Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Finding Your Style And Your Voice

I frequently hear writers tell me their fear of writing for a traditional market, especially one such as a category or series line is that they "won't be able to showcase their own voice." There is a belief that if you are "forced into a mold" you lose out on that "uniqueness" of your own writing. This couldn't be further from the truth. It is still very possible to maintain your own unique voice and still meet the needs of a publisher or their given line. It just takes time to do so.

When I talk to authors about voice and style, I often like to take them outside of the realms of writing and look into other fields. Here in Seattle, the music scene is pretty dang big. Back in August of 1991, a fellow classmate of mine by the name of Dave Krusen was part of a group that helped to
guide the Seattle music scene into the forefront of the world. With the release of a small little album entitled TEN, a local group by the name of Pearl Jam was now out there! I mention Pearl Jam here because at that time, there were a lot of other groups starting up and doing much of the same thing. Nirvana releases SMELLS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT the same year.

Both of these groups (as well as many others) were all grouped into the same genre, but when you look at the lyrics, the tone, the voice and the style, each is completely unique. In no way did they lose their voice and style by being part of a specific genre.

We see the same thing with artists, architects and so forth. Each can be part of a larger scheme and still maintain that uniqueness. This, however, is not something that is going to happen over night. Finding that unique voice is going to take time. According to David Starkey, author of CREATIVE WRITING: FOUR GENRES IN BRIEF, he reminds authors " that developing a distinctive individual style is a process that occurs over a long period of time; it generally doesn't happen during a single creative writing course" (or in this case one book you may write.

I think it is important to note he uses the term "developing" and the title of this post uses the word "finding". A personal voice and style is not something you sit down and create out of the blue. Authors do not sit down and say, "I am going to be an author who is known for writing romances with a truly American feel." Although it would be great to do so, that voice and style doesn't happen that way. You will end up discovering that voice as you write and find yourself comfortable with certain plot devices and plot lines. You will find yourself returning more often than not to certain techniques in your writing as you craft your stories.

In many ways, finding that voice is similar to people getting nicknames. Babe Ruth did not sit down one day and suddenly create that name for himself. It developed over time. The same goes for all of those other nicknames we call people. The nickname grew organically from the things the person said or the way a person acted.

The key to finding that voice is to just pay attention to what you are doing. Don't force things to happen, just let the writing happen.

As an agent, this is something we do with authors during that "career building" part of our working relationship. And yes, your publishers will do the same thing for you. We take something that is in your writing and slowly shape and mold it. We aren't turning you into something you aren't. We are simply discovering in you that voice and style that was hidden away.

1 comment:

  1. I only had a few minutes to read blogs tonight and was scrolling through and saw Pearl Jam. I had to click through of course. Well played...well played.