*steps out of DeLorean time machine* E. Michels of 2012, I’m here to warn you!
Yes, you. I see you, standing there in your cute boots. You’re smiling as you celebrate your first book deal, but you can hide a lot behind a big smile. I know. I remember. You’re worried. Someone just gave you the advice, “Keep writing. Don’t get distracted by your book releases.” But, that’s not what has you concerned. Once you’ve written most of a manuscript in a hospital waiting room, you can write anywhere, through anything. You know that. What worries you is what you write.
Let’s face it, you found your way though the slush pile pretty quickly. People in the publishing industry seemed to like that book. And, that’s great. But, now you’re writing another. The characters are different, the plot is different, and, soon with book 3, even the setting will be different. But, don’t sink into a mire of “what if” scenarios. That’s why I’m here. You’ll lose valuable days to worry over if book 2 is too dark, or if book 3 is too traditional. But, all you need to do is trust your voice.
I was recently at RWA Nationals—yeah, you finally get to go instead of looking at your Twitter feed and sobbing into a carton of ice cream for the week. While I was there, I went to a workshop where voice was discussed. They said your voice is like your accent. You can’t hear it, but it’s there. Readers can hear your voice in everything you write. It will always be there.
You could write cozy mysteries or fantasies that takes place on the moon, and it would still sound like you wrote it. Your characters could sit at a proper tea together or bury a body at midnight together, and they would still be your characters. Trust them to live their story. Trust yourself to write it. Trust that if your editor hates it, she’ll make you rewrite parts of it, but life will go on. And, trust your readers to follow along, curious about what you’ll attempt to write next.
Your voice is uniquely yours and you can’t change it, even if you try. So, just tell the story with no thoughts about branding or how you’re being marketed to the public. Stop stressing over what if this book isn’t ___, or what if it’s too ___, and just write the book. Seriously, Go. Write. The. Book! I’m not kidding, go write.
But, before you go and since I’m already on this soapbox, here are a few tips. You might want to get out your pink monogrammed pen and take some notes. I know you’re dying to use it anyway.
- Don’t wear silk to your first national conference no matter the level of cuteness of the outfit.
- Make time to see your friends even when you’re on deadline, trust me you’ll need their support.
- Don’t party like it’s the last night of the conference on the first night of the conference—seriously, this is a pattern. Just stop.
- You will survive your developmental edits. You’ll shake through dinner the last night, but you’ll survive. So, stop freaking out about them.
- NEVER trust a PDF document! EVER! Save a copy and make sure it contains your notations and comments before you click that little x.
- Prepare what you’ll say and the excerpt you’ll read before you show up for a book signing. There will be a podium and people expect more than a smile and a, “Thanks for coming.”
You’re in for a wild ride over the next two years. Enjoy the shining moments, don’t forget why you write stories, and trust your voice to be there beneath you as you go. Now, I must go at 88 mph back to the future. See you in 2014!
Let’s talk about voice. Have you ever doubted that your voice will carry from book to book?