Book Nerd Guest Post
Karen has been many things in her life: an archery instructor, drummer for the shortest-lived garage band in history, and a shockingly bad tic-tac-toe player.
What’s the best advice I can give writers to help them develop their own unique voice and style?
One of my favorite writing quotes of all time is from C.S. Lewis who said, “What you want is practice, practice, practice. It doesn’t matter what we write (at least this is my view) at our age, so long as we write continually as well as we can. I feel that every time I write a page either of prose or of verse, with real effort, even if it’s thrown into the fire the next minute, I am so much further on.”
So there’s that. Just keep writing. Get your heiny in the chair. Move the cursor left to right. Mute distractions. Just by virtue of writing a large volume of work, your style will naturally emerge.
The second (and perhaps bigger) thing in terms of developing your own voice is to listen to others. Really listen to the way people talk.
My six year-old uses the most delightfully odd expressions. We were at the Farmer’s Market the other day, and he said, “Mom, that is one fine-looking squash. I’m a fan of that squash.” Like…who says that? Answer: My six year-old son.
Oh, but who would want to read a whole story about a child’s love for a squash? Ask Pat Zietlow Miller [link: http://patzietlowmiller.com/ ] . Her book Sophie’s Squash (which is also delightfully odd and chock-full of voice) won the Golden Kite Award this year. Inspiration can strike anywhere. If your ears are pricked to hear it.
I went through a phase during grad school where I’d “collect” quotes that amused me. I’d always ask the person who said it if I could write it down. None of those quotes have made it into a story, but the practice helped me learn to listen better.
The third thing is to read, read, read. Then read some more.
I can’t explain it, but when I read a book that I really get into and fangirl over, it sparks something within me in regards to my writing. When I first started writing, I worried that I’d accidentally plagiarize another author if I read too much, but the opposite is true. It’s as if reading frees up my imagination and allows more original ideas to emerge.
I’m sure there are complicated neural pathways and brain hemispheres involved, but meh. I prefer the magical spark theory.
My final advice would be (and I actually had a post-it note on my computer for the longest time that said this): “Let your freak flag fly!”
First drafts—and sometimes second, third, and fourth drafts—are for going wild. You never know what turn of phrase will emerge when you’re intentionally giving yourself permission to be bad. In LOOP, and in its sequel TWIST, there were whole sections that I wrote just for me. Even as I wrote them, I knew they’d be cut, but sometimes those flights of fancy were what it took to get to the words that I really needed to use.
After Bree botches a solo midterm to the 21st century by accidentally taking a boy hostage (a teensy snafu), she stands to lose her scholarship. But when Bree sneaks back to talk the kid into keeping his yap shut, she doesn’t go back far enough. The boy, Finn, now three years older and hot as a solar flare, is convinced he’s in love with Bree, or rather, a future version of her that doesn’t think he’s a complete pain in the arse. To make matters worse, she inadvertently transports him back to the 23rd century with her.
Once home, Bree discovers that a recent rash of accidents at her school are anything but accidental. Someone is attacking time travelers. As Bree and her temporal tagalong uncover seemingly unconnected clues—a broken bracelet, a missing data file, the art heist of the millennium—that lead to the person responsible, she alone has the knowledge to piece the puzzle together. Knowledge only one other person has. Her future self.
But when those closest to her become the next victims, Bree realizes the attacker is willing to do anything to stop her. In the past, present, or future.