The Quest for Controlling Voice

Over the past few weeks, I have been editing a novel manuscript which I had considered query-ready at least two years ago. Now I am changing it again because I have decided to self-publish it. This final round of editing may confuse some people; why edit it again if it was ready to be queried? The answer is simple. I want to put the writing back into my own voice.

When writing for pitching or querying a piece, be it a novel, a short story, a poem, an essay, or an article, we have to match the target market and audience of those who we are asking to consider our work. The creation of countless indie publishing companies in the past few decades has greatly expanded those target markets and niche audiences, but working with them can still be an exercise in tailoring our voice to someone else’s concept of what our writing should be.

Now, if you think I’m about to say we should not be taking advice from editors or critique partners, you are mistaken. Editors, critique partners, and beta readers help us to strengthen our writing by pointing out both our weaknesses and our strengths. With them, we become better writers and better communicators, and we grow in our craft and our skill. But what an editor or critique partner should not do is cause us to lose our own voice in our writing.

In looking to self-publish the manuscript which I have been editing, I am looking to gain total control over the long-term plot and character arcs of this story. Many of the plot devices and minor details which seem insignificant to this particular plot line factor into long-term storytelling decisions which will play a bigger role in other novels. They are not things which I can change easily while still maintaining continuity later in the series.

Of course, this desire for control still doesn’t explain the point of doing another round of edits, does it? This final round of edits, meant to put the writing back into my preferred voice and writing style, I hope will make the writing of future novel manuscripts for this series go much quicker than it has with this first one. Sadly, it’s taken me at least five previous rounds of editing to put this manuscript into something closer to marketable. While some of those edits dealt with plot issues and updating scientific information, there were a couple of rounds which only addressed voice. As someone who prefers to address voice and style issues during the writing process, this feels like wasted time to me. In the future, I hope to cut out these extra rounds of editing and make my writing process more efficient.

Everyone has their own voice when they write. Figuring out how to match your voice to your editing techniques and then to your target market and audience can take a great deal of trial and error. If you feel something is taking you longer than it should, don’t be afraid to change up how you do the work. If you want more control over long-term planning of your writing, don’t be afraid to look into self-publishing. If you’re looking for a well-established market and/or willing to let others have more influence over the end results of your writing efforts, then don’t hesitate to try a more traditional route for publishing.

Everyone has their own path to becoming a writer. Everyone has their preferences when it comes to how they work and how they grow their skills. And everyone has their own goals and their own ideas of what success looks like. The one thing we all need to keep in mind is that we should be writing for ourselves first and others second. Don’t lose your voice in the publishing process and make sure you get to tell the stories you want to share.


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