Welcome to an entire month of Top 5 Tips for Authors!
Every day this month my friends and I will bring you a new set of Top 5 Tips to help you along on your author journey. 2017 was a year of change in the Indie author world for sure. So many happenings. So many new things to learn. So many old things that didn’t quite do what you’d hoped. Well, every day is a new day. And every year is a new year. So we hope that this month’s worth of tips will get you the kick start you need to make 2018 your best yet and please feel free to ask questions and leave comments.
Lynn Raye Harris is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the HOSTILE OPERATIONS TEAM SERIES of military romances as well as 20 books for Harlequin Presents. A former finalist for the Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart Award and the National Readers Choice Award, Lynn lives in Alabama with her handsome former-military husband, two crazy cats, and one spoiled American Saddlebred horse named Reggie. Lynn’s books have been called “exceptional and emotional,” “intense,” and “sizzling.” She has sold over 3 million copies worldwide. You can learn more at her website or come and visit her at her Facebook page. Lynn loves hearing from her readers! To sign up for Lynn’s newsletter–where you’ll be kept up to date about all of Lynn’s books–text the word HOTTIES to 66866 or go to http://bit.ly/LRHNews
FIND YOUR AUTHOR VOICE
Hey, y’all! I’ve been a romance writer for a loooong time. I started writing romance in the 90s, back when the only way you were getting published was getting through the magical gates of traditional publishing. After lots of starts and stops, I did finally enter those gates in 2008 when Harlequin bought the first book I targeted to them.
Targeted to them is the important part here. Why? Because it means, after bebopping around Romancelandia and writing whatever struck my fancy, that I finally found my voice. Oh, I started and stopped a lot of manuscripts. I wrote a huge historical romance, a time travel novella, a contemporary small town mash-up that had some military stuff in it, and a couple of paranormal/urban fantasy type things that never got beyond a couple of chapters.
I had tons of ideas! And I wrote whatever struck me. Which is FINE. You can do that if you must. But you have to find your voice in order to make your stories memorable, and then you have to make it shine. Ideally, you want someone to be able to pick up a book you wrote and know it’s yours from the word choice, the rhythm, the sentence structure, the characters’ way of speaking and thinking on the page – and it doesn’t matter if the book is paranormal or contemporary or historical. It should be YOU.
So how do you find that author voice, the one that is authentic to you?
1 KNOW WHAT YOU LIKE TO READ
Chances are really good that what you read the most of, what sings to you and makes your reader heart happy, is what you are most suited to write. If dark alphas do it for you, then you should be looking at writing that kind of hero. Never mind that you’d be horrified by him in real life. If you identify with a certain kind of story, that’s most likely where your voice lies. Run with it and see what happens.
2 DON’T COPY
So you’ve realized that what makes your reader heart happy is a dark, tortured alpha male and a virginal, innocent heroine. That’s been done a LOT, hasn’t it? Sure it has. But not by you. What you bring to the table is your own unique perspective on those characters and their situation. I wrote for Harlequin Presents before I went indie, and the hallmark of that line is a dark, tortured alpha male who is bossier than hell and typically much more powerful than the heroine. You remember titles like CARRYING THE SHEIKH’S HEIR or BOUGHT FOR THE GREEK’S PLEASURE, right? Do you have any idea how many of those types of books have been published by Harlequin over the years? When I wrote them, there were 6 per month, 12 months a year, year after year. That’s a LOT of books! But here’s the important part: not one of them was exactly the same as the others. Why? Voice. We are all different as writers and we make different choices, even when given the same plot. Don’t slavishly copy someone else’s stylistic choices – it’s not YOUR style!
3 IT’S THE RHYTHM, BABY
There are only 26 letters in the alphabet – and a million billion ways to combine those letters into words. And then there are a million billion ways to combine those words into sentences. HOW you put your words into sentences is part of your voice. It’s your choices that make your voice, just like it’s my choices that make mine. This blog post is filled with my voice. It’s what I choose to put on the page, and what I choose to leave out, that crafts the entire thing into something that is uniquely me. It’s all about the rhythm!
4 LET YOUR PERSONALITY SHINE
Voice is also personality. Yours. You may be a funny person who writes dark, but somewhere that wit is going to come out because it’s YOU. Your voice isn’t just words and rhythm. It’s your personality shining through your work. You can be totally in your story, in your character’s heads, and still let who you are come through the words. You want to be a writer to tell stories, right? Then tell them from the heart, from yourself. Trying to sound like someone you aren’t isn’t authentic. Trying to write seriously when you’re funny, or funny when you haven’t cracked a smile in a decade, is probably going to fall flat with your readers. Because it’s not YOU. Be you. That’s what readers respond to.
5 DON’T COMPARE
You probably have some favorite authors you like to read. And you probably think that nothing you ever write will be half as good as what they do when they put fingers to keyboard, right? Honey, I hear you. We all feel that way. We’ve all read a passage from a book and thought, “Damn, that was perfect. I need to give up and go raise llamas now.” It happens. But here’s the thing. When finding your author voice, when honing it and working on it and learning your craft so you can shine, don’t compare yourself to others. Your favorite author’s voice is not your voice and never will be. So don’t beat yourself up wondering why you can’t sound like Betty Bestseller and have exactly the career she has. Comparison is the thief of joy, according to Teddy Roosevelt. Don’t let your joy die because you think your voice isn’t good enough. Be you. Don’t be Betty. We already have Betty. We need you.