I’m cheating. Tonight I’m copying someone else’s blog and pasting it here because she made me sound very good and very smart. I met the author at the Emerald City writer’s conference last October here in Bellevue when I had the good fortune of joining her for Cherry Adair’s afternoon tea. I hadn’t seen her since but was very flattered she thought I had something useful to say on voice. And this is what she said:
‘The PRO retreat was this morning. There were several wonderful speakers, but I’m going to focus on Jane Porter’s comments. Jane wrote for fifteen years before she was finally published. To say that her persistence is astonishing is an understatement. Since 2000, she’s sold over four million books in twenty-five different countries. She writes both women’s fiction and category. Plus, I have to say this, she’s one of those people you can’t help but love. Her enthusiasm and joy at just being here is pretty contagious!
Jane’s stated subject was dealing with trends in publishing. Instead, she encouraged those present to figure out what they offer to readers and publishers that nobody else does. What is your voice? What are you bringing to the table? What’s in your ‘bag of tricks’? When you figure that out, work it. Do what you do best, and ignore the trends. You will sell on the strength of your voice, the excellence of your storytelling, and the profit a publisher believes they can make by featuring you instead of another author.
She talked at great length about trying to shoehorn herself into what she believed publishers were looking for. (She wrote a medieval that was 900 pages long, took five years, and didn’t sell, for instance.) She finally sold when she began to write as herself. (I have to say I don’t cry over books, but I was in tears over the end of The Frog Prince. She has such a gift for writing emotional, heartfelt heroines that have the feel of the real.) One of the phrases she used really struck me: “I’ve hurt, I’ve loved, I’ve lost.” If we haven’t, how can we write even fictional characters that have?
Don’t be afraid to be powerful or funny in your work, Jane says. Voice is best found in writing and editing. Don’t be afraid to throw things out if they’re not working. If you just can’t bear to part with the brilliance, keep a deleted scenes file on your computer. Keep tightening the screws on your plot and with your hero and heroine. You’ll keep your reader awake and reading, and that’s what you want!
What are you dying to do? What makes you hungry?
Don’t save anything for the next book, more will materialize when you need it. Light your voice on fire. Don’t hold anything back.’
And she got it right. Or me right. Or what I think is right. If you’re going to put pen to paper, give it your all. Write the juiciest, most exciting, most intriguing story you can. Don’t hold back. Pour it out. Give it your all.
Thank you, Julie. I owe you.