On an episode of Cheers, I think Frazier Crane best described the importance of using your own words by saying, “As Dr. Bennett Ludlow once said, ‘I shall speak no thoughts but mine own.’”
What is “your voice” you ask and how do you find it? Those are good questions. It’s certainly not like finding your car keys. It’s more akin to finding your faith. It’s that thing that calls to the reader from beyond the text, like a distant wind that whispers through the trees. (Wow, I’m a poet.) It’s like your spirit or maybe even the force. That’s right my young apprentice—gives your work strength, it does.
It’s not even something you can teach yourself; it’s something that just has to grow and evolve as you write. It’s that invisible constant that makes a body of work uniquely yours, sprinkled with your intellect, smothered in your wit, and with just a dash of your sarcasm.
Even though agents and publishers might say they’re looking for writers in the vein of Tom Clancy, James Patterson, John Grisham, or Stephen King, it doesn’t mean they want a writer who tries to emulate these guys. You will never find your voice if the words aren’t even yours.
That’s also why we learn to stay away from clichés. Phrases become clichés once they have been said a few billion times, so how unoriginal can you get? A person’s gaze can only bore a hole through so many souls.
I have a book in my office titled, “You Career in the Comics.” In it, an editor of one of the major syndication companies says, “People are always sending us cartoon ideas claiming they have the next Calvin and Hobbes. We don’t want the next Calvin and Hobbes; we want the next original idea.”
It’s the same with my business. Ever since Harry Potter hit the scene, a third of our submissions are about a young boy wizard. I can only imagine how many manuscripts out there involve vampires who sparkle.
Yes, this is two articles in a row where I make fun of the Twilight series, but hey, that’s my voice.
Neal Wooten, Publisher/Indie Author/Illustrator/Cartoonist