astronomy for Writers: Look to the Sky
by Suelder -- Planetary Primer, The Inner Planets, The Gas Giants, Planetoids: Pluto and the Asteroids (the third in a five-part workshop series on basic astronomy and how to think about it from a writer's perspective.)

Time Management by Charlene Teglia -- the third in Charlene's workshops this week on the business of the business.

Short Stories & Novellas- Workshop Day II - Characterization by Shiloh Walker -- the second in a series on writing short stories and novellas.

VOICE: The Magic Behind The Words by Sasha White -- Advice to help you discover and strengthen your personal voice and style, and show you the way to the magic behind the words.
Workshop is in 5 sections. A new section each day this week.


  1. interesting workshop... thanks!

  2. Anonymous3:29 PM

    sounds good. like reading Jaci's blog about anotomy of a sex scene


  3. I was wondering why you'd not done podcasts, but your opinion of your voice explains it. I'm the same way--I hated when my sermons were on the radio, because I sound so much different in my head than I do when I'm recorded.

  4. Wow, i'd never thought of working out my strengths and weaknesses like that - thanks!

  5. Lots of food for thought in here--thanks!

  6. I can completely relate to the sister thing - my baby sister and my sister-in-law are both those gorgeous girls who look good in everything and are always the centre of every gathering. Sigh!

    But on a more serious note, I thought this was a thought-provoking post. I'd started thinking about what I like and don't like about my writing style but I've never made that jump to what about my broader personality can be used to infuse it.

    (Also, I just wanted to say thank you for the World-building notebook - I read those posts this morning and have already downloaded and started filling in the worksheets. It has really reinvigorated my current WIP so thank you!)

  7. I have never thought about defining my own style in this way. These are excellent suggestions, and I liked the examples. It was very brave of you to use yourself. ;-) Thank you!

  8. You've given me lots to think about. Thanks.

  9. Interesting workshop, as always. Thanks!

    By the way, I've just finished reading Twilight Fall and I love it. It one of the best books I have read this year.

  10. The list idea is great.

  11. Thanks for another fascinating and informative workshop. It's been a fun week.

  12. I love the writerly "style" a lot more than the business buzzword "branding", even if they're often the same thing. :) Now, if only I felt like I *had* one...

  13. Just an F.Y.I., Blogger is randomly locking down blogs with the excuse that they're being investigated as spam blogs. Mine was a victim of Blogger's incompetence so lesson 5 of my 5 day workshop on writing effective description never got posted. However, not one to accept the unacceptable, I started a NEW blog over at, so if you've been following my workshop (which received about 1250 hits until Blogger put a stop to it all!), you can access the final lesson at

    Thanks, Lynn, for a great week of workshops.

    Karen Duvall

  14. Gennita is one of my favorite authors. She has quite a distinctive voice. All of her books are great.

  15. But what if one has a style that nobody likes? How does one change it?

  16. I never thought about my personal style before. Lots to think about here.

  17. Defining my style is definitely something I've struggled to do. Thanks for the great info!

  18. Very helpful. Love it!

  19. You've given me lots to think about. Thanks.

  20. Thanks for this, very interesting. Nice to see you can get through life and still have 'Not a team player' on your weakness list. There's hope for me yet. :D

  21. You've given me quite a lot to think about. I'm pretty good and identifying my strengths and weaknesses, I think - but I like how you give good direction on how to capitalize on your strengths. Thanks!

  22. Hmm, when you started talking about style, I thought you were referring to voice. And then I realized you're talking more along the lines of marketing yourself. And your voice when you write doesn't have to match your style? Or do you think your voice automatically does reflect your style?

    (And I sure as heck know my style does not include dressing in designer togs - my style is to hang around in flannel PJ's and fuzzy bunny slippers. Not exactly the marketing image to go with for an erotica author!)

  23. Very interesting workshop! I'd say my style is fairly schizophrenic, as I'm a lifelong sci-fi nerd who also reads Vogue and probably has more shoes than Imelda Marcos. Hmm...

  24. I was glad to see you mention Lilith Saintcrow. She was part of a panel at Comic-Con last week, and was pretty much just how you described her in person--very direct. She was also preety funny to boot!

    Good post. I think I've gotten a good grip on my style in the last year, but this post still makes me want to think about it more (without forcing it, of course).

    Also, I know this is a few days late, but I sat down and read Red Branch today and loved it.

  25. I needed this today! :)

    We're moved in - getting niternet tomorrow, but the unpacking continues... I didn't think I'd make it, but here I am! :)

  26. You compare yourself to your sisters the same way I do. And we seem to have the same results.
    You're a red head? It's nice to meet a fellow redhead.

  27. Anna. M.8:30 PM

    I think some of what you've said could help in other areas of life. Thanks!


  28. Lynn,

    Thanks for the prize. :)

    And I must say that it's so hard to get the style right. Sometimes I feel like I do it wrong, and you've given me something to think about.


  29. This has been my favorite worshop so far this week, and I'm loving the whole week. It's the best conference I've never been to. Who needs to get dressed? I bet I'm not the only one reading in my jammies every morning.

  30. Good post ... and I guess I should consider what it says about me that I want to ask my friends about my strengths and weaknesses, but I'll probably chicken out because I fear what they'll say. What weakness would you call that? Fingers-in-ears-lalala-I-can't-hear-you Syndrome?

    Also: write humorous blog posts and Dear Reader letters for booksellers. What's a Dear Reader letter? Never heard of that strategy.

  31. I like the three sisters analogy, it demonstrates that we all have our own unique and attractive talents. (I've got three sisters and two brothers.)

    Ideas are a dime a dozen, but because of uniqueness, no-one can write about the idea in the same way - even anthologies where writers are invited to write in someone else's world.

  32. the sister image worked well...thank you.

  33. Anonymous10:32 PM

    Another great post! I'm learning alot!

    Love the prizes (can never have enough books)!

    Terri W.

  34. Barbara11:20 PM

    I've been trying to brand myself while I'm finishing off a novel I will be trying to shop around to agents this fall. This has given me a lot to think about.

    Barbara L.

  35. I will do this exercise soon! Thanks!

  36. Lara Lee12:03 AM

    I'm excited about trying this. I never thought about using a formula to come up with my personal style, but it makes a lot of sense to work with my strengths, and enjoy the time spent doing it. Frankly, marketing myself has always seemed daunting. And if for no other reason, making my lists might tell me something about myself I didn't already know.


  37. I really liked this perspective. It makes sense that our marketing style should be organic to who we are, but I hadn't really thought of it that way before. Thanks for the thought-provoking exercises!

  38. Having Arguments/A Sucker for Strays -- don't get involved in public discussions of volatile industry issues. KEY ISSUE!!! I have a big problem with this one since I have a big mouth and can never remember to refrain from pushing send! Helen Rudd

  39. This was a really useful construct for me, Lynn. Thank you! I think I really need to define myself and make sure my blog and my other writing reflects who I am.

  40. I'll definitely be paying more attention to style in the books I read after reading this post.

  41. This one made me think. I'll have to go interview friends & family to get their thoughts on my "issues." :)

    The biggest one will probably be stubborn (as in ass). he-he. Once I put my mind to something, it's almost impossible to make me change my mind and/or get me to move. I tend to like digging in my heels. LOL!

  42. Hmmm, interesting! I need to take some time tomorrow and start defining my style. Thanks for the great post.

    Also, I'm loving all the wonderful LB&LI Workshop links! I can't wait to read them all.


  43. So many great tips. And I really like how you explained about the different styles and even showed examples using other authors.

  44. I need to sit down and think about this one.

    Like Bridget, I'm going to have to go interview people about it.

    And yay Nadia! (I kinda don't think she's read the StarDoc series yet, so now she HAS too!)

  45. Workshop was great. Tried to find out what my personal style was and its pretty hard to come up with the answers. Thanks for the workshop, it got me thinking in a different directions.

  46. Perhaps if you write a lot your style emerges naturally?

  47. Tamith6:49 AM

    Thanks for giving me some food for thought. I've considered my strengths, but not so much the energy-draining things to avoid.

  48. Susan B.7:49 AM


    Another great workshop! The dislikes/weakness section really made me think. I have some of the same characteristics & probably my worst is the tendency to get on my soapbox about issues. Just as an individual person, not a writer, this is a great exercise.

    Thank you,
    Susan B.

  49. Cheryl8:08 AM

    There's a book called "Style Statement: Live By Your Own Design" by Carrie McCarthy and Danielle LaPorte. It walks you through discovering two words that uniquely describe your authentic self. As an example, my Style Statement is "Tailored Sparkle".

    I'm going to have fun using Lynn's method to see how I can use that as a writer.

  50. Wow, thanks for these ideas on finding your style. I had no idea on where to start in doing this and no idea what my style is. I'll be interviewing people for their take on me over the next few days to try and get a handle on it. Thanks!

  51. As always, this blog completely rocks. Thanks, PBW.

    Off to follow the links now.

  52. Just loving these workshops.

  53. This post spawned a discussion on style over on FM chat this morning. There's an authorial style/voice and then there's the voice of the character and the overall voice of a book.

    Lots to think about - thanks!

  54. Great workshop. I will go through it again when I don't have children distracting me.
    I think I'm in a spot to absorb this info also. Decluttering my online presence and revising a book at the same time.
    Thanks for posting this.

  55. Thanks! Style and voice are so hard to define.

  56. Anonymous11:28 AM

    I've learned so much this week. Thanks, PBW! :)


  57. Anonymous11:40 AM

    Whew, I'm commenting in time!

    This week's workshops have all been great. Thanks!

    Misty Massey

  58. Okay, I'm too late to get in on the contest, but I don't care because this is one of the best articles on style that I've read in a long time. You nailed it and I am going to add it to my blog so that others can enjoy it. Thanks for the "aha" moment.

    Teagan Oliver

  59. Anonymous12:08 PM

    Thanks for the LB&LI workshops. It is fascinating to learn how authors create and develop their worlds.


  60. leatherdykeuk wrote: But what if one has a style that nobody likes? How does one change it?

    I have a couple of thoughts on this. First, I don't think anyone is universally disliked for their style. There are some archetypal writers out their whose homogenized style attracts a lot of admiration -- attractive, white, thin, hetero sweet young thangs who have no opinions but giggle frequently, for example, are much admired in the romance genre (my friends and I call them Romance Writer Barbies.)

    If you want to try to be a Publishing Barbie, you can, but you'll just end up spending all your advance money on botox, pushup bras, hair bleach and therapy.

    I don't think style should be faked, which is why I recommend basing it on your personal likes and dislikes. If you try to be someone you're not comfortable being, you're likely going to come across as a phony and I know you'll be very unhappy.

    If something isn't working for you, try something else. I was never much liked by the people in the writer organizations I joined; I didn't care for the way they're run and they didn't care for me trying to change The Way Things Have Always Been. And then there's that lovely gift I have for pissing off people. Group joiners are just not my people, and that's why the writer orgs I belonged to never did anything for me or my career.

    By quitting the writer orgs and switching to online journaling, I've met many wonderful, like-minded colleagues and readers who accept me for who I am. I started PBW in hopes of helping other writers like me, and through it I feel I've finally found my people. You guys are incredibly supportive. You provide nonstop inspiration for me as a writer, you encourage me when things get tough, and you help my career by talking about my books and buying them, too.

    My final thought is a question for you: which is more important to you, to be liked, or to be happy? If you're not a Publishing Barbie, at some point you're going to have to make that choice. I say go for happiness. It gives you confidence and an inner glow, and it's something that, unlike popularity, doesn't depend on others to sustain.

  61. Leah Braemel wrote: And your voice when you write doesn't have to match your style? Or do you think your voice automatically does reflect your style?

    I think personal style and writing style share certain things in common, but they're not mirror images of each other as a rule. If you put a lot of your personal opinions, likes, dislikes and so forth into your work, your writing style will reflect your personal style. But if you're like me and make an effort to keep the writer and the writing separate, your styles will be quite different.

    (And I sure as heck know my style does not include dressing in designer togs - my style is to hang around in flannel PJ's and fuzzy bunny slippers. Not exactly the marketing image to go with for an erotica author!)

    Then don't market it. This is the reason why there are no photographs of me anywhere except for that stupid one they made me take the first year I turned pro (and if you ever see that pic, you should be aware that there's about two pounds of makeup trowelled on my face, and that a hairdresser spent all morning shellacking my hair to tame it.) I don't photograph well at all, and the poor lady who took that shot had to spend three hours turning me this way and that to finally get it.

  62. Jolie wrote: ...I should consider what it says about me that I want to ask my friends about my strengths and weaknesses, but I'll probably chicken out because I fear what they'll say. What weakness would you call that? Fingers-in-ears-lalala-I-can't-hear-you Syndrome?

    It is hard to listen to, especially if the friends are honest. I didn't particularly care to hear how impassive and unemotional I am, but I know I'm not perfect, and I'd rather face a hard truth than hide from it. But then I don't depend on the opinion of others to feed my self-esteem, either. My self-esteem, like my emotions, is not open to the public.

    If the exercise is going to upset you more than help you, then you might try an alternative -- sit down and write what you think your top ten weaknesses are. If you're in tune with yourself and honest, you'll put together an accurate list without putting yourself or your friends on the spot.

    Also: write humorous blog posts and Dear Reader letters for booksellers. What's a Dear Reader letter? Never heard of that strategy.

    Authors are often invited to submit letters to booksellers, who put them on their commercial sites and/or in their monthly e-mailings to readers. Borders Group usually requests a "Dear Reader" letter, which was what I was referring to. It gives a nice personal touch to a new release, and it's the sort of marketing you really want to take advantage of if you get the chance.

  63. lxz wrote: Perhaps if you write a lot your style emerges naturally?

    Alot of style (writing and personal) is organic, and you may hit on something if you're constantly productive. I do think we're often told what our style should be so frequently that it can blind us to what our best style is, hence the workshop. :)

  64. Comments for this workshop are now closed and the giveaways have been awarded. If you have any questions regarding this workshop, please stop by my open Q&A here at PBW on Tuesday, August 4, 2008.