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 LynnViehl@aol.com, 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
What I Don't Enjoy
Being in Crowds
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.