Thursday, February 28, 2013

Baby Evil Writers 101: Finding Your Voice

Baby Evil Writers 101: Finding Your Voice
Julie Butcher

The first time I heard the term Voice, as it applies to writing, was at an SCBWI Conference in St Louis. It was the first time I’d ever met a real-life editor and I was terrified. She very kindly told me that I hadn’t found my voice yet. (FYI this is a bad thing.)

A writer’s voice is almost indefinable and always different from every other. It consists of the way the author combines words, phrases, and idioms. Pacing is part of a voice, as well as character and world building elements.

Okay now I’ll give examples (in English) because I re-read what I’ve written and realize that in 2004, this wouldn’t have helped me one little bit. First we’ll do dark and light voices.

One ray of light broke through the brooding cloud cover, swallowed almost immediately by darkness.

One beam danced through the clouds and skipped like a happy child back behind the grey.

You might write one or the other, or a combination of both. Some people will be drawn to the dark and others to the light. Few people will be drawn to both. This is important to know because some people will never like your writing. You’ll always have a percentage who love your work and a percentage who hate it. Get over yourself because that’s how it goes. You’ll make yourself crazy trying to please everyone. It can’t happen. Period.

No matter how many books you sell, there will always be people who don’t like them. I like vanilla ice cream. You might like chocolate-marshmallow-fudge-chunky-monkey. You’re not a bad person because you like monkey ice cream. We just like different things.  Probably that is why there are so many different books, you think?

The thing about voice is that you’ll only find it by writing. I hear beginning writers say that they can’t read other writers when they’re working on a story. To this I say, “DID YOUR BRAIN FALL RIGHT OUT OF YOUR HEAD?” The only way you get better is by reading people who do it right.

In the best case scenario, your first manuscript will have to be re-written at least ten times before it would be acceptable to an agent or an editor. (Probably more. I’m only saying ten because if I used real numbers it would be overwhelming.) It won’t matter if you pick up a phrase or two along the way. Keep reading the good stuff. That’s how you learn. There isn’t a substitute for well-written work. Not your critique buddies work, and not all of the free self-published material in the world are a substitute for reading professional material.

Eventually, about a million words in, you’ll find your unique voice. Then you’ll find people who love, and hate it.

1 comment:

  1. If you're first manuscript is acceptable to an agent it'll be a miracle. I know very few people whose very first story has seen the light of day. I know mine won't. For most people it takes time to figure out how to put a story together, how to edit, how to write well enough that the draft is something you can edit.

    Voice is one of those things we all find along the way. Some days it falters. Some days it's lost in the muck, but it comes through in the end.

    New writers - Good luck!

    Old writers - Keep going!

    Readers - Thank you!


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