Monday, January 9, 2012

A question about style and suffixes

What's your style, writeristas? Oh no. That was terrible. Sorry about that. See, I was trying to make a play on that stupid, fake word "fashionista" but it just didn't work out. Let's try this again:

What's your style, writers?

I ask because I'm not 100% sure what mine is. I seem to write in so many different styles, depending on what the project is and the kinds of characters who populate it. In my current book, which is written in first-person, my style is free-flowing, the punctuation is relaxed and the dialogue rules over everything else. It's a style that feels more relaxed and free, and was incredibly fun to write in (I even got to play with tense). In my short stories, though, where I often write in an omniscient voice, my style is nothing like this. My punctuation is proper, atmosphere is tops, dialogue is sparse, and the tense is almost exclusively present.

I think I know what my second book will be about and, if I go ahead with it, my style will likely be radically different. Now excuse me while I dream big here, but I wonder if this will be a problem for readers. So let's talk about that, shall we? Does it bother you when you read one book by a particular writer and you go to read another only to find that the author's style has completely changed?

Personally, I'm all for a style change-up by my favourite authors. Take Jennifer Egan, for example. I read A Visit From The Goon Squad and a few months later I read The Keep. If her name was omitted from the cover, I never would have guessed that The Keep was written by the same author -- and I think that's amazing. I love that I never know what to expect from her, except for two things: compelling writing and storytelling. Jennifer Egan's ever-changing style makes reading Jennifer Egan an adventure, which in turn, makes Jennifer Egan an adventurista.

Ugh. Never mind. "Ista" will just never, ever work.


  1. As I consider what my next major project is going to be, I'm reeeeally struggling with this. I am patently NOT a fantasy writer, but I've kind of painted myself into that corner with The War Master's Daughter. I have four major projects I'm considering next: two are sci-fi, one is general YA crossover, and one is--dare I say it--a cozy mystery. On one hand I see the value in "branding" onself; on the other, I want to write what I want to write, and I want to write what I know I can finish.

    I think I've basically come down to the opinion that if there is consistency (or consistent improvement) of the QUALITY of my writing above all else, then any other consistency (genre, style, etc.) shouldn't matter a heckuvalot. I hope.

  2. Whatever you write next, Elly, no matter what the genre, you can bet that I'll be reading it.

  3. I think there's a HUGE difference between changing your style and switching genres. At the beginning of an author's career it's a good idea to stay within the same genre so you can build on your reader base. Your readers are going to look for/expect something else they'd like to read. Your style may change and that's ok but totally switching up from fantasy to cozy mystery you'll be writing for a whole new audience. It's not against the law, but it's also not advisable. IMHO

  4. That's some good advice, Linda, re: switching styles but not genres. Something to think about, Elly?

  5. Yeah, I do think Linda is totally right. I'm thinking I need to stick at least in the broader realm of speculative fiction for now, building up my audience there. Once you have built the name and the reputation, you have more leeway to go outside your "typical" space.