Book Nerd Guest Post
Photo Credit: Beowulf Sheehan
J. Patrick Black has worked as a bartender, a lifeguard, a small-town lawyer, a homebuilder, and a costumed theme park character, all while living a secret double life as a fiction writer. While fiction is now a profession, he still finds occasion to ply his other trades as well. He lives in Boston, Massachusetts, where he likes to visit the ocean. NINTH CITY BURNING is his first (published) novel. He is at work on his next book.
“What’s the best advice you can give writers to help them develop their own unique voice and style?”
For me, developing voice and style comes down to the two necessities of literary life: reading and writing. As a form of advice that might sound overly simplistic—not to mention frustrating, like those “how to draw” books that sum up all the really hard stuff with “add detail”—but hear me out. In my experience, the way to learn anything is by doing, and for writers that means jumping into the (prose) fray. Voice and style is all about the choices you make, in everything from vocabulary to sentence structure to tense to perspective, and when you pick up another writer’s work, you’ve got the best possible view as to how that writer’s choices play out on the page. It’s a chance to think about why a writer did what she or he did, to contemplate what worked for you and what didn’t, what choices you would have made were you writing that same story. Actually rolling up your sleeves to write is the other side of the coin. You don’t necessarily have to set out to write a novel, or even a story, but each paragraph, each sentence you write teaches you a little more about the way your own brain works. Practice helps you learn the storytelling choices that feel natural to you, the ones that make your writing yours, and gives you a broader and sharper set of literary tools you can use to make those all-important choices.
The key to turning both reading and writing into a learning exercise, I think, is first diversity, then persistence. Variety both in your reading and writing gives you more opportunity to hone that special combination of choices and sensibilities unique to you, but the most important part, at least for me, is sticking with it, making sure to write—and write a lot. Write about anything, everything, nothing. Just write. It doesn’t need to be perfect right away—or even very good. I’ve found I learn as much, if not more, when I’m writing just for myself as when I have any particular audience or goal in mind. It lets me range into wider stylistic territory without worrying about whether what I’m doing will fit into a particular story or context. That in turn leaves me with a broader set of experience when the time comes to make my choices for the literary task at hand.
We never saw them coming.
Entire cities disappeared in the blink of an eye, leaving nothing but dust and rubble. When an alien race came to make Earth theirs, they brought with them a weapon we had no way to fight, a universe-altering force known as thelemity. It seemed nothing could stop it—until we discovered we could wield the power too.
Five hundred years later, the Earth is locked in a grinding war of attrition. The talented few capable of bending thelemity to their will are trained in elite military academies, destined for the front lines. Those who refused to support the war have been exiled to the wilds of a ruined Earth.
But the enemy's tactics are changing, and Earth's defenders are about to discover this centuries-old war has only just begun. As a terrible new onslaught looms, heroes will rise from unlikely quarters, and fight back.
“Grabbed my attention from the first page—fresh and un-put-downable. An intriguing cocktail of science fiction, fantasy, and military adventure stirred into something new and satisfying.”—Patricia Briggs, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Fire Touched
“A finely crafted and original science-fantasy epic full of wonder and spectacle. Highly recommended.”—Anthony Ryan, New York Times bestselling author of The Waking Fire
“Ninth City Burning is an intense, complex, engrossing story, a tale of multiple lives intersecting…Fans of both fantasy and science-fiction will want to keep an eye out for the next, and the next…”—Jean Johnson, national bestselling author of The Terrans
“A fresh new voice who pays respect to the classics of SF…A fascinating world.”—Publishers Weekly
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