No, what makes each manuscript unique is the particular Voice of the author. Some authors' Voices have similarities to other authors' Voices, and some authors use a variety of Voices for different genres. A Voice can be light and approachable, dark and melodious, quick or slow. But each one is individual.
The trick to writing a book is ... well, that it isn't actually a trick. It's an experience. In order to get into the story, in order to write something people will want to read, an author has to take a journey into the minds and souls of their characters, using the language as it flows. They have to write what they (or rather, their characters) feel, not what they think other people might feel. The only way to do that is just to tell is like it is and not let anything else influence the words. That is Voice.
Here are opening paragraphs of some of my own work, just to show how my own Voice varies:
From Under the Same Sky: (the Voice of a young girl with psychic gifts)
He has always been there. That fact is as important to me as my own heartbeat.
I first saw him when we were children: a young boy with eyes as dark as rain-soaked mud, staring at me from under a mane of chestnut hair. I kept him secret, invisible to everyone but me. He should have been invisible to me as well, because he was never really there, on the same windblown land, under the same sky. We never stood together, never touched as other people did. Our eyes met, and our thoughts, but our bodies were like opposite banks of a river.
From Tides of Honour: (the Voice of an 18 year old fisherman in 1914)
There had been talk. Lots of talk. They just hadn't paid much attention to it. The papers had hinted at faraway verbal battles, political tension strung like barbed wire all over Europe. Danny had read some and it was interesting reading, to a point.
From Unscripted (ironically): (the Voice of a modern day writer)
I have a theory. Not sure if it's a useful theory, but it's there, and it's been bugging me. My theory is that there are three basic voices that everyone hears in their heads.
And finally, from my first attempt at a children's book (untitled for now):
It all started the day Jessica found the tiny gold ring in the playground. It had sparkled in the sun along with thousands of tiny pebbles, but it had caught Jessie's eye nonetheless. Not because it was perfectly round, or gold, but because it really did sparkle. Like stars, only better. Like when Jessie's mom and dad drove them home late from Grandma's house and Jessie pretended to be asleep in the back seat of the car. But how could she have slept? The sky was like the dark purple of her wizard cape, twinkling with billions and billions of real live stars.
A good Voice jumps off the page. It compels the reader, draws them in without ever letting them know that's what is happening.
If an author is true to that Voice, and it's an interesting Voice, it can be difficult for an Agent to resist.
Voice can be a difficult hurdle for some Editors, because while it may be important to refine the work, it is imperative that the Voice remain the same. In order to do that, the Editor has to slip into the author's mind ... as they have slipped into that of their character. A little disorienting, wouldn't you think? And yet I love it. I love the sensation of losing myself along the way, of being a part of something else no one has ever seen before – besides the author, that is.
Here are a couple of openings from some of the books I've edited recently. The words may have had to be rearranged or even replaced, excessive descriptive wording might have needed pruning, but in the end, the Voice of the author remains. Voice is the core to every story. With each one of these books I wore a different hat.
Saving Nathaniel by Jillian Brookes-Ward
She was wet. She was cold. She was late. In her haste to get out of the pouring rain, Megan fumbled with her keys, darted through the heavy door and slammed it behind her. She took a moment to confirm the damage to her torn umbrella to be terminal.
‘A lot of bloody use you were!’ She rammed it into the waiting mouth of the waste bin, kicking the bin for good measure.
Empty Chairs by Stacey Danson
There is no place to start this but with my own memories. The sexual abuse began, I think, when I was around three years of age ... maybe four.
Simon's Choice by Charlotte Castle
“Sarah! Hurry up!”
Sarah thundered down the stairs. Porridge, the yellow Labrador, bounded behind her. The little girl stopped in front of her mother, chin lifted defiantly. “I'm not wearing it, Mum.”
Do you have a distinctive Voice? One that connects with readers? One that makes them want to turn pages?
... Or do you need help finding that Voice? Maybe I can help. Contact me through this site if you have any questions on this or any other aspect of editing.