I find myself listening to audiobooks and reading novels and realizing, “I like the way this author writes. I want to write like him.” I make mental notes of the writing style, the way he/she strings sentences together, and plan to imitate that writing style when I next sit down.
And then I actually sit to write, and all of my plans go flying right out of the door! Instead of coming out in the writing style I wanted to imitate, it comes out the way I normally write.
That’s kind of the way a writing style works. A wise man once said:
“Style is to forget all styles.” —Jules Renard
Truth be told, your writing style will NEVER be the same as someone else’s. You can try to model your writing after the great writers that you read regularly, but you’ll never get it quite right. The way you think, the way you speak, what you read, your emotions, and millions of other factors influence your writing style. There is no way that all of those factors will be the same as the writers you want to emulate, so your style will always be a bit different.
Now I’m not saying that you shouldn’t try to copy what you like in other writers’ styles. When I was writing In the Days, I was reading Glen Cook’s latest Garrett P.I. novel. It’s a snarky, sarcastic book, and you can see that same sarcastic tone in the way I was writing.
When I started writing my latest novel, The Last Bucelarii, I was smack in the middle of Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings. The descriptions are much more complete, and the writing is much more somber. When you read the book (hopefully in the next few months), you’ll see that the writing style has shifted in that direction.
To be a good writer, you SHOULD try to emulate the writers you look up to. I know that I’ve been referring to writers like Brandon Sanderson, Michael Sullivan, and Scott Lynch for descriptions, characters, and dialogue. It helps me to “up my game” so that my writing comes out at a level hopefully somewhere in the vicinity of theirs.
But, can I try to fit my writing style into their box? Absolutely not! I have my own unique writing style, and no amount of reading will ever change that.
You need to find your own unique voice, and make it stand out. Learn from the best, but improve on their work if you can. Let your reading help you to improve your writing, but find your own voice in your writing. There is already a Brandon Sanderson, a George R.R. Martin, and a J.K. Rowling in the world, and we don’t need another. You are the only version of “you” that we’ve got, so let your writing give us that taste of who “you” are!