We Need To Talk

At our editorial staff meeting earlier tonight, we had a question come up that raised quite a few hackles. It concerns a response we hear too often from authors during edits and, when paired with a related problem, strikes at the heart of why some writers click and others struggle.

Here’s the refrain we hear too often: “But Dickens [or insert any other megafamous author of choice here] does it that way all the time.”

Here’s the related problem: “I’m the next Nora” [or insert any other megafamous author of choice here]

First of all, there are no Weird Al Yankovic’s in writing. Dickens (or whoever) isn’t writing your story. YOU are. You wrote a whole story in your voice, and shouldn’t suddenly thrust a completely different style on the reader for one or two sentences and expect it not to stand out and trip the reader. In addition, no one will be inserting your name into that argument someday if you don’t write the story your way

Second, there will only be one Nora. Stop chasing her market and create your own.

How? By writing the stories that inspire you. Readers can smell an author who’s phoning it in. Editors can spot those authors from space. Call it “write what you know”, “write what you love” or any other catchphrase du jour, but if you’re not inspired by what you’re writing, no one else will be, either.

So, get inspired and stay inspired. Write your own book, your way.

Thanks. I feel much better now.

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One Response

  1. I think the problem lies when an aspiring author sees their other friends publishing, when they read Nora and say, well it’s working for them–I did this. You KNOW I did this. Everything anyone said at one point, I was doing it and if you’re not published and reading this, trust me, what Emma just said up there is so true. I had a Harlequin editor tell me that she loved the story, loved the premise, but as she was reading, she said my voice would totally change and it left her thinking “what the hell?” her EXACT words.

    Just because Wendy Writer does it and it appears to be working for her or just because Nora does it, doesn’t mean it will work for you.

    Sage advice, this. I think more editors/publishers should speak up like this. My kudos to you Emma. Folks, she’s telling you exactly what she wants and exactly what she doesn’t. You cannot get more cut and dry than this!

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