It’s difficult to be an author and carve out your own identity. There are industry standards, armies of gatekeepers, lengthy histories of each genre, and the constantly gnawing self-doubt. A negative opinion on our style can hit harder than 100 positive comments. Especially when we start, we find ourselves standing at the edge of a precipice that we pray we can walk away from. Here are some tips to help you take the first step and get away from that abyss.
- Always remember that styles evolve over time. They might never reach their final form because you could always find something to add. We are constantly trying to hone our craft and make each story better than the next. So, a negative comment early on only means you, like all authors, have a temporary flaw to buff out of your style. Take it in stride and use it to evolve like a Pokemon.
- Jumping on a bandwagon could help you get attention as long as you sacrifice the style you feel is more natural. This is a dangerous path. For one thing, that bandwagon is popular because somebody already took the driver’s seat and many others jumped into the front few rows to show there was more of a public desire. You may end up in the backseat and get just enough attention to succeed, but not enough to get a solid fan following that will carry over to when you try to write in your own style. This is where you have to weigh being yourself and struggling against following the trend and risking your author identity.
- Similar to #2, DO NOT set out to be the next *insert famous author*. That claim means you’re stepping into the shadow of an established figure and those fans will take you seriously. Every aspect of your author identity will be put under a microscope, carefully dissected, and compared to the person you want to imitate. This doesn’t happen if you step up and claim you’re writing in your own style. Now, you can say you were influenced and inspired by that author. That’s different. You aren’t trying to claim the mantle (mantel?) and fandom.
- Everybody makes mistakes with their style at some point. It can be early on when you’re still learning or later during an experimental phase. Authors are humans and we make mistakes. As long as you learn from them, you should be fine. Also, don’t forget to admit when you make a wrong turn. People can tell when others are lying in this arena.
- Be wary of authors who try to help you with your style. Not with your writing, but with your style. Learning how to use commas, semicolons, and tenses is one thing. When another author that acts as a mentor starts pushing you to write in a way that is extremely different than what you started as, it may be time to think about it. They could honestly be trying to help you and not realize that they are eroding your own identity. They could reveal that their plan all along was to make a clone of themselves in the hopes of establishing their own school of writing style. (I’ve met those!) Solve the issue by talking it out and standing up for what you believe in.
- Experimentation is fun. Never think that establishing your style means you can never try new things. It’s like eating out at a restaurant, but without someone at the table making enough substitutions to turn spaghetti and meatballs into a rather lacking Cobb salad.
- Cherish the positive comments, but do not let them draw you into a state of staleness and egotism. People will love what you do and ignore your faults. Some may simply think it isn’t their place to point such things out. It’s the polar opposite of those who nitpick and try to destroy you. Both can cause trouble, so take them with grains of salt and open minds. That or ignore them while focusing on those that give you a more balanced opinion. Your choice.