“Publishers like my writing – generally. But they keep telling me I don’t have a distinctive ‘voice.’ What are they are they talking about?”
Because I’ve heard this statement so many times in my many years of coaching writers I want to offer a primer on it here. Because it’s true, publishers look for authors who, among other things, have a distinctive voice.
First – What is voice?
Someone can be the voice of a certain movement or school of thought or art. That person, we would say, is a thought-leader, a way-shower, an innovator. The man or woman who is articulating a new way of seeing the world, approaching a subject, or doing things.
That isn’t most of us, though. So – what about the rest of us? How do we think about, and understand, our individual voice?
Voice – to use a metaphor – is like varietals of wine blended in the same bottle – say 50% Cabernet Franc, 30% Merlot, 20% Petit Verdot. A skillful vintner finds the strong varietal to present is the “forward” or dominant taste, then shades the blend with other varietals to present other subtle flavors that enhance the beverage that will slide from the bottle into your glass.
Understanding your voice as a writer has similarities. You need to develop a keen awareness of what you really know, what you’re passionate about, what type of communication you’re good at (say, narrative or non-fiction), what your intention or mission or goal is (what you want your reader to know, do or become).
Now when it comes to self-awareness, most of us need to do a bit of reflection. That to say, if you don’t understand what your particular voice is, don’t fret. But do explore.
In this series I’ll touch on important aspects of voice, and help you continue to develop awareness of yours.
Next time: Why Finding Your Voice is Important