Ever since I saw the movie Walk the Line, I have never forgotten the scene when Johnny Cash and his friends are auditioning in front of record label owner, Sam Phillips. Johnny is shocked when Sam stops them during the safe gospel number and says he can’t sell that style. That people have “heard that song” a hundred times. Flustered, Johnny insists Sam explain what he’s looking for. Sam then asks if he were dying and only had time to sing one song, what would he sing? A song that would “sum you up” because that’s the song “people want to hear”. Johnny considers this, then begins to sing a melody from his heart (“Folsom Prison Blues”). A glimpse into his deeper self that until that moment he hasn’t shared. His memorable sound emerges.
I’m grateful my return from RWA2019 has been filled with completing requested submissions. But after the preparation, pitching, and considering my Daphne scores, I once again face a similar decision as a writer – Do I concede to the norm, or maintain a style that offers something different? A voice that reflects how I feel about my time on this planet.
I learned to write through reading books by editor Sol Stein and agent Donald Maass rather than study romance centric techniques. Their approaches are what resonated with me. In short, even though I write romantic suspense or thrillers (depending on your marketing viewpoint) my style isn’t like the majority. Not because I’m striving to be “different” but because that’s how I deliver the best story I can. I don’t know if this round of submissions will prove that to be enough. All I know is, I can’t be “everyone else”. I have to pitch the style, the voice, the story that is real for me. It’s the only way I can make it real for the reader.