Silencing the voices

I’m used to dealing with my inner editor and critic’s voices, but now that I’m pressed to get busy writing my next book, I’ve discovered a new voice—the marketer’s . It told me to consider my publishing “brand.” What sort of book would readers expect from me? That new voice wrapped up my muse like a mummy.

I second-guessed everything I’d already written. I’ve struggled to write another word since. For a minute—just one—I regretted making the decision to publish. In the privacy of my mind, I’m free to write whatever I want. If some sentimental little story begs life, I write it. If a dark tale of revenge takes my fancy, I write it. If a quiet little tale of self-discovery pops into my brain, I write it.

Ah-ha, a common denominator—I am the writer.

Some fiction authors are branded as writers of mystery, thriller, fantasy, sci-fi, romance, or they write only for teens or children. They have restrictions I don’t have. I write general fiction. I have the freedom to explore, to take many paths.

So, shut-up, new voice! All I want my readers to expect is a well-crafted story, as good as or better than the last one. That’s my obligation to them. That’s my brand. I can write the story that comes to me. The question should be, how best can I tell the story, not do I have permission to write the story?

What do you hear from those “helpful” voices in your head?

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27 thoughts on “Silencing the voices

  1. I haven’t published as yet, but I have considered what you call the “brand”. Luckily for me, majority of my writing falls under a similar “genre” and so that’s all well and good. However, if you’re seriously worried that your next novel will be drastically different from your first, so much as to cause an issue with your brand, have you considered publishing under a pen-name for your different genre type books?\

    As for the voices, at the moment all they’re doing is questioning whether someone is actually going to purchase and enjoy my work. I can deal with that – I just ignore it and keep going!

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    1. Welcome and thank you for commenting, Brett. Oh certainly, I would use a pen name if I wanted to write a book in a different genre. My concern wasn’t over that drastic a change.

      And yeah, I hear the same thing from my marketer’s voice concerning sales. 😕

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  2. Right now those voices are telling me to take Polly for a walk along the beach. 🙂

    I have stuff all over the place and none of it fits into any clear-cut genre except my in-progress mystery. I guess my novella is ‘Carl Hiaasen Lite’ but I don’t see that listed as a major genre anywhere. (Maybe it should be though. I think he’s a genius.)

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    1. Welcome to the club, Natasha. I have a hard time categorizing my work. Some of my old stuff would appeal to Stephen King readers, but my newer and current stories wear no genre category hat. But I guess that’s the definition of general fiction — not a major category among self-publishers.

      And no doubt your walk with Polly will result in a great story. 🙂

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  3. There are advantages and disadvantages to being an independently published author. One of the big advantages is you don’t have to fulfill any of the publisher’s demands for a certain genre/style. You’re free to explore. So, take advantage of the advantage. LOL.

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    1. That’s true, Christa, no powers-that-be are telling me I have to write such and such. I need to silence all the voices except those of my characters and just write, write, write. And then I’ll end up with another book that’s hard to describe. 😀

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  4. Shrieking. Constant shrieking. (The voices, that is. “The Horror… The Horror…” (Col. Kurtz, Apocalypse Now)) KIDDING! 🙂

    But seriously, would it be a bad thing or hurt an author’s marketability to ‘un-branded’ and write many different genres under the same name (one’s own, hopefully)? Seems like it might be unique in this heavily branded environment.

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    1. It might be unique, John, but would it be effective? Would, for instance, John Grisham’s fans be up in arms if they bought his latest only to find it was a sweet romance? Of course, the outcry would probably result in millions of new fans for him. Not that I have any such following to worry about. 😉

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      1. That is a good point, Linda, and perhaps the strongest argument for having a pen name to categorize different styles. Of course, you then have the problem of your readers who might actually enjoy the entire variety of your writing not reading your other work, since it’s under a different name.

        I’m not sure what else you could do; perhaps a big disclaimer in the blurb: “This work is NOT a work of romance, but an apocalyptic mystery horror” or something of the like? Ultimately, readers will read what they enjoy, and if someone isn’t interested in one of your books because it’s not the same as the last, they won’t buy it; so it’s not exactly a lost sale. It’s a tricky point, for sure.

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        1. Well, Brett, if I used a pen name, I wouldn’t keep it a secret. I’d promote both names on this blog. 🙂 The pen names would be more for categorization purposes. But now I’m considering what Christa just said.

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      2. The synopsis and genre of a novel is usually known when it is published. Libraries categorize by genre (at least mine does). Cover blurbs can be informative. As Christa notes, pen names can be confusing. (“Oh, the author is not really John Doe?!”) Enjoy pondering this little dilemma.

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  5. Personally, I’m against a pen name. Writing under different names gets unnecessarily confusing, not just for you but for the reader. Just write, write the book you want to write, write the book you would want to read and don’t worry about genres too much at this point. Most people don’t just read one single genre and even if they do, they may pick up one of your new books because they KNOW YOUR NAME and liked your earlier book. And so, the new book is somewhat different. They may think, “gee Linda can also write a mean mystery. She’s is a multi-talented person!”
    Good luck,
    Christa

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    1. Now you have me thinking, Christa. 😉 My first novel still haunts me. It’s a story of relationships, but with a paranormal element. I’ve considered revising it to remove that element, but I’m not confident the story would work without it. Maybe I need only polish it. Ooooo … it just occurred to me the paranormal element could be seen as allegory. Hmmm …

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      1. Hey, go for it. Paranormal is in, although I’m getting a little tired of all the paranormal stuff out there. However, a paranormal element in a story can add that extra touch of mystery to it. I think you should do it!
        Interesting: I have a first novel that I put aside for years. After I finished the second one, the first one began to haunt me again and I just had to go back and rewrite it.

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  6. I agree. Let your words and thoughts be free from the confinds of genre and/or expectation. Stories tend to tell themselves without regard to our self-impossed rules of category and classification. The term science fiction didn’t really exist until H.G. Wells and Jules Vern, even though Mary Shelley’s, Last Man is most surely science fiction. I think the issue is mute with the advent of e-books and self publishing anyway.

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    1. Oh, you of many names, thank you for the encouragement to let the words and thoughts run free. 😉 But, although I wish it were true, even if you self-pub, you still have to categorize your books for the distributors.

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      1. LOL 😉 True, the distributors will want you to assign a genre, but those who have read Brevity will search for you by Linda the author and those who haven’t will search out a book based on genre and discover Linda the author. The beauty of self-publishing is that you can open or shut as many doors as you desire.

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  7. Branding and meeting readers’ expectations are worth thinking about–but AFTER that second novel is written. Doesn’t the work need to come first and then decide how to promote–a new genre or another in the series. I would encourage you to listen to YOUR voices that say write what you know what what you care about. I try to ignore the voices that keep me from putting pen to paper, or fingers to keypad. Good luck!

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    1. Welcome Patti and thanks for commenting. Yes, I try to ignore the editor and critic voices when not needed, this new voice just took me by surprise. I didn’t consider marketing at all when I wrote Brevity, but then I discovered agents expected me to categorize it for them. Writing and marketing are two different mindsets, one I’m good at, the other not at all.

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  8. Writers are artists, and you have to follow your muse. What if Picasso had been pigeon-holed in his blue period? What if he never experimented, never grew? We wouldn’t have some of his very best works.

    Some writers are drawn into a specific genre. Good for them. I suppose it makes things easier, but it also sounds a little boring to me. My mind is all over the place — I have a women’s fiction novel I finished (first draft), I started an edgy YA then switched gears and am writing a thriller. After that, I have a ghost story in mind and a literary epic.

    My brand isn’t a genre, it’s me. It’s giving my work my voice and my literary bent. It’s being surprising and hoping my audience loves being surprised.

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    1. I was just thinking what Shelli said above. She beat me to it. If you are able to turn out your second or third novel make your self the brand not the book. That may easier said than done. I know if I feel like reading sci-fi I do look for futuristic stuff but stuff written by so and so. I have tried to do that with my cartoons. It may be working. You have made a good marketing step in including your middle name to identify yourself. Linda Cassidy Lewis says I’m a writer more than just Linda Lewis. Kinda like James Fenimore Cooper if you can see what I mean in that name.

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