Tuesday, August 16, 2011

What does your voice really sound like?

This wasn't what I was going to blog about today, but yesterday Smarty Pants sent me an email:

Kim - could you post on your blog tomorrow that I'm debuting on the Desire Author blog tomorrow on eHarlequin? Here's the link.

It's not an uncommon request on the Playground. I'm sure you've seen these little announcements at the bottom of everyone's posts as we make our way around the internet (spreading joy and happiness!). But it made me think (and since I'm deep in revisionland, thinking is an oddity): we've come a long way in five years.

When we started the blog, I was targeting Desire and Andrea was writing single title paranormals. Now she's writing for Desire and I'm writing for Presents. Kira was targeting Blaze by then, but she had at least one IM under the bed. None of us are exactly where we thought we'd be when we started writing.

It just goes to show that some of the most common writing advice isn't always golden. "Write what you love to read" should be "Submit to the line that you think best fits your voice and your story." It makes sense -- after all, voice makes the story, and if your story is a sweeping historical, that sassy, modern voice isn't going to cut it. But sometimes, you may not know exactly where your voice fits. Your voice may not sound like what you think it sounds like.

I think a lot of aspiring authors think "I love X kinds of books, therefore I must have an X kind of voice." That's not true. I love big fat historicals, but I couldn't write one to save my life. It would be a tragedy of epic fail proportions. Your voice is how you write, not what you write.

So how do you know if you're trying to write the wrong kind of book for your voice. If you're lucky, an editor will tell you. If an editor tells you, "I think you might be better off submitting to X," believe them.

If you don't have an editor handy, I'd ask a friend. Preferably a friend who reads a wide variety of romance novels from different subgenres and lines. Give her some sample pages and ask her what kind of book it sounds like.

And read widely yourself. We all tend to narrow our focus and read heavily in the lines/subgenres we want to target, but reading widely might help you see that your book is wrong for your voice. Erotic romance sizzles and pulses with energy. Long. languid sentences and flowing exposition won't fly. Romantic suspense needs to feel heavier and tense with spurts of energy to match the plot points. Lightwieght, carefree prose need not apply. Try to be honest with yourself: is your voice really right for that kind of book?

It may be a hard task. Deciding that you don't have the voice to write for the line you love can be difficult and lead to depression. But if you stay open to the possibilities and learn to respect this unique part of your writing, you may find yourself a happy home in the last place you expected.

P.S. Yep, Instigator is spreading joy and happiness this morning too on the eharlequin Blaze Celebration. Come learn what she thinks makes Blaze so special.


Smarty Pants said...

Reminds me of the line from While You Were Sleeping - "Life doesn't always turn out the way you plan." That doesn't mean it's bad, just different. I bounced around for years trying to find the publisher and line that 'got me.' Did I expect to land where I did? No, but I'm embracing it. Make the most of the opportunities that come your way.

(I, too, could never write one of those research laden historicals. I loved them in my youth, but writing one... absolutely not.)

Playground Monitor said...

"None of us are exactly where we thought we'd be when we started writing."

Amen to that! Both my writing and my life took a crazy turn. I just want to be able to sit down at the computer and not draw a blank. ~whine~

Cheryl said...

I keep thinking my voice is a light contemporary but people who read my stuff keep saying "suspense." Gee, do you think I should listen? LOL! I had enough suspense on my last job; didn't think I wanted it for this one. But I guess that's who I am.

Instigator said...

There's another favorite saying on the Playground - the universe is unfolding the way that it should. Sometimes it's hard to let go of one thought/hope/dream when it's what we've always wanted. But sometimes when we do something better is just waiting in the wings to take the place of that idea.

Cheryl, maybe you should look at it as an opportunity to purge some of those emotions/experiences onto the page? And I think suspsense would definitely give you the chance to use the unique knowledge you've gathered over the years. Knowledge, experiences and stories that only YOU could have. And that's really part of voice too.


Problem Child said...

The thing about voice is that you have to listen to it...