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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Buy Me Or Not, But This is Who I Am...

You have to follow your own voice. You have to be yourself when you write. In effect, you have to announce, 'This is me, this is what I stand for, this is what you get when you read me. I'm doing the best I can - buy me or not - but this is who I am as a writer.  -- David Morrell 

This week on the internet, I ran across a blog post about book sales. Specifically about popularity of the authors and the popularity's effect on book sales. More specifically about the possibility that some author voices are subject the lonesome literary highway---better known as Reader Bypass---because the writing was too literary.

The post went deeper into the issue---readers' expectations being too low for them to be able to appreciate the literary-type authors. 

I kept thinking about this theory, though. About whether writing with a literary style can keep a book from selling well in the modern market. 

After reading the post and its comments, I looked---for about the trillionth time---into my own writing. Into my personal status of a not-so-popular-and-not-too-rolling-in-royalties-type writer. 

You see, I've been labeled many times as literary. My writing style, that is. My prose has been crucified for being too flowery and pretentious on one spectrum and, on the other end, it's been praised for that very flowery-ness. 

And I've been tempted from time to time to try to emulate a more...well...non-flowery voice. 

But you know what? The temptation part is as far as I've ever gotten. 

Why? Why didn't I try harder to have a different voice---for want of a better term---to my writing? When, possibly, my style is an albatross around the neck of my writing. When my overly-flowery voice might be keeping me from making more money? From being more popular?

But, then, hell. Is it even the writing that makes the popular...well...popular? Or is it personality that draws readers to writers? Can a flowery voice make one not popular? Does it snuff our odds of being 'in'? And so forth and so forth.

I don't really know. And I suppose I don't really care. 

Because my voice is my voice. Period. I could stuff my voice into another suit and it still would be me and---believe it or not---my readers would still recognize me. Changing a voice is much harder than you think. A writing voice, that is. 

The good news is that for every reader who loathes my type or writing, there is one who enjoys it. 

An example.

Take a gander at these snippets from reviews:

...effusive and excessively wordy or verbose prose...

…the words flowing across the page like exquisite brush strokes...

The author is clearly operating under the assumption that if you write with a thesaurus at your side and every now and again throw in a 'posh' word, your writing will look clever and literary. 

The imagery is gorgeous and I totally got lost in the writing.

All four of those samples are taken from four different reviews of a book of mine. One book, four different opinions on the style.

Go figure.

So what do I do?

Do I alter my style and my voice---the style and voice I love, the style and voice I've cultivated almost all my life?---for a handful of readers who don't like it? Or do I keep it and just roll around in the appreciation of the readers who do like it? That group---small in number but huge in my heart---of readers who gets my style? 

That is a tough, tough call for some authors. A lot of variables go into the decision. Too many to count. Too individual to name.

For me? Now don't laugh. There is a part of me that loves what I write so much that it's simply a matter of: I wrote a damn good book and I wish, wish, wish it could reach more eyes so that it could reach more hearts. 

Yes!  That literary floral overdose, for those of us who do write in literary floral overdoses, isn't contrived so that we'll sound...well...flowery. It's our souls poured out, pure and natural. Just like any author. Well, that's how we're supposed to write. From our souls. And if an author is not writing from the soul, driven by their passion for their characters, then they're just...writing. Without that beautiful impetus of loving to write. And for some of us, it just comes out...flowery.

Sometimes it's just got to be about the love of the craft itself. As much as I'd love to, I can't knock a reader upside the head and pound it into them that they would like my story if they would only read it. Like my story, damn you! Nah. This dame can't do that. Because my work is my very heart, it's too delicate to shovel down a literary throat.

I will promote my work in every way I can. Hell, I even bemoaned promotions for the longest time. But, finally, I did realize that more folks would see this work I love if they knew it was there. 

I'd be lying if I said I didn't understand the plight of the lesser known authors (like me) out there in the huge ocean of big names. I do. I'm in that ocean, trying to navigate in a blow-up raft while better known names---royalty they were once called---are cruising in massive ocean liners. I'm out of my league. I'm not popular. And the list of whys goes on and on. 

I honestly---maybe naively---believe that if I write more of what I do write, I could find my work in more Kindles and on more bookshelves.

That's the hard way. But...well...

Until I do get famous and before I do win that Pulitzer and before every person in every household breathes my name and my book titles in reverence...well, please just let me be...flowery. Please accept that it is not phony. I really am not trying to impress with prose. Please accept that this may really, really be this author's true voice. 

Please don't snub authors or condemn them if you do not like their voices. Just quietly put their books aside and let them be who they are. Because their voice is the one thing they cannot and should not change to please an audience. Sure, there may be legitimate issues with books---bad editing, under-developed characters, faulty plots. 

But voice. It should never be compromised for the sake of being trendy. Voice. The one thing, in my heart, that should never be challenged. 

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