Yes, you read that correctly.
Many of you know my brain works in mysterious ways (I know, you thought only God did that). Some of you might question whether my mind works at all. Let me explain my chocolate muse. (hmm is that kind of like a chocolate bunny?)
As I ate chocolate today (part of any balanced diet), I started thinking about chocolate—and writing—and chocolate—and writing. Yes, they’re two of my favorite things, but that’s not the point (I do have one, I promise).
I thought about all the different kinds of chocolate out there on the market—way too many to start naming—and yet there are new chocolates hitting the market all the time.
With so many different chocolates, there’s something for everyone. Sure, there are best sellers out there, but there are also specialty chocolates or lesser known brands/kinds that still have a small to medium sized following. And all that chocolate on the market doesn’t mean they should stop making chocolate—they just need to make it different than the chocolate already out there if they want greater success.
Let’s take Hershey’s Kisses, for example. The company didn’t stop with the basic Kiss in the silver wrapper—it was great, but could be so much more. So they added white chocolate and called them Hugs. They added caramel, cordial cherry crème, airy chocolate, etc. They changed it up and made it new (and they keep doing it).
Now, there are people out there who only like the original Kisses, there are others (myself included) who prefer the “filled” Kisses (cordial cherry Kisses are my favorite). Something for everyone (well, except those chocolate haters out there—you’re DNA is messed up ).
You probably already see what chocolate has to do with writing, but I’m going to explain it anyway. Just like the chocolate makers have to make their product different, so do we as writers. Not every new chocolate concoction will be a hit—and neither will our writing. In spite of all this, chocolatiers continue to make chocolate, and we should continue to make stories—we’re told to make them unique.
Ugh! There’s that horrible word that’s thrown at us by agents and editors. It’s awful because it’s so open to interpretation. Okay, dictionary.com says “unique” means:
1. existing as the only one or as the sole example; single; solitary in type or characteristics: a unique copy of an ancient manuscript.
2. having no like or equal; unparalleled; incomparable: Bach was unique in his handling of counterpoint.
Three and four deal with species and problems/solutions so I left them out.
5. not typical; unusual: She has a very unique smile.
So we use the Kiss recipe (let’s pretend we read it somewhere) and make a cordial cherry filled chocolate, but instead of shaping it like a Kiss, we make it a square. According to definition five, that’s unique. It was also a fairly simple change—all we did was change the shape. And that’s the problem.
Writing something unique is easy. Writing something unique that an editor or agent would want is much harder. They have so many different varieties of chocolate thrown at them everyday that your product has to really stand out—and making it similar to something else but changing its shape isn’t going to cut it.
Your voice. I’m not saying you can rewrite Twilight using your voice and have it be a bit hit. (would you even want to?) First of all, vampires are way over done—baked to death (which is what used to happen if they went out in the sun).
Still, your unique voice is what will have agents and editors scrambling to represent your writing—well, that and good writing. But I’ve read/heard some agents and editors say that if the voice is there, they can fix everything else. How do we get our voice to be the one they want?
There are books, vlogs, webinars, conference talks, etc. about this topic—but it’s often the most difficult thing to figure out. This post is already way too long, so I’ll stop here for today and discuss voice further in my next post(s).
If you’ve already mastered your voice, fantastic! Please feel free to share any tips or tricks I might miss in my future posts. For those still searching (or if you just want to do it), here’s some homework:
Grab a few (or several) of your favorite books (or bring them up on your e-reader)—they don’t have to be best sellers, but it would be great if at least one was. Make sure they’re from different authors. Read the first page of each book. Compare each author’s work to the others you’ve selected. Do you see a difference in voice? What makes them different?
Now print out the first page of your novel or work in progress and read it (reading it off your screen is cheating). Compare your writing to the work of the published authors. What does it tell you about your voice? Is your voice something “unique” that would catch an editor’s or agent’s eye? Write down why you think it would or wouldn’t. Hang onto that paper—we’ll come back to it.