What exactly are we searching for? The titles and stories that DON’T grab us. Yes, you heard me right. I’d like you to pay attention to your subjective judgments. What are you NOT picking up?
Why would we take the time to do this? We all know how subjective this business is. Surely, you have read books that made you think, “How did this get published?” The answer: Somebody loved it! Chances are, the author loved the book at that time, too. Something awakened their muse or their heart or tickled their funny bone. An emotion stirred inside of them to help them find their voice. Paying attention to the things we don’t like to read can help us find our voices, too.
Here is your challenge:
Browse the spines and notice the titles that pop out at you. Now, ignore those titles and look next door to the ones that you would never have picked up. Read some of those stories and take notes. You may or may not end up liking the story. I want you to pay attention to the things that you DON’T like. You might also browse through your Goodreads account and find the titles you were less than fond of. Pull them back out.
Was it simply a title that needed more pop? Or was it poor execution?
Lack of emotion?
A boring concept?
As you take notes, you should be searching for threads of similarities. Things that always bother you or don’t sit right.
Go ahead and exercise a critique of sorts- for your eyes only, of course. Through that critique, you will see what you would have done to strengthen the story. That’s where your voice kicks in. When we critique, we are offering up our subjective voice.
Now, go ahead and reverse this process. Select some of your favorite titles and take notes on the same types of things: Language devices, emotion, characters, concepts, plot styles, point of view… all of it! What similar threads are present? Are any of those things running through your current writing?
Finding your voice is not an overnight revelation. It’s a long process, and many multi-published authors admit that they are still searching for theirs. That makes sense when you consider that we are always changing and growing as we develop our craft. As outsiders looking in, sometimes it’s easier for us to see those similarities that qualify a voice. Here on the Carrie On… blogs, we’ve been analyzing voice each month through our Author Study posts. You’ll see voice present itself through almost anything an author writes. As editor Jill Santopolo shared at a recent SCBWI North Texas workshop, an author’s voice even comes out in an email. Have you ever noticed that? You’ve probably even picked up some of my voice by reading my posts. Have fun finding yours. If you see mine, let me know.