Hey there Word Nerds!
It’s the week before Christmas, and I wanted to do something a little bit different from the interviews we’ve had these many weeks.
This week’s topic is something I’ve been wanting to talk about for a while and then I received a question via email from one of our listeners and I decided it was time to dive in.
Shout-out to Kayla for sharing a great question. I’ll paraphrase it here, but it essentially came in three parts:
- How do I know if my writing is good?
- Is there a certain amount of “literary-ness” I need to include in my writing for it to be good?
- What are the people who judge my writing (editors, agents, critics, etc.) looking for?
In the past I have wondered the same thing. What did the readers want me to say? What am I supposed to write? And what if people don’t like what I have to say?
Having a strong, authentic voice boils down to who you are. Remember, too, that you are not alone in wondering about this. At some point every writer asks themselves:
- Is my work any good?
- What do people want from me?
This question isn’t about getting published. It’s about being true to yourself.
Who are you as a writer?
Is your author identity being authentic to who you are? You may hear a lot of advice from writing gurus telling you to “craft your authentic voice” as a way to promote your work, to better connect with people who will want to buy your book.
Authenticity is not a marketing strategy. It’s about being who you are.
Authenticity at it’s heart is being vulnerable, being honest with your readers. And it’s scary! Every time I share anything remotely vulnerable with you all on the podcast or in my newsletter, I’m afraid that you will like me less for doing so. But it’s never a marketing strategy for me. Vulnerability, authenticity, it’s who I really am. And it should be who you really are, too. It’s not a schtick.
Should I put on a persona as my author voice?
So should you put on a persona as you develop your author voice? Well, I have answers for both sides of this question. Mainly, don’t try to fake your voice. You’ll end up sounding phony, and that will come across to your readers.
- Who are you? What does your natural voice sound like? That is the voice that will sparkle. Share that voice.
- What happens if you “put on” a voice and it’s actually successful? Are you prepared to stick with this voice forever? What if your agent or editor loves that persona that you’ve created? What if your readers love it? Are you going to leave them in the lurch?
- If you decide to drop this not-you voice, are you prepared to face the consequences? Suppose you “put on” a voice for a while, then you decide to flip the switch. Your readers might feel like you’ve pulled bait-and-switch on them and many might ditch you then and there. More importantly you will have to work hard to earn back the trust of those readers who decide to stick with you through the switch.
When you try to be someone you’re not, when you’re not being true to your voice and your own goals, it will come back later to haunt you. You’ll have to ‘fess up eventually.
So how do you “craft” your author brand then?
I think this quote from Judy Garland sums it up best:
The best version of yourself, that’s what I call your author identity, your author brand. The person you put on the page is still you, but a more focused, more coherent, less wacky and hairbrained version of you. Your author identity is like a laser beam. A laser is focused light, and your author brand is focused, crafted, still you but the strongest version of you.
Crafting the narrative of your author identity
Can an “author identity” be truly authentic? The way you present yourself online will, of course, alway have some manner of crafting and shaping. The goal is to be as naturally you as possible.
As a writer, if you try to write in a voice that isn’t really your own, you’re going to become exhausted. But in being authentic, you can’t just let your voice and your focus be scattershot. You have to find your voice and your focus, and give your readers the best version of yourself.
This is the true gift you give your readers. You don’t need to share all of you and you don’t need to to change who your are. You definitely don’t need to show your readers the hot mess that happens behind-the-scenes (unless you want to). Instead, give your readers the superstar version of you. Not the cheap knockoff, manicured version. The original heart-and-soul you.
Have a wonderful holiday season. We’ll see you soon!
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Until next week, keep writing and keep being awesome.