Friday, October 11, 2019

Writing with Authenticity--Why It's Important to Foster a Unique Voice in Your Art

Publishing is an interesting game.  Like all business owners, some publishers are wary of risk.  They want books that adhere to tried and true formulas of plot or purpose.  Fiction in certain genres--think romance--even have formulas to follow.  Agents who specialize in these books know the formulas and automatically reject manuscripts that don't follow them.  So uniqueness isn't necessarily a winning card in your submission game.

Yet it is.  More often, I've heard from agents about the boredom they feel with stories that repeat the same themes, the same trends.  They look for something that will "make them miss their subway stop"--a cliche I'm sure you've heard or read about on agency sites.  

So how do you keep a necessary balance between unique and same?  Once you know the "rules" of your genre, be it fiction, nonfiction, or memoir, how many of those rules do you break, consciously?      

Here's another way to look at it:  It matters less that you bust out of the tradition of your genre than if you write with authenticity.  My belief is that if we write as ourselves, not as a mimic of some writer we admire, and we foster that inherently unique voice that only we own, the reader (and agent/publisher) will feel the uniqueness and be drawn in.

This takes some practice.  Maturity too.  Most of us start out as copiers of voice, even without knowing it.  That's OK.  Art is learned by modeling those who have gone before.  But persisting in the search for our own voice as writers is essential if you want to reach readers and play the publishing game with your self intact.  

How do you find your voice, as a writer?  It's often buried in defensive layers--the inner critic is an expert at hiding voice, because speaking up is risky.  I found it took me years to learn to respect my writing voice--it's lyrical, I love imagery (being also a painter), and I'm fascinated by complicated relationships.  If I stick to those elements, not try to write apart from them, my voice is truer and the writing feels authentic.  And sells.

I read an article this week by Danielle Burby, an agent with Nelson Literary in Colorado.  She spoke about uniqueness being a key factor in getting signed by an agent and selling your manuscript in today's competitive market.  But as I studied her suggestions, I found them all had to do with authenticity more than anything.  

In preparation for my workshop on October 24 at the Loft on The Art of Voice and Theme in Fiction and Memoir (click here to find out more), I've been studying anew how writers locate voice, nurture it, bring it alive on the page.  I have some excellent new exercises and ideas to pass along, so please consider joining me for this afternoon workshop.  And if you'd like to read Danielle's words on the topic, click here.  Subscribe to their monthly newsletter for more.  

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