Writerly Wednesdays

Generate Your Author Voice: The Wordsmith’s Feud

At a writer’s conference, I spotted a famous author who had five minutes before attendees joined her at the dinner table. In her hands, she clutched an E-book reader. I peered over her shoulder and saw a vast array of titles. She snatched a few moments to read a couple of pages. I’m happy to report I didn’t interrupt her. However, she was reading her colleague’s work, her competition’s book.


At another conference, I sat at a table with famous authors whose combined sales were over 50 million copies. No, I didn’t dare speak. However, their conversation circled books they’ve read and writers who know their craft. All were well-read.

Authors are generally readers. Why? No one has ever written the perfect book.

“Wait,” you say. “What about——? I think that’s the perfect book.”

I think it’s time someone told you that your favorite book isn’t well-written. Uh oh. Oh dear. I should explain. For every person who likes a book, there’s generally someone who doesn’t.

Throughout history, novelists have debated over which writing style is best. Tight prose? Flowing poetics? Streams of consciousness? The general vocabulary? Which is best?

The debate gets so heated that the press picks up the feud. Playwrights William Shakespeare and Ben Jonson fought over the best way to write a story. It is so famous that the debate has a name—Poetomachia. Russian novelists Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky thought the other unartistic yet were avid fans of each other’s work. Hemingway and Faulkner were near opposites when writing prose and were openly hostile. And my favorite, Vidal and Capote, who were so vitriol toward each other’s work, when Capote died Vidal said it was a wise career move.

Writers are readers. At conferences, we discuss what we read and the styles we like. By discussing best practices, we shape our own methods and voices. As you formulate your writing theories, perhaps you will find that special someone you can call a writing enemy, and maybe you will enjoy your happy feud. One can only hope.

Not all views expressed are those of every member of ICW.


  • Peter Leavell

    Peter Leavell, a graduate of Boise State University with a degree in history and a MA in English Literature, was the 2011 winner of the Christian Writers Guild’s Operation First Novel contest and 2013 Christian Retailing’s Best award for First-Time Author, along with multiple other awards. An author, blogger, teacher, ghostwriter, jogger, biker, husband, and father, Peter and his family live in Boise, Idaho. Learn more about Peter’s books, research, and family adventures at www.peterleavell.com

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