Most of my books have some sort of story about how they came to be.
BE KIND was inspired by the time I spilled grape juice in my then-boyfriend, now-husband’s car.
WIDE-AWAKE BEAR was inspired by an epic meltdown my youngest daughter had.
WHEREVER YOU GO was inspired by all the feelings I had when my oldest daughter graduated from high school.
My latest book, LORETTA’S GIFT, doesn’t have as media-friendly of a backstory. I wrote it while I was trying to write like someone else.
Generally, this is not a writing strategy I recommend. Most people tend to write best when they sound like … themselves.
Still, there’s something to be said for finding a writer you like and seeing what you can learn from him or her and applying it to your own writing style. And, that’s what I was doing.
There’s an author I admire who has a very clean, almost spare, writing style with tons of heart. So I sat down at my computer with no real story in mind and thought. “What if I tried to write like that?” I picked the name Loretta, because I had a great-aunt with that name, and got started.
Well, the end result is, after much revision, I got a book out of the experience. Which is not necessarily something I would have predicted. It’s illustrated by Alea Marley and published by little bee books. And it was released TODAY.
To get the housekeeping stuff out of the way now, you could win a copy if you do one or both of these things:
- Leave a comment on this post. I’ll pick one random winner.
- Share a link to this blog post on Twitter with the hashtag #LorettasGift. I’ll pick another random winner.
But back to the topic at hand. If there’s an author you admire that you’d like to write like, here’s the process I’d recommend.
Decide WHAT you like about this author.
If you like an author, chances are he or she does many things well. Don’t try to replicate them all. Pick the thing you’re most impressed with. The one thing that might most benefit your writing. Is it a memorable voice? A complete absence of adjectives? The pace of the story? A certain structure? Snarky humor? Then, write like you while trying to incorporate this one thing.
Study HOW the author does it.
Read several books by this person focusing solely on how they do that one thing you like. What techniques do they use? Why does it work? Do they ever consciously choose to do something different for effect?
The thing about writing a draft and trying on a new style is that no one will know if you mess it up. So give yourself permission to go wild. If your goal is a memorable voice, let it rip. Go over the top. If your goal is the tightest, leanest story possible, cut words like you’re getting paid for every one you slash. Ask: “What would my favorite author do?” And do it even more.
I suggest this approach because you always can scale back in your revising if you’ve gone too far, but chances are being ruthless will get you closer to where you want to be.
Then, cut yourself some SLACK
The author you admire is the author you admire. You are you. Your final product is not going to look like your admired author wrote it. And that’s a good thing. I don’t think anyone would pick up LORETTA’S GIFT and know which author I was trying to emulate. (In fact, if you guess correctly, I’ll send you a free copy.) But I think my attempts to be more like this other person led me to a better story.
And I hope you like it, too. Here’s all the info about the book: