Saturday, September 30, 2017

Sophia Gholz's "The Importance of Style" and a Rate Your Story PRIZE!

Sophia Gholz works for the wonderful Rate Your Story! I know many of you reading this have tried out (or at least heard about) Rate Your Story. There is so much that a person needs to know before they are able to adequately judge a story. Sophia's journey lead her on a path that to help her understand style. This is a very important post for those working on your final images and your portfolios! Thank you so much for being here Sophia.

Look for a PRIZE at the end of this post!

The Importance of Style
by Sophia Gholz

I once owned and operated an artist’s agency out of Manhattan. As an agent, I represented fashion photographs, fashion stylists, creative directors and set designers. Though I didn’t work with writers or illustrators then, my experience within the photography industry taught me many things that I would later apply to the literary world. One of the most important tools I learned, was the importance of an artist’s style.

When I worked with my artists in developing and editing their portfolios, it was their style that we always sought to showcase. Not every image or page had to be the same, but there had to be a common thread that tied it all together: a favored color palette, a loved choice of composition, a preferred mood, and so on. I knew my artists could do anything and everything. But, as an agent, I needed a style to sell to editors and advertisers—something special to each artist that our clients would come to them for specifically. So, as we poured over pages of portfolios, we’d chuck aside anything that didn’t fit within that artist’s aesthetic. There were often disagreements—it’s hard to kill your darlings—but a cohesive portfolio was the most important goal.

Whether you’re a writer, an illustrator, or both, keeping your style in mind is essential as you develop your portfolio or package to approach agents and editors. Look at some of your favorite illustrators and writers. Do they have a style that you can pinpoint? Some strong illustrator examples might be: Dan Santat, Jon Klassen and Salina Yoon. As for authors, look at Tara Lazar, Mo Willems or Jane Yolen. As you read their books, you should be able to hear their style through their voice in each story.

When I first began writing for children, I didn’t think about the application of style as a picture book author. I assumed that I could writer anything in any style I chose and that it was only illustrators that had to worry about cohesiveness. But as I began submitting to agents, I quickly discovered how wrong I was. I would send in a manuscript, receive exciting feedback and a request to view more work…and then a rejection. This process happened over and over again. Agents loved my manuscripts separately, but not together. I could not understand it. Then one agent finally responded with: “Although I love your work, your manuscripts are a bit disparate”. It was like I’d been hit over the head with a bat. Of course! An agent liked the style of one manuscript, but disliked the style of the others. If an agent was requesting one type of work, they expected to see similar work. Now this might seem obvious to others, but to a newcomer (like I was then) I’d just assumed I could do it all.

I stopped submitting then and picked a manuscript that I felt best fit my natural voice—a style I wanted to use for other stories—and focused on writing new material. It took me an agonizing amount of time, but I did it. When I came out of my writing cave almost two years later, I had a stack of strong manuscripts at the ready. Within a few months, I was winning contests and a couple months after that, I was signed with an agent. Will my other stories ever see the light of day? Maybe. Maybe not. But you have to start somewhere and the best place to begin is with a strong voice or style that is unique and true to you.

Author bio:

Sophia Gholz is a 2017 recipient of a Florida SCBWI Rising Kite Award. She is the owner and managing editor for, an online service for writers. In addition, she works as a creative copywriter and has written and edited for television. Sophia is an active member of both the Florida Writer's Association and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

For more about Sophia, visit: or find her on Twitter @sophiagholz.

Rate Your Story is an online critique service where writers receive feedback from published authors. For more about Rate Your Story, visit their website, stop by the RYS Facebook page or find RYS on Twitter @rateyourstory.


Sophia is giving out a Rate Your Story Speed Pass to be used on or before December 31st, 2017.*

In order to win this prize you must:

1. Finish your dummy this month.
2. Comment on this post and let Sophia how much you liked her post!

*A RYS Speedpass includes a manuscript rating plus comments.
Note: Comments do not include line edits.
For more information on Rate Your Story, Speed Passes or Submission Guidelines, click here:


  1. What you stated makes absolute sense! I have several artist portfolios, one for illustration, one for graphic design and a third for printed projects. Naturally, our stories should follow suit. Thanks for letting us know about Rate Your Story, I wasn't familiar with this web site but will definitely check it out.

  2. This is a great post! I can relate to your 'Writing Cave', Sophia, and am so glad you persevered with getting published.

  3. You've shared such great advice, Sophia. Thank you.

  4. I am working to establish my style in writing and illustration. Thanks for all your work at Rate Your Story. It's helpful to have "fresh eyes" to read and help move my manuscripts closer to submission.

  5. Sophia, Thank you for the advice on the importance of voice and style.

  6. Funny how being true to your natural voice can be such a continuing challenge...

  7. Wow, what a great post Sophia! This is the first time I've heard anything around how even writers need a stylistic consistent voice to their work. Of course illustrators hear it all the time, but I'm not sure how many writers actually realize that. My manuscripts for one, now that I think of it, are quite different from each other. I wonder if that will hold me back like it did for you. Thank you so much for the food for thought!

  8. I'm pretty sure my manuscripts have this problem of being all over the place with style. Thank you for pointing this out! Didn't think of it before.

  9. Thanks for the post. I've never really thought of applying style in this way to my writing. Good insight.

  10. The part where you say it took you two years to find your style really puzzled me. But then I thought about finding your own voice in MG and YA. You do need to find your own voice and what makes you unique. Wonderful reminder. Thanks, Sophia.