I did an Ask Me Anything hour with Inkitt today and have been thinking about one of the questions posed to me ever since.
If you’ve ever read my bio on my site, I pretty much pledge my love of em dashes and alliteration (all in moderation, says the inner editor). One of the writers on today’s AMA saw this and noted that he does, too; however, he’s under the impression that publishing is leaning towards “a more ‘internet’ style of writing that eschews any ‘fancy’ punctuation or stylistics excesses.”
He wanted to know how I balance the possibilities of style while staying marketable.
I had a few reactions to this.
First, I got a kick out of em dashes being called fancy. I was flattered, on behalf of em dashes everywhere. I curtsied and batted my lashes and everything.
Then, my heart began to break a little. It does this every time I think about a writer being discouraged by this vague idea of “the market.”
So then…I got into cheerleader mode and wrote him my response:
When it comes to your voice and writing style (and I know this is going to sound idealistic) but the market should be the last thing you’re thinking about. The market is always changing. It is, more importantly, being changed by new and exciting voices. People and their views and experiences are being changed by new and exciting voices. So there’s no point in trying to write in a voice or style that isn’t yours (it’d be like trying to wear clothes that’s completely uncomfortable—none of us would wear it well, and our discomfort would be obvious). Better to devote that time and energy to YOUR voice, the one that’s true and that, by virtue of it being the right voice for you, would be the one you write in best.
And lastly I gave him a small disclaimer, to not mistake excessive habits for style or voice. (More of that in an older post here.)
And then we come to now. Now, I’m still thinking about this because I realize that getting the old “don’t worry about the market” advice from a published writer is probably the last thing a writer who is hoping to be published ever wants to hear. It sounds like one of those, “easy for you to say” pieces of advice.
But here’s the thing about your voice. About finding it. About claiming it. About shaping it as you grow and accepting that, just as it may mold you, you’ll mold it. Finding your voice is probably the hardest thing a writer ever has to do. People will give you all sorts of advice on how to do it, but no one really knows. Even those of us who think we’ve found it can only say we’ve found the voice that is ours or closest to it right now. Writing is a constant process of discovering what you have to say and how you’ll say it. As long as we are alive and breathing, we are simply translators, trying to extract everything we are and everything we want to tell into something tangible. Something that comes close.
And when you think of it that way, isn’t that the whole point of writing? Isn’t publishing simply a record of a moment in a writer’s evolution? A still frame of their ever-changing voice?
And if that’s the case, isn’t it like memory? Isn’t it proof of our existence, once past is past? Isn’t it worthy of being true?