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Our common denominator? We all had to learn how to write. We had to learn how to hold the pencil. How to print or cursive. The proper way to write an "O" or curl a "Q". Our teacher had to hover over our shoulder until the day that we finally "got" it and were able to write the alphabet on our own.
What about the day you decided to write a novel? You knew nothing, except you had this crazy-good idea for a story that simply had to be told. So you wrote it. Put every one of those words on the page and then stood back and gasped at the masterpiece you had created.
Then you started actually learning how to write a novel and realized that every bit of that backstory had to be cut. You couldn't say your character hated the villain, you had to show that hatred.
You had to learn the mechanics of writing a novel. You had to learn what is good and right and true to make a novel acceptable. But as Chip MacGregor said so much better than I ever could, once the rules are learned, those rules have to become our own.
When you learned to write the alphabet in print and then cursive, you learned the rules and mechanics. The proper way to write. But soon your own personal style and feel took over and your handwriting became your own. Not someone else's, but yours. It used to be in the 19th century, a left-handed writer was forced to use their right. And the same is no longer true for the novelist.
Your writing style is your own. Yes, you have to know the rules. You need to be aware of them, because it refines your writing and teaches you valuable skills. But once you've learned those rules and they become more second nature, then just write. Julie Cantrell and Julie Lessman right nothing alike, but that's what makes the literary world so exciting. You never know what you're going to find!
Write the rough draft to discover the story and enjoy your voice. Edit to refine it. Edit to bring those rules into play, but some of your best and most enjoyable writing will come when you're not trying and just enjoying.
At this stage in our writing career, we all need mentors and teachers and coaches to hover over our shoulders, offering wisdom and direction in the way you need to go. Many times agents play this role, but more often than not, it's the authors who've gone before us that teach and guide. Like our handwriting teachers, they show us the write way to take our novels.
But pretty soon those things become us. My first novel sounds nothing like what I'm writing now. My voice and style have refined themselves until as I edit my novels, I am constantly thinking, "this would be so good if THIS happened." A-hem. I have learned to keep reading, because 9 times out of 10, I've already applied that witty piece of dialogue or plot pivot I had been considering. And that's not an ego boost. I honestly forget what my own story says, LOL!
But when style becomes default, voice isn't far behind. How do you write? What's the rhythm to your words on the page? What do you always go back to time and time again to form your thoughts? That's not to say it won't need work over time, but you'll know who you are in your writing and it will become easier and easier to find. You'll also become more confident.
Let's talk. Have you discovered your personal style or are you still at the unearthing stage?
Casey Herringshaw is a homeschool graduate and has been writing since high school. She lives in rural Eastern Oregon in a town more densely populated with cows than people.