A Cautionary Tale by Amy Kennedy

I was at my first (only) Romance Writers of America convention listening to a panel of authors discuss how they came to be published. Eve Silver/Kenin said she always wanted to write light, humorous Regencies. So, she started writing one, except, it became dark and brooding. What was wrong? She tried again. A different  story, same darn outcome — dark, dark, dark.  Finally, she figured it out: light was not her voice. D’oh! Once she fell into her natural writing voice, the words and the stories came easily. Now, she is a well-pubbed author with Gothic, Post-Apocalyptic, and Paranormal Romances to her credit, with nary a light one in the bunch.
 
My mouth hung open, just a little, when I heard this story.
I had the exact opposite problem. I wanted to write dark, brooding tales; paranormal romances with tortured, damaged (did I say tortured?) heroes and heroines who’d fought back against enormous odds. So, I’d start to write something dark and Gothic and brooding, and everything would fall apart. One liners flew out of nowhere,  physical comedy dashed itself onto the page, and banter, banter, banter — ack! could no one just have a meaningful (tortured) conversation? Do you see where I’m going?
I could not write dark.
Okay. So, there’s this wildly talented author telling me she tried to write light, and couldn’t. Maybe, just maybe, I should learn something from this. So I gave in, I let the banter fly, let the physical comedy run amok — I enjoyed writing again. I enjoyed it. I’m not saying it was/is brilliant, but I enjoyed it, wanted to get back to my characters, back to the situations I had thrown them into. It was fun!
So my point, and I do have one, is: To thine own writing voice be true.
That’s all, don’t force yourself to be Ernest Hemingway if you’re actually Janet Evanovich, and certainly don’t be Janet if you are, indeed, Ernest.
Don’t. You’ll be happier, trust me.
~*~

29 comments

  1. Great job listening to your inner voice — even if it took hearing an ‘outer’ voice to get you there. 🙂 Who says you can’t have banter in dark and…er…not so brooding. ;p Good luck!

  2. Excellent advice! I often hear that you should write what you like to read. Well, one of things I like to read is intense literature (Anna Karenina, Madame Bovary, Jane Eyre), but there is NO WAY I could write that. I enjoy wordplay and sarcasm too much to pull off dark and brooding for long. Thanks for the reminder to go with your own flow, Amy.

    1. Julie, I adore dark and brooding (loved Madame B, spent a whole summer, I think reading The Brothers Karamozov, Tess of the D’Ubervilles (sp?) is a book I still think about) so I understand. Could I write those? No. Do I think it’s still important to read outside your voice? Yes.

      Thanks for stopping by.

    1. The same thing happened to me. I started out trying to write straight fantasy and soft sci-fi…and romances would just appear in the story. When I realized every novel I planned had a romance at the heart of it, I just gave up. I’ve never enjoyed writing more than now. 🙂

      1. It sounds to me that you are deeply connected with your characters. The truth is, romance happens… in almost every genre, there is an element of romance. You’ve just been able to accept that and make the intimacy between your characters a story as well.

        I wondered for a long time if I wasn’t doing a similar thing. Thanks for the reminder that “it’s okay” to write those stories, because they matter too.

    2. Exactly.

      To everyone. I’m a romance writer as well — apparently, romantic comedy! Remember, people will always want to tell you what you should be writing…don’t listen, unless, of course, they’re right!

  3. Such a great post, Amy! What we’d like to write, as opposed to what naturally flows from us, may be two very different things. I hadn’t looked at it in this way before, but it makes perfect sense.

    1. Nadja, I think what we would end up wanting to write would be our natural voice — if we let it flow. Yet, that big old SHOULD always pops up. This is what I should write like, etc. Remember to be true.

  4. Oh my goodness Amy! This helps me out so much. I’ve wanted to write about beautiful pretty things for years, but instead everything I sit down to write is gritty and dark. And I’ve always been a little upset about that, but I never considered the fact that is part of my writing voice. Thank you so much for this post. It really illuminates the myth of what I have thought for years and shows me the truth.

    1. Oh, Jayrodpg, sheesh, give yourself a break. Let all that stuff flow — see what happens. The author I wrote about is wonderful and bright and shiny — funny and bright, it’s just her voice that’s dark and brooding. I see you as a light filled person, so don’t be down on yourself for writing dark. Go with it. See what happens.

  5. That was very insightful, and concise! Thank you for not rambling.

    I’ve been confused about this lately. Many of my shorts or my random posts come out light and humorous. But when I’m working on a novel, the humor rarely shows. I’m not sure why that is, but I’m not willing to force it.

  6. I love this! When I first entered the publishing world, I felt like all the signs pointed to writing something that was marketable, something agents could sell. I’m so glad I stuck with my voice, although I’m still discovering it in large part.

    Thanks for a great and inspiring post, Amy!

  7. Oh Tia, I think you’ll continue to discover your voice. And there’s nothing that says it might not change! You sound as if you’d go with it changing as well. Good for you. Thanks for stopping by!

  8. Amy, I agree wholeheartedly. It’s funny because I write both, depending on how long or short the piece is. But I ENJOY the lighthearted, funny pieces sooooo much more. I’ve had to really fight with my voice a bit on the whole subject. Eventually (when I got out of my own way) the lighter side triumphed.

    No wonder I like you so dang much, eh??

  9. Amy, you have hit the proverbial nail on the head with this post –how very true.🙂 Every time I sit down to write something light-hearted and warming (through rose-tinted glasses) I struggle -I mean hugely; this peeved me off big-style and I kept fighting against it (obviously that was a wrong thing to do). It’s only recently I’ve decided to let things flow the way they want -and like you say in your post, my voice knows what it wants to write and airy-fairy does not seem to be part of its vocabulary.🙂

    Thanks for a great post!

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