This post was previously published in a different version on So You Think You Can Write. We’re republishing here as part of our #RomanceIncludesYou initiative to introduce new authors to writing for Harlequin. Read on for tips from Senior Editor Patience Bloom on the sometimes elusive concept of “voice” in writing.
A writer’s voice is essential. You hear this all the time but how do you achieve “voice” enough to capture an editor’s interest? Why is it important? The reason why editors stress “a great voice” is because it makes the story special and unique. Each author has her own voice.
You know why you like your best friend. She’s thoughtful, enjoys pizza and reading—like other friends—but your best friend is unique. You won’t find anyone else like her. It’s the same with romance writers. There are several cowboy/FBI/wedding stories, but the author’s voice will bring a special twist to her romance.
It can be easy to spot a writer who hasn’t quite reached her groove. The pacing is off, disjointed with two-dimensional characters, a cackling villain rubbing his hands together and a godmother who appears at the perfect time with the solution to everyone’s problem. There is a sense of sameness that, frankly, could come from chasing a trend or trying to write in the most saleable way. Some of that is okay (because you want your book to sell), but readers also want to be moved, transported, and the only way to do that is to live inside your romance and find your own way of communicating it.
Here are a few suggestions to find that all-important voice of your own:
Practice: The more you write, the more you commune with your creative self and your voice. Some writers are so deeply in touch with how they write that they’ll write a sentence a week and be bestsellers. You can hate them, but of course, keep buying their books. When in doubt, keep writing.
Remove distractions: Go find a quiet corner. Turn off the TV and tell your pets/children/spouse to entertain themselves while you consult with your muse. It’s just you and your words. If you need noise in order to write, by all means, go for it. Focus on the story you want to write and write it.
Follow the Yellow Brick Road: You know when you’re going in the right direction but if you have trouble with directions and go on a million detours, practice and forget about all these driving metaphors! Keep thinking about your story. Ask yourself what the most challenging/exciting/romantic next step will be for your characters. If you get lost or bored, take a walk and look for signs of what to do next.
Challenge yourself to write a better scene, story, character. Even while you’re humming along, the hero and heroine are falling in love oh-so easily, can you think of how you can improve your story even more? Push yourself to the point where you can’t wait to find out what happens next.
Study other romance writers’ works and figure out what makes their stories so original.
And then practice some more.
No matter where you are in your story, we want to be here as teachers, editors, and we hope the publisher of your great romance!