Deja Vu All Over Again

Wait, I think I’ve already done a blog post with that title…

I’m finishing up this round of edits on Across the Silk Road and now that I’ve nearly completed three books and a short in this world, I’m getting a bit worried. Little Sis had a couple comments wondering if some elements or scenes in this book were too reminiscent of Butterfly Swords or The Dragon and the Pearl. And then what about vocabulary and echo phrases across the books? I’m worried enough about catching those in one book let alone across several.

Of course there are recurring themes and elements. I love big, sweeping honor plays. Themes of loyalty and redemption and warrior culture are always hanging about. But what about love scenes or milestones that start to have a similar feel? I wonder if this is inevitable.

How do you keep it fresh? Is it really time to write something completely different after these revisions? My paranormal project is also set in a fantasy Tang dynasty. Maybe I need to let that rest and write the contemporary I’ve been ruminating about. I can sneak that in. Really.

It leaves me to also wonder, how much of this is your signature style and voice that readers will embrace and love about your writing? How much of it is you falling into old habits and no longer keeping it fresh? A thin red line indeed.


  1. Leigh Royals
    Jan 14, 2010 @ 04:16:25

    I’d like to chalk it up to signature style and voice. There is an author I adore whose books I devour. Eloisa James. The duchess series are all different as far as plot goes, but she has a formula. Yet I keep reading them. Like you, her style shows through, as well as her talent.

  2. Natasha Moore
    Jan 14, 2010 @ 04:55:41

    Jeannie, I worry about this too, and most of my stories aren’t set in the same world. I guess all we can hope for is that as long as our characters are unique and the storylines fresh, the rest will be considered our voice/our style and the readers will love it 🙂


  3. Jeannie Lin
    Jan 14, 2010 @ 05:29:42

    Leigh – I read Duchess by Night by Eloisa James and I just loved her storytelling. Then later I was surprised to hear that’s not even thought of as the best of them. I definitely want to read all of them now! If I had a voice like that, I wouldn’t worry so much.

    Natasha – We can only hope. I’m really worried about falling back on comfortable phrases. They were fresh and unique the first time you used them because no one had seen them yet, LOL. Like you said, we can only hope and keep our paranoia alive.

  4. Katrina Williams
    Jan 14, 2010 @ 07:15:43

    I agree – it is voice/style. That’s the very core of voice, IMHO, how we express ourselves and show the world what we’re seeing in our mind. I was worried about this, but just now decided not to. I hope my reader WILL embrace this about my writing.

    And Jeannie, moving to contemp won’t help, at least it didn’t for me. Because I’ me.

  5. RFLong
    Jan 14, 2010 @ 07:25:19

    I think, as long as you are aware of it as a possibility you will look for other ways around the issues that might cause echoes. Different characters will also handle similar situations in different ways. One might charge in swords at the ready, while another talks his or way out of conflict.

    I’d agree with the comments above – its about style and voice rather than repetitiveness. Just bear in mind that if something feels a bit similar it just may mean you have to find a new way to deal with it this time around

  6. Jeannie Lin
    Jan 14, 2010 @ 08:28:48

    Katrina – Well said! Though I do believe there is part voice and then part of us that falls into a comfort zone. Whenever I’ve tried to write contemporary, I’ve suffered with my sweeping historical voice. 🙂 But at least I can’t have a swordfight in a contemporary so I’m saved from that habit.

    Ruth – Great advice! I have to remember that I need to stay aware and keep on looking for new angles and twists.

  7. Dara
    Jan 14, 2010 @ 09:46:09

    I think it’s your style. Plus it’s your signature–writing about the Tang dynasty. Readers will come to see you as synonymous with it–at least I think so.

    Of course, don’t forget about trying new things too! I’d say work on whatever story after this that speaks to you loudest, whether that’s the paranormal Tang story or the contemporary.

  8. Kate Pearce
    Jan 14, 2010 @ 13:48:30

    Style you can’t control and with ‘voice’ that’s why readers will come back and buy your next book. 🙂
    For me, having just turned in the 6th Simply book in the series, keeping it fresh all comes down to good characterization. There is no way my hero #6 would act in the same way in, our out of bed, as hero #1, they are very distinct in my mind. And, as plot, for me, comes from unwrapping my character’s flaws and redeeming them, there isn’t a problem with repetition.

  9. Jax Cassidy
    Jan 14, 2010 @ 17:51:13

    I have a habit of putting in lines that I love in different books. I just can’t help myself. I say it’s ‘voice’ and it’s distinctive of our writing style. I know I’ll change things up a bit, but it will take discipline and lots of patience.

    You can do it! I believe in you.

  10. Jeannie Lin
    Jan 15, 2010 @ 00:16:34

    Kate — I think you hit the nail on the head! In the Simply Series, the characters are all very distinctive. My characters may be too similar between a couple books. I might have to dig deeper to set them apart. As to plot, I know I cannibalized some plot elements since I thought the first book was dead. I’m having to work hard to re-plot the mushy middle because of it.

    Dara – I am SO tired of the Tang dynasty right now. There, I said it. *Looks left, looks right.* Maybe that’s why it’s feeling like a challenge to keep things fresh. 🙂

    Jax – How did I know you would have the tough love I needed? I can call it style, but I think in some part it’s also lazy. It is going to have to take a lot of discipline!

  11. Dara
    Jan 15, 2010 @ 08:59:54

    Well if you’re tired of it, by all means, move on 🙂 I think after I finish Lady of the Snow, I’m moving on to a different culture. Maybe I’ll work on the one set in ancient Israel.