By Melody Carlson, Author of Courting Mr. Emerson
Have you ever walked into a bookstore with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves stuffed with every imaginable title . . . and suddenly you wanted to give up? As a book writer, I’ve been overwhelmed like that many a time. I’ve honestly asked myself, why does the world need one more book? And why a book written by me? And yet, I’ve continued to write—for more than three decades now, publishing more than 250 books. What keeps me at it? And what makes me think I have anything new or different to offer the world of readers? I still ask myself that occasionally.
That’s when I remind myself that each writer is unique. Every writer has their own individual voice. Like a thumbprint, we’re all one-of-a-kind and not reproducible. Try as you might, you cannot convincingly duplicate the voice of a Nicolas Sparks, Barbara Kingsolver . . . Flannery O’Conner. Oh, you might imitate their style, setting, genre . . . but you’ll never fully capture their voice. Why would you even try? An attempt to emulate another writer usually results in a muddy replica that no one fully enjoys.
But I must confess that, as simple as the concept of distinct writer’s voice seems, it took time for me to fully grasp this phenomenon. Oh, I could recognize characteristic traits in the voices of other writers, but for some reason I couldn’t seem to ‘hear’ my own writing voice. Even after I’d published a number of novels, I questioned whether I even had a voice. Perhaps I was the one and only ‘voiceless’ writer. Not a title I relished.
Then one time, I wrote an anonymous letter of endorsement to a publishing associate (hoping to help a friend’s book into print). My publishing friend informed me that he knew I’d written that letter. When I questioned how he knew, he said he could clearly hear my voice. The incident made me laugh, both with relief and irony. So maybe I did have a voice after all. It helped me realize that, as a writer, it can be hard to ‘hear’ our own voices. Another good excuse for good editors, savvy critique groups and honest readers.
Besides having a voice to set us apart and make us unique, we all have our own stories to tell. Stories comprised of diverse backgrounds, unique challenges, individual experiences, not to mention our one-of-a-kind DNA. All of this contributes to making our writing truly distinctive. Just one more reason not to be concerned over the fact that there are so many writers, or that more than a million books get published around the world annually. So next time you feel overwhelmed in a big bookstore, just remember that no one has a voice quite like yours. You are in good company!
Melody Carlson is the award-winning author of over two hundred books with sales of more than seven million, including many bestselling Christmas novellas, young adult titles, and contemporary romances. She received a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award in the inspirational market for her many books, including Finding Alice. She and her husband live in central Oregon. Learn more at www.melodycarlson.com.