I love blogs whose authors post every weekday. My favorite blog has an interesting new post every morning when I wake up, and the regulars are there making comments. It's better than Cheers.
Yesterday on my favorite blog, an anonymous editor contributed a very eloquent and passionate post on why editors and agents choose certain books from a pool of thousands of submissions.
I went out on a limb and stated in the blog comments section that the authorial voice of this editor's post was so distinctive that I thought I knew which editor it was. I thought about this guess for some time, and read and re-read the post to see if I were just imagining things. (By this time, the exercise had become an intellectual puzzle not based on any need to know the poster's identity.)
No, I'm not going to reveal my guess. I still don't want to go on anyone's fabled idiot list!
My initial conclusion was intuitive, because that's how we INTJs roll. I do want to explain the subconscious analysis that led to my conclusion, because I think it provides a good demonstration of characteristics that create a distinctive authorial voice. I can tell you several things about the poster by analyzing the voice of the post:
1) Editor X is a highly-intelligent writer capable of producing substantial and stylish prose off the cuff.
2) Editor X may use more formal grammar than is common in casual blog posts (e.g. "We pursue that which we love above all else").
3)Editor X has a dry, slightly transgressive sense of humor (see number four).
4) Editor X is not averse to using vernacular for effect. ("Does that mean your writing sucks? Perhaps. Probably.")
5) Editor X is capable of coining a new term and using it consistently to make a point ("refined subjectivity").
6) Editor X is passionate about books and writers, and likes to write about meta-issues in the publishing world.
This unusual combination of traits in the voice convinced me that my editor was...X.
The only reason that I'm not one hundred percent certain is that I don't know enough editors in the CBA to rule out the possibility that there could be two editors with these writerly traits. We may never know. Unless, of course, Editor X decides that he/she just has to know whether I guessed correctly, which is unlikely!
Here's the post, in case you want a more precise idea about the aspects of voice I describe. Keep in mind that this is a very casual forum, and this piece is not exemplary of the author's formal, polished work. (I would want someone to make that qualification if it were my comment that had been lifted out of context!)
ON SUBJECTIVITY IN PUBLISHING a blog comment by ANONYMOUS EDITOR
While from a business standpoint there is a bit of that "predicting what the market wants" involved in the life of an agent or editor (I'm speaking from the editor's perspective, but the agent's is similar), I think that's making too much of something that really is quite simple: We pursue that which we love above all else and do our best to give those books shelf space so others can experience what we did - and only after that, if it turns out there is no place for them in the market, do we sadly let go and move to the next thing that we love.
Sure it's all about subjectivity, but I would argue it's a refined subjectivity. A refined subjectivity acts like instinct, chasing the scent of books that compel not merely because the writer followed the rules of good writing or because the books are innately marketable or even because they're good stories (though these matter), but because they touch deeper places, they trigger something indefinable, drawing out an unassailable heartcry that sounds like "Yes!"
This is the place where the passion to serve the writer is born. I'm glad there are a variety of agents and editors out there - because different things will trigger that response in each. That's all the more reason to do your research when pursuing an agent - to find one whose refined subjectivity is in line with the sort of things you're writing. How do you know? Well, you can't know, for certain, until you submit your work. But you can get a good general idea by seeing what sorts of books the agent represents.
And what if there aren't any agents or editors out there who see your work and hear that heartcry? Does that mean your writing sucks? Perhaps. Probably. Or maybe it just means your work is not going to find a home through traditional publishing circles. You have other options, including simply owning the satisfaction that you followed your own heart's call and wrote a book.