As writers we constantly hear about ‘voice.’ Your voice is the way you say things, what you say, the way you present your story to the reader. It is your persona that shines through the words. Many readers can tell who the author of a book is by the way the book reads e.g. J.D. Robb’s Eve responds to adversity in quite a different way from a Gayle Wilson heroine. Whereas Eve punches her way through problems, solving them by putting herself in the perpetrator’s shoes, Gayle Wilson’s Susan (from Wednesday’s Child) or Sarah (from Victim) are more covertly intellectual. Susan and Sarah wait and agonize and wonder and eventually, when a clue is discovered, not necessarily by them, they take action. Eve is more likely to discover the clues herself and roar into action.
There are as many different ways to say something as there are writers, and as many ways to interpret the words as there are readers. Remember that favorite saying of editors—you can take the same story, give it to ten writers, and get back ten totally different stories? The education and socio-economic background of a writer influence the way they pose a question or solve a problem. The geographical background of an author also influences a writer mightily e.g. the voice of a writer from the Bronx who never made it to college, or even one who got to college later on in life, will sound very different from an author with a double degree from Harvard. And that is why a writer need never be afraid of someone stealing his/her ideas. Everyone perceives a scene or a person from their unique point of view.
A particular voice appeals to a particular group of readers. It is why people say, “Oh, I couldn’t stand her. She waffles on and on about scenery until I lose track of the story” or “He gets so deep into forensics that I don’t understand it.” On the other hand, those same readers will enthuse “Loved it. Loved the whole series. Easy to understand but with just enough mystery to keep me interested.” In other words, each to his own.
Some writers have tried to change their voice to suit various publishers/publications. Sometimes it works; more often it doesn’t. You are not being true to yourself as a writer (nor are you being true to your established readers) if you’re struggling to dance to someone else’s tune. A writer I admire who changes her settings greatly yet stays true to her voice is Jayne Ann Krentz. Futuristic, historical, contemporary or paranormal, you can tell a JAK (a.k.a. Amanda Quick and Jayne Castle) novel because of her quirky characters and her voice. You can pick up any one of her books and say “That’s a Jayne Ann Krentz.” And that is the root of her success. Her readers can switch genres but still be satisfied. For example, I would never have begun reading paranormals if it wasn’t that JAK was writing strongly in that genre. I admired JAK’s voice so much that I began reading first her paranormals, and then other people’s.
The problem with trying to alter your voice to suit someone else is that every word must be agonized over, every phrase rethought and it is very difficult not to become stilted. Trying to fit into a particular publisher’s pigeon-hole can be draining, and in the end, pointless (within reason. If an editor gives you suggestions, mull them over and see if that style suits you). There are paper publishers and e-publishers out there who will like your voice. Sure, breaking into publishing is harder than finding the philosopher’s stone, but find your niche and stick with it for a while before you expand. Perhaps then you might feel confident enough to carry your voice over to a different genre i.e. you could move from cozies to romantic suspense or from adventure to sci-fi. Whatever you do, your voice will follow. It’s part of you. Understand it. Respect it. Nurture it.
Vonnie is a New Zealander living in Australia. She loves animals and jogging. She writes Regencies and romantic suspense novels and short stories. See her full bio on www.vonniehughes.com She is presently working on a romantic suspense, working title: Innocent Hostage and a Regency novella, working title: A Tale of Two Sisters.
Her earliest book is still available. It’s called COMING HOME and is about a soldier and a nurse, thrown together during the Napoleonic wars, who find more danger on their return to England than they ever did on the Iberian Peninsula. As well as in hardback, this can now be bought in e-book form from her Amazon site http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_no...ghes&x=18&y=20
THE SECOND SON, e-published by MUSA is actually a prequel to COMING HOME. A second son, filled with angst, stands to inherit a title and property through the death of a brother he has always loathed and mistrusted. A young disabled woman teaches him how to find his self-respect and how to love. http://www.musapublishing.com/index....products_id=98
On January 13, 2012, The Wild Rose Press published both as a paperback and an e-book, Vonnie’s romantic suspense LETHAL REFUGE, which isset in New Zealand. An independent, mistrusting woman witnesses a murder and is thrown into the witness protection program. There she meets a police psychologist who demands complete trust from all the relocatees so he can help them adapt to their new lives. Fur flies when they are stalked by the killer who seems to be connected to the relocation team. Also available on Amazon here:
Another Regency Historical, MR. MONFORT’S MARRIAGE, was e-published by MUSA on January 27, 2012. Matthew Monfort is a businessman who is inveigled into marrying an earl’s daughter. With good reason he loathes the ton, so his new wife needn’t think she’s going to win him over, even though she’s quite delightful…and intelligent…and sweet…However Verity shows him that not all members of the ton are idle layabouts and that he can do much good with his largesse and with—shock, horror—the unexpected and embarrassing title conferred on him by Prinny.