Have you seen Runaway Bride? Do you remember that part of the movie where Julia Roberts' character changes her egg preference based off what her fiance likes? Then the guy she ends up with realizes this problem and has her eat a bunch of different kinds of eggs to figure out what she likes?
This same thing happens all too often in real life dating relationships. Men and women both try to be something they're not to make themselves more appealing to the other person, more likable. After a while, these daters might even forget or lose touch with their own preferences, and before you know it, they're drinking plain vanilla milkshakes instead of chocolate (with extra chocolate drizzle).
I know what you're thinking. What does this have to do with writing, aside from the fact that I crave chocolate every time I sit down to reach my word count?
Well, I'm glad you asked.
1) You can't market what you don't know. If you're trying to market a novel you've already gotten into print, or if you're trying to get a novel published, either way you're probably hoping to impress people. How can you sell your writing (and yourself, for that matter) if you don't even know your strengths?
Let's take that to the dating scene... let's say you have a horrible, hormonally-induced pimple on your shoulder that makes its grand appearance the morning of your first date with someone. Do you choose the strapless sundress for that evening's apparel? Probably not. You cover it up with a nice little three quarter length cami or something equally Loft-ish.
On the other hand, let's say every guy you've been out with has commented on your green eyes. You're probably going to spend some extra time doing your makeup so you can accentuate your best features, right?
So why don't we do this with our writing? Each writer has strengths and weaknesses. Maybe your giant pimple is inexperience or poor grammar. Do the best you can to overcome that weakness by studying and practicing the craft. But whatever you do, don't call attention to your unattractive attributes.
Too many writers start off pitches by calling attention to the giant pimple of their writing. Bad idea.
2) Trying to imitate someone else's voice never works. Remember our example from Runaway Bride? Pretending to be someone else, to like what someone else does or to think like them, is both unfulfilling and unsatisfying, not to mention, people can tell. Have you ever met someone who acts differently with each boyfriend because she thinks she has to meld to their interests in order to impress them? Is she ever happy? Does she ever end up with someone who really respects her for who she is? Does anyone even know who she really is as a person, including herself? Probably not, because she hasn't done the work to go through life establishing and finding her own inner voice.
Same thing occurs with writing. When we try to imitate another writer's style because, for instance, he or she is a bestseller, or that genre is doing well, it simply does not work.
God called you to write the stories He has given you.
That job is already in-depth enough... why complicate it by trying to be something you're not? You're free to be yourself... so be yourself boldy!
Questions for Comment:
Have you ever found yourself trying to be someone or something you're not in your writing? What helps you find and develop your own writing voice?