Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Finding Your Writing Fingerprint

What do all your favorite authors have in common? What do they have that makes their books feel so special to you?

They have voices. I can pick up anything written by Cassandra Clare, or Nicholas Sparks and without looking at anything but the writing I can tell you who the author is.

When I think of each and every one of my favorite books I know they all have that in common. The way the author strings together their words, the way they describe their characters, how they approach action or romance, it's all unique to them and their own personal writing style.

I like to think of it as a writers fingerprint. When you first start writing, all you have is that lonely arch along the top of your finger. It's a start, but nothing to identify you by. Then a few months or a year later- maybe after you've got a terrible finished manuscript, and several dozen amazing reads under your belt making you feel completely unworthy- that lonely arch becomes a carefully curved pattern of arches slowly wrapping its way around in a distinctive pattern.

The longer you write, and the more books you read, the closer you are to finding what works for you as a writer. You get to see how you can attack revisions without pulling your hair out. You find a way to describe a person memorably, so you don't feel the need to repeat how they look in each chapter so your readers remember. You see a pattern of words you like to use, and comma placement, and whether you prefer the semi-colon or the dash. (I'm a dash sort of person myself- in case you haven't noticed.)

And before you know it you have your own writers fingerprint. Your words are woven together so uniquely that they're discernable from everyone else. As unique as that little pattern on the ends of your fingers.

So next time you're reading something that just makes you feel like you'll never get where they are, or someone small minded tells you that you have a better chance of getting struck by lightening than being published in this market, look at your fingers. At one point they weren't all that unique either. The longer you write, and the more effort you put into it the closer you are to finding that thing, whatever it is, that makes your stories fly off the page and grab someone around the heartstrings like a vice.

And remember, the chances of you being struck by lightening are never going to change, but the chances of you being published improve with every word you write.

Happy Wednesday!


  1. Great post. :) There are so many writers I can recognize by an excerpt: John Green, Neil Gaiman, Maggie Stiefvater, etc. and I think that's what makes them great, how each of their styles is so perfectly crafted that they stand out in a sea of books.

    I don't know if I've written enough to have a fingerprint yet. It might take a couple more years. Heck, I might need someone else to point it out even after I've found it... but I'm going to keep writing until it surfaces. ;)

    Thanks for tagging me, btw. I'm going to post my Lucky 7 later today or tomorrow. I have one of those questionnaire things to fill out at the same time. ;)

  2. Having a "voice" when writing is someting I struggle with. Do I have an identifiable writing style? The quick answer is no, I don't think I do, at least not yet. I think for people like me it just takes time to develop.

    Anyway, I was going to tag you for the Lucky 7 meme but it looks like you've already been tagged! (:

  3. Very true. It's been interesting to watch (hear?) my voice evolve as I write. Great post! = )

  4. Hi Sweetie! Stopped by to say hi. Is my voice there yet? I think that is subjective to the author and then of course the readers. Great post.