Thursday, July 07, 2011

Voice

I know I don't usually talk about craft here on the blog, but a couple of things have happened recently and I thought this might be a good place to talk about it. First, last week in NYC I did a workshop with Vicki Lewis Thompson, Rhonda Nelson and our own Andrea Laurence on voice. And second, I'm in the middle of judging some contest entries.

I don't know how many times I've heard or seen an editor say the most important thing they look for in a submission is voice. Plot, characterization, grammar - all of these things can be taught, but for the most part voice is something you have to find within yourself.

It's who you are - as a person and as a writer. It's the decisions you make as you tell the story. What scenes you write, what reactions your characters have, what conflicts you gravitate towards, what overarching themes you tend to use. It's the personal experiences you draw from when you're writing. The situations you remember when you're trying to invoke a certain emotion in a scene.

It's what makes your writing stand out!

Everyone is different. Everyone's writing voice is different. The best way to find and hone your voice? Write. And write some more. You can't figure out what you're good at unless you experiment and try something new. I started out writing romantic suspense but after several books realized that I naturally gravitate towards emotional, dramatic and sensual stories. Even if I hadn't set out to write a book with those specific qualities, I always found myself throwing them in. I just can't write a light and fun book...I can't help but sprinkle in emotional angst even if I'm not supposed to. It makes no sense to fight my natural inclinations. It's who I am and where I'm strongest.

As a writer, have you found your own voice? If you have, share it with us. As a reader, can you hear an individual writer's voice when you read? Can you pick up a book and just by reading the first few pages know who wrote that book?

Instigator

7 comments:

Smarty Pants said...

I sold on voice, so Amen to that, sister.

On Twitter, one of the HQ editors recently said "A manuscript that's well-crafted but boring is more likely to be rejected than a compelling manuscript that needs craft work."

I think voice is one of the major elements of making a story compelling along with characterization and an interesting premise. If you have all 3, they're willing to overlook some of the issues. At least until they buy it, then you have to fix all the problems, but still... :)

Stephanie Jones said...

I understand where you are coming from with not being able to resist the angst. Jean and I on the other hand seem to have a light and funny voice that always comes through.

We were just saying yesterday that we needed more angst for a character that we were plotting against!

Problem Child said...

I was pulled from the slush on voice, so I'm right there with you.

As you know, I gravitate toward the lighter side with lots of banter. It's what I enjoy reading and writing, so it's what I tend to do well. I think it's important to remember that you can't force voice. It's unique to the writer-- and it's what puts books on keeper shelves!!

robertsonreads said...

Yes, as a reader I can detect "voice". When I read Linda Howard, I have a good idea where that voice will be going with a few surprises thrown in. Ditto with SEP, Kate Angell, & Rachel Gibson and many more. I would say to find your strenghts and enhance them. That's what we do here in the office, some of us have different strenghts such as pulling together a party, another works wonders with gift tags, etc. It all works out wonderfully.

Angel said...

One of the great things about being a part of this group has been seeing our different voices in action -- especially during brainstorming sessions. I think that has helped me solidify the elements in my voice, but the thing I struggle with is making it come alive on the page.

I find that the type of books I'm attracted too are similar to my own voice, dark, angsty, and mysterious.

Angel

Playground Monitor said...

I'm still struggling to find my voice, and it's been silent for far too long. :-( But I have authors I love because of their voice, so it's a very important part of writing. One thing I hate to see is a manuscript that's been critiqued to perfection but the voice is gone.

Cheryl said...

I am like PM - I am still trying to find my voice. I want to write serious, hard issues but this little humorous voice keeps creeping in (sarcasm maybe...).