Agents complain that their slush piles overflow with variations of the same stories offered over and over, each by a writer without a unique writing voice. Why does this happen? And how can you prevent it from happening to you?
Your writing voice is a lot like your shadow. You don’t decide to have a shadow. You just do. In the same way, your writing is already part of you. Your personality, perceptions and beliefs combine with the little choices you make as you write to form your writing voice. Capturing such a will-o-the wisp can be as tough and pointless as trying to catch your own shadow.
If it’s that difficult to pin down your own writing voice, how much harder is it to imitate someone else’s? And yet, that’s what many writers do. We chase market trends and write without heart. We emulate other writers but fail to convince anyone of our truth. And if we live a lie long enough, we can forget who we were in the first place.
When Peter Pan first visited the Darling’s nursery, as you may recall, he was hunting for his shadow. When we as writers don’t trust our own voices, we become like Peter. We lose our shadows. It can take some doing to find those pesky shadows again, and even then they don’t reattach easily.
Peter needed Wendy’s help to sew his shadow back on. Sometimes it takes someone else’s efforts to put things right. If you’ve lost your writing voice or lack the confidence to trust it, seek honest feedback through writing groups, critique partners and/or mentors.
It’s worth the effort to try. Remember, Neverland awaits.