Friday, September 12, 2008

Where's That Little Voice Coming From?

From inside gossip girls at the National Conference in San Francisco, I heard voice is the X-factor responsible for selling manuscripts these days. One publisher even said no matter whether they had an open hole in a subgenre, if the voice was strong enough, they’d work it into the line-up. Which makes the way those words come out of your head and onto the paper super special. That is if you want to hit pay dirt for your hard work.

Ever noticed how most of the bestselling authors have their own little something? That’s their voice. The way they tell a story like no one else can, just like a verbal storyteller who entrances listeners with their spoken words. Authors do it with every written word, working the letters into something magical. For instance, do you think Susan Elizabeth Phillips could pull off a J.R. Ward paranormal? How about Mary Janice Davidson penning a straight suspense like Lisa Jackson? See how each has their own kind of story and way of telling it compared to the other? That’s the difference voice can make while it’s power sets you apart from the romance crowd.

This is also an inherent problem if you write in one sub-genre, especially when your editor wants you to write according to the hot new trend (since you’re an established author). It can mean the decision to write something you never thought you would, or having to walk away from your publisher. Some see it as a newly open window that can stretch their boundaries. Others writers can be crippled by the pressure to conform in a subgenre they don’t understand. For example, visualize writing a scene that involves sacrificing a chicken for a graphic spell, when your style prompts you to replace that squawking fowl with a plastic chicken so no animals are harmed in the spell casting…or to save your designer shoes. See how those could be tough shoes to fill? Imagine the pressure you might be under if you were called to do the impossible at your best level.

I write in several sub-genres, yet I still have a similar voice across my manuscripts. I never really thought about creating it. For me it flows as I concentrate on the characters. My voice has matured over the years, because I’ve gotten better at the mechanics of writing. However, alters slightly depending on the sub-genre I’m writing in. After all the tone can change the cadence of the language I use between comedies and hard hitting paranormals.

Think of the way a historical is very different than a romantic comedy. If your novel is set in colonial America the language and tone of society will be far different. So the voice should be amended while remaining true to the author’s way of writing. Also, there are a variety of Regencies. For instance Sabrina Jeffries’ humorous historicals are as accurate in detail as Amanda Quick’s, but the way the two authors write vary extremely.

So what’s the moral of this story? Write how you write, curb your flow only when necessary and for gosh sakes don’t edit out your voice in revisions!




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1 comment:

Savanna Kougar said...

Hi Skylar, thanks for your great insights. Interesting about publishers wanting a 'strong' voice.