It always saddens me to hear a writer say ‘I wish I could write like X.’ This always gives me the impression that they think their own writing isn’t good enough, that they shouldn’t strive to develop their own style and should replicate someone else’s. I suppose it shouldn’t be entirely surprising in a world where remake and reboot is king. The only problem I have with remakes are the negative implications developing writers might absorb, that they need to replicate this particular thing to be successful, which I hope is not the case.
This perhaps goes back to points I made in Making The New From The Old and How Tos And Why Nots and most of the other articles where I argued that writing should be about finding your own style as a writer. This isn’t something that happens quickly it’s a continuous process. For example we could consider Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels, a rare example of a writer continuing the same series across their writing career. Pratchett himself said on several occasions that as he progressed as a writer he got better at it and if you look at his early books in comparison to his later books you can see the difference. The Discworld novels are very centred on jokes but as the series progresses these jokes change they become more satirical and in places increasingly subtle so new jokes are revealed on a second and third reading. Is this better? It depends who you ask, some people are devotees of the earlier books, other prefer the later books, others have particular series that they enjoy.
The point of all this is that Pratchett, a famous best-selling writer, developed his own distinct style across the length of his career. So distinct is his writing voice you could take the cover and title page out of one of his books and hand it to someone and they would be able to say, ‘that’s a Pratchett book’. Instead of saying ‘if only I could write like X’, developing writers should be encouraged to say ‘I want to write like myself’.
I think the biggest changes come earliest in a writer’s development like a child growing. I don’t know about other people but my pen ran across the page going ‘I’ll try this’, ‘I’ll try that’ until I found the elements of myself own style. Evolution is as necessary in writing as in nature.
Will I still be writing exactly as I do now it twenty or thirty years? I doubt it. I’ll be older, more experienced and, hopefully, I will have learnt new things.
I hope that as I grow as a person and a writer I will become more confident and more myself and I wish that for every writer.
For more writing advice see my archive page.