don’t sound like a writer

Rewrite

It’s such a delicate balance to strike.

On the one hand, writing should sound like writing. Sort of. There’s a cadence to it, a rhythm and flow. It has to “sound right” spoken out loud or only in your head. It has to pull a reader along rather than requiring the reader to persevere. It should feel more like walking down a comfortable slope than pushing uphill against a heavy wind.

And yet, it has to do all of that, sound like writing, without sounding like writing. The moment it becomes obvious that you’re trying to sound all author-y, you’ve blown it. Listen, I love JD Salinger as much as the next guy, but if I try to make my stories sound like the Glass family tales, naming characters “Zooey” and “Seymour” and peppering dialogue with a shit ton of goddams, I end up sounding like a freshman English major who just discovered “Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters”. I sound like a hack. I know because I’ve tried to pull it off. Those stories are safely tucked away in a worn yellow folder I only pull out when I feel like embarrassing myself to myself.

Learn from the writers you love. Echo their style, their phrases, even, but don’t allow yourself to slip into the mindset that births fiction that tries too hard to sound like fiction. Write at Starbucks if you want to. (I’m writing this post there now.) Collect vintage typewriters. Give into any stereotypical author-like behavior you feel at home in, no matter how cliché. All of that is fine.

Just don’t let your writer’s voice sound like a writer’s voice. Don’t do that. The world already has Salinger. It needs you.

Sound like you.

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About Ash Martin
Ash Martin writes dark fantasy and horror, has a thing for classic monster legends, Nordic mythology, coffee, and sarcasm, and is currently working on multiple books.

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