I write like…

Every writer wants to be identified as uniquely talented. (At least, I do.) But it’s difficult to be identified as anything–even a writer–without a large body of work available for sale to your eager reading audience. As I traverse the gap between “read the articles I’ve been writing in the paper over the last few years” and “read this book that I wrote that’s actually available to the public” I’m only too happy to have my work favorably compared to that of other, better known wordsmiths. Thus far, my writing style has been compared to two authors; one is a long-time literary hero of mine and the other is someone I’ve only recently discovered and with whom I’ve fallen madly in love.

Both comparisons surprised me. When it comes to the subject of my own work, I feel as though I am somewhat tone deaf. It’s difficult to determine how my writing is reading to someone else, and my own reading of my writing varies wildly depending on my mood, confidence level, and how many times I’ve been forced to read it during the editing process (which can turn something you once delighted in into a forced march through a retail department store on Black Friday). Perhaps the comparisons surprised me because the people making the comparison were being highly charitable. Following in the literary wake of Neil Gaiman and Edith Wharton is, frankly, too flattering, too wonderful, to exhilarating to be true.

As I began to ponder the comparisons, however, I think I’ve at least rooted out the source: Neil Gaiman and Edith Wharton, though undeniably disparate in their choice of subject matter, are both extremely sarcastic, though it’s a kind of sarcasm that’s expressed in a dry, nerdy fashion. I’m a total smart-ass, which probably has a lot to do with my adoration of Wharton and admiration of Gaiman. And there’s a very good chance that I unintentionally absorbed Wharton’s penchant for humorous, biting observations of her subjects. I’d be thrilled if that was, in fact, the case. Or, as is entirely possible, the readers who made these comparisons did so to be kind, to have something supportive to say to a friend and writer who is thrashing madly, sometimes desperately through the publishing process and questioning herself as a writer. I’m going to hope there’s some merit to the notion that someone who loves Edith Wharton and Neil Gaiman–a person of exquisite taste, in my opinion–would also find something charming, humorous, touching, or biting in my work. I suppose I’ll have a better read on my readers when there are more of them, which is in and of itself an optimistic sort of statement to make.


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