Thursday, October 4, 2012

Who Influences Your Writing?

“The most durable thing in writing is style, and style is the most valuable investment a writer can make with his time.  It pays off slowly, your agent will sneer at it, your publisher will misunderstand it, and it will take people you have never heard of to convince them by slow degrees that the writer who puts his individual mark on the way he writes will always pay off.” 
 -Raymond Chandler

  •  How does a writer develop their own style?  
  •  Where do the ideas come from?  How does one find their own voice? 
  •  How do I account for my style and my voice? Who has influenced me?

                Reading the most recent pages written in my newest project and then going back to the previous section, I noticed something.  Chapters in my book differ in tone. Some are highly detailed and full of descriptions while others are mainly dialogue and interaction between characters.  The more character driven scenes range in tone from the deeply emotional to lighter, less intense conversations.  Those more descriptive chapters vary from the dark and sinister to lighter but intricately designed places.  To me, whenever I see inconsistency in writing technique or content I immediately think less of the writer’s skills.  All writing should be consistent.
One of my Influences: H.P. Lovecraft
                Having stated this, I will go back eventually and even things out to maintain a consistent voice.  The reason behind the current change between chapters is not a lack of skill.  The differences are the result of what I happen to be reading at the time and those authors’ influence upon me. 
As a big fan of H.P. Lovecraft, I have the Necronomicon, a collection of some of his works.  The stories are short and easy to read quickly and unfortunately, I do this quite often.  I see the book lying somewhere in the house, pick it up, read a few stories and then return to my own writing.  H.P. Lovecraft writes darker but very descriptive stories with a very unique style.  The same thing happens with Anne Rice novels.  Having read each one several times, I can pick them up, read a few pages and know exactly what’s going on without having to reread the entire book.

                The problem with haphazardly reading either Lovecraft or Rice is it has a huge impact on my writing and my tone.  After reading their superb examples of literature, I find myself writing in a very similar way.  I add more details, add more darkness and give characters shadier motives than they have held previously.  I am always happy with what I have written and consider it better than the last chapter. Sometimes I even go back and add more to the previous chapter to match the new.  Then I stop writing for the day or night. 

Another Current Influence:
Richard Branson
                Before I return to writing, I often read a little in whatever book I’m currently reading.  At the moment, the book I’m reading is Richard Branson’s Autobiography, Losing My Virginity: How I survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way.  It was written by Mr. Branson himself and does not follow with standard writing practices.  It is fast paced and written in the way that he speaks, very rapid and raw.  He does not add pretty language or excessive details.  The book feels as though he is standing there with you just telling you his story.  He is a fascinating man.  Unfortunately, after reading a few pages of his book, I lose my need to add excessive details and darkness and I return to a lighter but quicker pace in the story.  I take on a more carefree attitude and lose the rigid rules of writing.

                In addition to these, there have been other books along the way from those by Terry Brooks to a couple of Romance novels just for fun.  The point is, whatever I read influences my work.  The question then becomes, how much do I allow it to influence me and how do I know what is truly my voice or someone else’s?  The key to answering this question is to realize that all of my favorite authors have influenced me in different ways.  All writers give credit to various other writers as having influenced their work.  Stephen King for example talks a great deal about being influenced by H.P. Lovecraft. 

                                The method I use to determine exactly how much of my writing is me and how much is copying someone else’s style is to just write.  I find that if I sit down and just write and write, eventually it ceases to be in the tone of another author.  After a certain point my brain goes on autopilot and it is all me.  It is my mind writing those lines, my style forming the words and all of my influences coming together to give me my own unique voice.  The idea is to allow other writers to influence you because the more influences you have, the broader your writing experience will be.  You can never have enough information, never have enough experience and never truly be finished learning as a writer.  Even when the book is finished, there will always be another story to tell. 

                For those of you out there trying to figure out who you are as a writer or what your voice will be, my advice to you is write as much as you can as often as you can.  For those of you out there who know yourselves and are comfortable with your own style of writing, I ask you to share with us who your influences are.  Who influenced you to become a writer?  Which authors affected you the most?  Who influences you?

by JccKeith

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