When I was a writing student, one of my mentors taught me to carefully analyze and learn from authors I admired most. This isn’t to suggest that my writing voice will ever emulate the styles of those who have inspired me to write fiction, but, through the practice of studying great works, I have become more discerning and aware of my own habits and weaknesses. Becoming a skilled writer isn’t so much about sounding like everyone else. At least part of being a really good writer is about developing a strong authentic voice.
In college, I was obsessed with 19th century literature. Don’t laugh (okay, you can laugh), but I wanted to write like Herman Melville and Jane Austen. My first writing coach actually did kind of laugh at me because my writing style looked nothing like 19th century literature. Over the course of several months my mentor had me work on discovering my writing voice and learning about other novelists whose styles were a little more similar to mine.
Adjectives that have been used to describe my writing are terse, gritty, and masculine. I’ll admit that I wasn’t happy about this at first. However, as I started to expand my knowledge of other writers who had a more terse style, I started to learn that the strength of the writing had more to do with authenticity and a solid grip on language and phrasing.
The writers who have inspired me most in regards to helping me develop my own voice are Joan Didion, Charles Bukowski, Ernest Hemingway, and John Fante. Besides the fact that I love the books these authors have written, they have also inspired me in my own writing.
Community is an important aspect of the art world because we can learn so much from other artists. I’m sure that as I continue my journey as a fiction writer I will discover other authors who will help shape and inspire my own writing.