In this post, I write about the “Writing Voice”–both how authors can find theirs and how to develop different ones.
If you’re interested in reading what my first experience as a Pitch2Publication editor was like, or would like to hear my thoughts on opening pages, check out this post.
If there’s any one thing I’ve developed most in the last two years, it’s my “Writing Voice.” My works in progress (WIP) include six complete current novels, each at various stages of editing. But, when it comes to the Voice in each WIP, I’ve grown a lot in my 20+ years of writing.
I passed the 1,000,000th word of fiction writing last year, according to tallying up all of my novels’ current word counts on Word, but due to cuts and revisions, I’m not sure what that millionth word actually was, despite an occasional jest on Twitter. What I do know is the first 950,000 or so words were awful. No, seriously.
As authors, our Voice comes out in the writing through the words our character’s speak and the language of the narration itself. In first person, writing with Voice is just like cheating. Writing with Voice is a bit harder in third person point of view (POV), but as third person limited is the POV in which I do all of my writing, I hope the following tips and suggestions help you find your voice.
Finding your Voice comes from writing.
Lots of writing, as there’s no shortcut to it. I say no shortcut, but there are some ways of speeding up your journey. Mind you, these tips only apply if you’re new to writing fiction or are unsure of the strength of your Voice.
Tips for Developing Voice
- Practice writing about yourself to find your Voice, if you have any questions about what it reads like. Think of a recent event in your life and write about it from your POV. Once you know what your Voice sounds (reads) like, you can focus on differentiating your characters from it.
- Practice writing in the first person POV of your main character (MC). If you’re stuck for ideas, try having her respond to common interview questions you can find just about anywhere online. Not only will this help you get deeper into the mind of your MC, you’ll eventually settle into that character’s natural Voice. This works even if you prefer to write your manuscripts (MSs) in third person.
- Once you’ve found your main character’s Voice, develop that of your main supporting characters and any antagonists.
Bonus Tip for using Voice
If you want to inject Voice into your queries and synopses, draft them in first person present tense from your MC’s POV. It’s just like cheating! Afterward, revise your query/synopsis to third person.
Once you have a solid grasp of what your Voice sounds like in practice writing, apply it to your manuscripts in whichever POV you prefer.
So, going back to being an editor,
here’s a few things I look for in Voice:
- Is the Voice coming through in those critical opening pages? First lines are hit or miss in third person POV, but a good Voice helps nails that opening hook.
- Is the Voice of the narrator/MC appropriate for your target age group? I specifically look at word choices, sentence structure, and transitions from one moment to the next.
- Is the Voice effective in your genre? Epic Fantasy narration wanders through settings and history as the characters move about their world, but if your Voice has that Epic Fantasy vibe in something pitched as Suspense, you’ll quickly lose me.
Weak Voice is not a deal-breaker,
but a strong one sure helps sell your ideas!
As readers, I’m sure we all go weak for a strong voice. But, when it comes to the P2P editors’ #tenqueries #p2p17 teasers, if past is prologue, authors are going to see Voice referenced in tweets more than any other single trait.
A good Voice can make a decent story take my breath away. If it drags me through, paragraph after paragraph with pace and descriptions that pop into my mind as clear scenery, I guarantee you’ll be put in my first “Maybe Pile.”
That said, a great Voice can’t save a sketchy premise or unclear vision, so make sure every aspect of your submission this P2P, from your query and first five pages to your synopsis and at least the first 50 pages of your MS, is clear, concise, and Voice-y.
Thanks for visiting today. My words won’t always be great, but they’ll always be mine.
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