Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Writer's Voice Part 1

Thank you for taking the time to pop over to Mary DeMuth’s place to read my last post. Mary will be shutting down her blog in a couple of weeks, so be sure to read it soon if you have not yet done so.

A few weeks back, I told you that I would be reviewing books I received free from BookSneeze. Today, I want to talk about After the Hangover by R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. Mr. Tyrrell. is editor in chief of The American Spectator, a conservative political and cultural magazine. He writes a weekly syndicated newspaper column on conservative political thinking. In other words, Mr. Tyrrell has a platform. Keep that in mind when you read this excerpt from his latest book, After the Hangover:

“Then again the fractious rivalries among conservatives are debilitating, and there is a tendency for conservatives to promote one issue at the expense of a full agenda: the proponent of military readiness who ignores economics, the supply-sider who is insouciant to culture.” (Let me assure you that the title of the book is the last phrase you will understand clearly without the benefit of the Oxford English Dictionary – unabridged version.)

I chose this quote for two reasons. It contains half of the book’s premise and it is a typical example of his voice.

If you read, as I do, many of the publishing blogs on how to break into the industry, this quote might surprise you. If a manuscript with this sentence hit the slush pile, it probably would not even receive a printed rejection. This book breaks all the rules. The first six sections are rambling diatribes (See, he even has me doing it!) against the current generation of conservatives and maudlin boasts about how much more sincere the past generation of conservatives was. In between, Mr. Tyrrell uses his witty repartee to flay the liberal political pundits.

Here is an example of his humor: “Through the decades, there has only been one Liberal principle that the Liberals have agreed on without fluctuation. That is their solemn belief that it is fundamental to the progress of our nation that the Liberals disturb the peace.” (Read the book to get the rest of this tongue-in-cheek barb.)

So how did Mr. Tyrrell become a New York Times best-selling author? Remember, he has a platform. According to the web site,The American Spectator’s blog has 50,000 subscribers, and then, to get the full reach of his platform, add the readers of his syndicated newspaper column. His audience expects to read a book in which Mr. Tyrrell sounds just like that. They know what they are getting when they buy his books. If he changed his voice, they would feel disappointed and maybe even cheated.

I want to leave you with a quote from an article in the May/June issue of Writer’s Digest. In “Romancing the Publishing Industry,” Brenda Novak says, “Voice contains an author’s core values and worldviews and cannot be duplicated.” In Mr. Tyrrell’s case, I would say that's a good thing. We have only one audience for a voice like his.

I’ll dig into the details of voice in a future post. If you have a question about voice, leave it in a comment and I’ll try to address it.

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