[Good writing requires more than the ability to write a good story. In fact more often than not it’s the author’s voice and/or personal choice of genre that attracts and sustains a reader’s attention. As a writer-by-trade, Tawna Fenske (Making Waves coming August 2011) knew this and — in today’s guest post — she shares the journey of discovering her author’s niche.]
I’ve been blogging at The Debutante Ball since last August, so I guess you could say I’ve become a familiar voice there.
Several weeks ago, I wrote about my early forays into fiction writing and how it took me awhile to figure out romantic comedy was where I fit best.
Based on commenters’ reactions, I might as well have confessed it took me 36 years to discover I had toes. How could I not know I should be writing humor?
Hey, I never claimed to be the sharpest knife in the drawer.
Yes, I’ve been the class clown since I was old enough to string sentences together. Sure, I’m always the one to break up boring meetings by making sex jokes. OK, I’ll admit I could probably find the humor in a funeral if I tried hard enough.
But it really didn’t dawn on me in the early days that I could use that to build a writing career.
I’ve always written for my supper, but in a much different capacity than what I’m doing now with novels. I caught the journalism bug in high school, and used my experience as editor of the school newspaper to land college scholarships, work my way up to editor of the college paper, and to eventually find post-college work as a newspaper reporter.
Once the appeal of long hours and lousy pay wore off, I moved on to tech writing before transitioning to a career in marketing and public relations.
All of those jobs involved writing. A lot of it, in fact. But none involved making stuff up.
That’s probably why it was such a funny feeling the first time I sat down to take a stab at fiction writing in 2002. I kept checking over my shoulder, certain the word police were going to come and arrest me for lying.
In a way, I was disappointed that never happened. I really looked forward to those handcuffs.
Though the first novel I wrote was a romance, it was barely recognizable as such. Because I’d grown so accustomed to doing vast amounts of research in the writing I did for my day job, that’s what I did for the novel, too. Looking back, that book probably could have had footnotes.
Nothing says “sexy romance” like a bibliography.
Fortunately, my first couple stabs at writing fiction weren’t read by many people who weren’t either family members or drinking buddies (or both – hi, Dad!)
But my third book did sell.
I know we’re classifying Making Waves is my debut novel, and it’s true it will be my first published book. However, it’s technically not the first book I ever sold for publication. That honor goes to a book called Avalanche. I wrote it for a line of women’s action/adventure/romance novels published by Harlequin/Silhouette several years ago under the Bombshell label.
I sold the book, spent the advance check, and had already written two follow-up novels that hadn’t yet made it to contract when my editor called on my 32nd birthday to tell me the line was being cancelled one month before my scheduled debut.
This was also the same day my cat died. Oh, and the same day my employer said they’d fire me within a week if I continued to disobey the company’s hosiery policy (I did. They didn’t).
At some point near the end of that day when I walked out onto my back deck with a glass of wine in my hand, I thought, “this is really pretty damn funny if you think about it. What are the odds of all of this happening on the same day?”
I won’t say that was an epiphany, per se, but I will tell you that within a few days I sat down and began writing something new. Something different. Something funny. Something that screamed, “if I can laugh on a day like that, I can find the humor in damn near anything!”
And though that book didn’t actually sell, it did land me an amazing agent, who eventually landed me a three-book deal for my romantic comedies.
So that’s the roundabout route I took to find my voice. Do I wish it had been quicker? Absolutely! Was it worth it for the experience I gained? I think so. Does the slowness of my journey to finding my voice indicate I need professional help and perhaps a tutor?
Don’t answer that.
Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Populazzi by Elise Allen in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Presenting Debutante Elise Allen and Populazzi. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, June 15, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.