Daring to Be an Original–Voice Part 3

 

Author Kristen Lamb, social media writers, social media authors, publishing

Like Batman only BETTER!

A few weeks ago, I started a series on voice. Part One introduced voice, why it is important and even what might be standing in the way of us developing a unique and powerful writing voice. Part Two offered three tangible ways to improve our writing voice. Today we are going backtrack a little due to some feedback I had in the comments. I can give you guys tips about training writing voice until pigs fly, but those tips will be more helpful if you really understand voice and what it is.

Rocket science, right? :D

What is “Voice?”

All agents want one and all writers want to know what the heck it is. If it was easy to define, then we wouldn’t have countless articles, books and classes to demystify “voice.” Today, I will put in my two cents and see if it can help the light bulb go off.

Voice is, in its essence, that uniqueness that we as artists bring to the story. Remember, humans relied on an oral tradition for tens of thousands of years. We are a story people and “voice,” in my opinion, is a holdover from that oral tradition.

Ah, but the original storytellers were not only the precursors of the modern writer, they were also the precursor to the modern ACTOR. I can imagine the one dude in the cave who used the most dramatic gestures and movements and the best inflection at just the right time AS he told the story probably had the best audiences.

Writers are Also Composers/Directors

TIMING, is a HUGE part of being a good storyteller, thus it is naturally a large component of “voice.” Writers must have a natural sense of when things should be tense, versus the times we need to let the audience have a breather. Writing a novel is very akin to writing a symphony. If everything is crescendo, then nothing is. If every page is mind-numbing tension, then nothing is. Conversely, if our writing is just a character thinking, then thinking some more, then thinking some more, then that is not a story, it’s a diary. It’s the elevator music of story.

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…

As writers, we are also directors. We need to take charge of the setting, the lighting, the mood and then tell the characters what to do (give stage direction). Our words are what give the pauses between the push. We must choose the right words at the right time to always control the pace, the push and pull of conflict. We not only must make sure the plot arc is progressing accordingly, but the characters must arc as well. All of this must be balanced until the grand finale, the Big Boss Battle that every chapter has let up to. How we balance all of this is known as “voice.”

Writers Have a Lot in Common with Actors

Just like actors have to get in the head of a character they must portray on stage or in film, we, too, must learn to “get in the head” of our characters…ALL of them. An actor must play a singular part, but we must, to a degree, play ALL of the parts. It isn’t enough to be in the head of our protagonist. If we cannot also learn to empathize with the antagonist and even the supportive characters, our writing will be flat and will lack dimension.

New writers lack confidence and skill, so often what will happen is they parrot a popular author. They become a bad copy instead of an awesome original. But, the bigger mistake I see is voice often comes with preparation, and new writers often fail to prepare. New writers fail to understand the characters before they start writing. They get a flash of a scene in their head and then start typing. This is like an actor not taking any time to study the part before he begins reciting lines.

Not that this way is wrong, but it can make the difference between a Saturday Night Live skit performance versus a performance that brings home an Oscar.

I’ve read many a new writer whose characters all sounded like the same person. They hadn’t taken time to understand the characters–all of them–and really think about GCM (Goal, Conflict, Motivation). Thus, either all the characters sounded alike and the dialogue sounded like a bad third-grade play, or the protagonist was the only character with depth (because he was based off the writer) and all the other characters are talking heads or bad knock-offs off the protagonist.

Voice Can Affect Our Career

First of all, voice can affect our career because if we don’t have a solid voice, we won’t connect with readers. Agents love a strong writing voice because they love finding works readers will love. We can have the best plot ever written, but if all the characters are talking heads, it doesn’t matter. We can have the most interesting characters, but if we cannot put them in an interesting and compelling story, we still have a problem (though, granted, an easier one to fix than the former).

But voice can affect more than whether we get an agent. Voice can affect how well we write. Do we have the right genre for our natural voice? This is why we should never write for the market. We shouldn’t write romance because it’s a hot market. We should just ignore trends and write the best story for us to write.

How Does Genre Affect Voice?

Let’s extend this idea of actors being related to writers. Let’s say I have a role to cast. I want a male actor to play a cowboy. I have three different actors. I have Clint Eastwood, Jack Black, and Robert Deniro. Same story, different actors. Can you see how the choice of actor–the choice of the voice–becomes essential to how the story will play out? If I cast the wrong actor for the story I as a director want to tell, I can have a disaster, even though ALL THREE ACTORS are highly skilled and talented.

If I want a Old School Western? Clint Eastwood. But if I want a comedy? Clint might not be the right actor, unless Clint wants to branch out and do some intensive study in the area of comedy. With a lot of work and training, Clint could pull it off. But does he really want to? Does the director want to mess with it when it is simply easier to cast Jack Black?

This is why we must really understand our voice and develop it accordingly. I LOVE thrillers, but I’m naturally a humor author. I find that I might love reading thrillers, but I’ve had a tough time writing them. I get far too sidetracked with comedy that isn’t appropriate. Thrillers are not a natural fit with my writing voice.

I made a mistake of believing that because I loved to read thrillers, that I should then write them. Yeah…um, no.

It took writing three thrillers that I was less than thrilled about (bada bump *snare*) to see what my true writing voice really was. My NF has been a success because I am true to my voice, whereas my fiction was good, it’s won contests, but it never felt…right. It didn’t have that connection that my NF did.

Why? I was writing outside of my voice. I was Jack Black trying to play the lead in Deadwood.

Yet, it is only because I wrote a lot that I figured this out. I experimented and I also gained CONFIDENCE to admit where I really needed to be writing. I was less prone to listen to what other people thought and decided to take my path.

This is why writing and writing A LOT will reveal our true voice. We get time to try the genres we like and if they are a fit? Perfect! If not? We’ll see it sooner.

Voice and Empathy

I feel a HUGE part of voice is the ability to truly develop the ability to empathize. The more we study the human condition, the easier we can get in the head of a character. This is why reading fiction is so vital. By reading good fiction, we are essentially studying people through stories. This is why I can spot writers who don’t read.

Writers who read a lot of fiction are better writers. Ah, but want to get even BETTER?

Broaden the Palette

Read NF, particularly psychology and sociology books. The more we study people, the easier it is to empathize and it will also ring as authentic. Read body language books. Read history. Read as much as you can. Then get out of your comfort zone and live life. Take risks. I jumped out of an airplane, but, in retrospect, I could have probably taken a pottery class and been fine. LIVE, then bring that to your craft. Get out among people. Listen to them. Study them. Take part in the human condition.

If our voice is our art, then how many colors, shades, textures and tools do you want to bring to the table? Sure, we are free to finger-paint with three primary colors, but it will limit our art.

So, do you guys feel that you finally understand what voice is? Do you have questions? What are your thoughts? Your suggestions? Do you think people are born with their natural voice? Or do you feel life experience shapes voice? If we don’t have a voice can we develop one? Do you believe there are “tone deaf” writers who will never improve no matter how much teaching?

Share! I love hearing from you!

I LOVE hearing from you!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of April, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of April I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

Two Week Ago Winner of 5 Page Critique is JBW0123.

Last Week’s Winner of 5 Page Critique is J.L. Mbewe.

Ladies, please send your 1250 word Word document to author kristen dot lamb at g mail dot com. My web site is under construction so it has been a real mess catching up with all the contest entries. This e-mail should work fine.

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.

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  1. #1 by Shannyn Schroeder on April 9, 2012 - 2:32 pm

    Hi Kristen, I think that finding your voice is one of the hardest things to do. Like you, I wrote my first 2 manuscripts in a genre that wasn’t right for me. I love to read romantic suspense. If you follow the old rule of “write what you know” it made sense for me to write romantic suspense. But it didn’t work for me. It wasn’t until I started my third MS, a contemporary romance that I found my voice. It fits who I am and feels right. It’s also the MS that landed me an agent and a publishing contract. If I hadn’t tried something new, I’d probably still be struggling with getting it right.

  2. #2 by rachelsullivan06 on April 9, 2012 - 3:03 pm

    I hate the “write what you know” rule!

    My favorite genre to read is crime or suspense novels. I have heard so many times to write what I like to read, but I didn’t want to write crime or suspense, I wanted to write chick-lit. As a new writer, it’s difficult to be confident in your decisions, and there is so much conflicting advice online.

    I also agree with your advice about “broadening the palette”. Reading outside of your favorite genres can really help expose you to different styles. For me, it’s natural to mix it up. I usually am in the middle of reading both a fiction and a non-fiction book at the same time. Right now, I’m reading “Behemoth” by Scott Westerfeld, which not only is NOT chick-lit or crime, but still just as enjoyable.

    For those people, especially writers, who do not read outside of their favorite genre, I definitely think it’s important that they start.

  3. #3 by Jenny Hansen on April 9, 2012 - 3:13 pm

    Blogging helped me find my writing voice. It was absolutely amazing to me but putting out a blog 4-5 times a week did more for my writing than all the fiction exercises I’d ever done prior.

    I’m loving this series, Kristen!

  4. #4 by Rachel Funk Heller on April 9, 2012 - 3:23 pm

    Kristen, I think a big part of voice also comes down to writers knowing who they are. I’m a big, loud-mouth, opinionated kinda girl. I understand my own strengths and weaknesses, so I try to write to my strengths, knowing I’ll have to look at those weaknesses and see where I can improve. The whole process of finding your voice reminds me of being back in middle school, where you see other friends who are popular and you try to immitate them, instead of being true to yourself. Being true and being honest, for me is the best way to find your voice.

    • #5 by Jenny Hansen on April 9, 2012 - 6:00 pm

      Nu-uh, you? Loudmouthed? Opinionated? (Completely like me??) Bahahahahaha!

  5. #6 by Lanette on April 9, 2012 - 3:30 pm

    I like the director analogy. That was a huge “lightbulb” moment for me.

  6. #7 by Aspergers Girls on April 9, 2012 - 3:34 pm

    You offer great tips, here. Very easy to understand and well said. When I finally found my voice, I wondered why I took so long to find it. Each person finds their voice in different ways. I agree with another writer above. I had my voice but found the whole of my voice through blogging. Thank you for your excellent articles. ~ Sam

  7. #8 by Judy on April 9, 2012 - 3:34 pm

    I think voice is like that mosquito buzzing around my head. However, you do make it sound more like a syphony. Thank you

  8. #9 by Jessi Gage on April 9, 2012 - 3:36 pm

    Kristen, this was an excellent post on Voice. I learned some things that I haven’t seen before, like timing being a big part of voice. That was helpful.

    I agree with the advice to write a lot and read a lot. Nothing has helped me figure out who I am as a writer better than being well-read enough and confident enough to put down a book that’s not doing it for me…then analyzing why. I often find things that I’m guilty of in my own writing and can change bad habits. On the flip side, when I find a book I just can’t put down, I analyze why and often come away with inspiration on how to strengthen my own writing.

  9. #10 by Judy on April 9, 2012 - 3:36 pm

    Reblogged this on Dreamin'.

  10. #11 by Juliana Brandt (@julianalbrandt) on April 9, 2012 - 3:55 pm

    I heard once of someone who had quit their job in order to finish their novel. I found this so strange as being out in the world, as living is the only thing that seems to make my own writing real.

    I guess, maybe they were a different sort of writer?? ;)

  11. #12 by candienziia on April 9, 2012 - 4:49 pm

    Talking about how actors are writers reminded me of when I’m seriously writing a piece that involves description of certain movements or gestures I usually end up getting up and acting them out a lot like how you would block a scene for a movie or a play. It makes it so much clearer how a person would behave in a particular situation in terms of subtle movements and the natural flow of how our bodies work. I always thought I was just a little bit crazy for doing that, but this piece made me feel like I’m probably on the right track.

    • #13 by annstanleywriting on April 9, 2012 - 5:24 pm

      Love that idea, Candienziia. I try to imagine movements in my head, but probably actually acting them out would make the process easier and give a better result.

    • #14 by Adriana Ryan on April 9, 2012 - 5:34 pm

      Holly Lisle suggests doing this, too! I haven’t been brave enough to try yet. Like Ann, I do it in my head. :D

  12. #15 by August McLaughlin on April 9, 2012 - 5:10 pm

    Great post, Kristen. Writing lots has been the biggest helpful factor in honing my voice—for fiction, articles and blog posts. It’s also taken listening to my gut when others feedback feels wrong. It’ll probably always be a WIP (hope so, I think?! ;)), but I’m grateful to be on the right path.

  13. #16 by Yvette on April 9, 2012 - 5:17 pm

    Kristen, I have this sneaking suspicion that critiquing my 1250 words is one of the reasons for this post!! ACK! Why? Because over on The Write Practice, we did an exercise this week where we tried on the POV of another character and wrote stream-of-consciousness for them. I did this with a subsidiary character and realized I had never done so before, and yet I’ve written her in two books!! No, you don’t say? Also, in the writing course I’m doing online at the moment I have realized just how very amateur my work still is. And I have committed the cardinal sin, only really gotten inside the heads of one or maybe two of my characters. I came so close to wanting to scrap everything and run away…but I couldn’t live with myself if I acted like such a coward. So I shall carry on learning….
    Yvette Carol

    • #17 by Author Kristen Lamb on April 9, 2012 - 5:25 pm

      Actually with travel and the tornado and my web site troubles, I am super behind. I haven’t gotten to it yet. But when I do, one of the things you win with the critique is that I will tell you strong points and ways to remedy/improve the weak points. We all start somewhere.

  14. #18 by corajramos on April 9, 2012 - 5:30 pm

    Voice is such a tricky thing to describe in words. Your analogy of the director of a movie made me think about musicians. When a musician has a strong voice, you know it’s him/her the minute you hear the music even if you’ve never heard that selection before–(thinking of Santana). Following that analogy, if you have a strong voice, the way you put together all the elements of story telling will be unique to you and will come across. We know what the movie of strong directors will look and feel like when we’ve never seen it before, and too, the music of strong musicians. So, following your suggestions, the more we read and write and absorb all the elements that go into good story making, the more our voice will develop. Is that what I’m hearing?

    • #19 by Author Kristen Lamb on April 9, 2012 - 6:19 pm

      Yes, exactly. I know a Spielberg movie just from the look of it. Same with Stanley Kubrick. That just comes from A LOT of work and a LOT of art. Learn, experiment and practice. Work, work, work. None of us would ever mistake Hemingway for Austen. They are authors with a legendary voice.

  15. #20 by Adriana Ryan on April 9, 2012 - 5:33 pm

    Love the comparison of writers to actors! That really helped me understand the ever-elusive concept of voice.

  16. #21 by Judy Christie on April 9, 2012 - 6:01 pm

    Outstanding post — considering different actors in roles was an “aha moment” for me. Your comments on pacing reminded me of my granddaughter’s comments on “The Hunger Games” last week. She said that there’s so much action that when there is a “lull,” she knows something is about to happen. The author is letting her catch her breath. Thanks for sharing your writing wisdom and all the best with your computer hassles. Judy Christie

  17. #22 by lindseyjparsons on April 9, 2012 - 6:09 pm

    I don’t think you could have explained that any better, I definitely have a much clearer idea of what’s meant by voice now thank you.
    I also agree with reading outside of your favourite genre. I belong to a reading group who choose a different book each month to read and then we discuss it at our monthly meetings. This is great for making you read outside of your comfort zone and it’s also interesting and helpful to hear other peoples views on what you’ve just read.
    Thanks again for a very informative post.

  18. #23 by Stacy A on April 9, 2012 - 6:24 pm

    This post is super helpful. I just had my first scene critiqued by some fellow-writers at a writing site, and was amazed how some of the things they wrote had more to do with what THEY would have written rather than how I wrote it. I.e., they weren’t taking into account my voice. I agreed with some of the things they said, but there were a few disconnects that I felt had to do more with writing style/voice differences than “good writing.” Anyway, what you posted today was interesting and gave me some good things to think about. Thanks!
    Stacy A

  19. #24 by Trish Takahashi on April 9, 2012 - 7:46 pm

    Thank you—your post has made it very clear. I am currently writing a fiction story for older children (not quite YA) but it just doesn’t seem to be getting there. After reading your article I now realise that I have been forgetting my own voice and not telling the story in the same way that I would if I was telling it orally. I also need to do some work on the supporting characters! I have been unable to write anything significant for over a week, but now I know what I have to work on. Thanks

  20. #25 by Reetta Raitanen on April 9, 2012 - 7:50 pm

    Great points about our characters and genre affecting our voice. Trying out different things is really good for us. It teaches us what fits us and what doesn’t.

  21. #26 by Carol Wuenschell on April 9, 2012 - 8:01 pm

    A lot of good observations. I never actually worried about voice. I write what I am best able to write, and I write the way I write, because I’m me. It’s that simple. I assume that whatever I sound like must be my voice. I would love to be Terry Pratchett, or Ray Bradbury, or JRR Tolkien, but I know I’m not, and that’s the end of it.

  22. #27 by tomwisk on April 9, 2012 - 8:20 pm

    As I write a story, I’m telling it in my head. It keeps the tempo and I know the storyteller saw what happened and is telling the to the reader. It changes from piece to piece.

  23. #28 by Samuel on April 9, 2012 - 9:01 pm

    One of your finest posts ever.

    and you compared yourself to Jack Black too.

    cheers!

  24. #29 by skfigler on April 9, 2012 - 11:52 pm

    Good advice on voice and interesting and apt tropes. I try to treat all of my characters (walks-throughs may be the exception) as if each is the protagonist. These peripheral characters have a life, too, and it gives dimensionality to the story. Also, it’s fun.

    Only question I have is that the post seems to slide between the matter of author’s voice and characters’ voices. Certainly writers—Hemingway, Faulkner, Toni Morrison, Christopher Moore, as a few examples—have their own distinct voices, which is not the same as their various characters’ voices. Can you say something about that?

  25. #30 by asraidevin on April 10, 2012 - 1:15 am

    I’ve got my voice for fiction down just fine. I write romance bordering on erotica. I’ve got that down.

    It’s my blogging voice I’m struggling with. I’m unhappy with a lot of what I’m writing, because I’m not writing from deep down in my heart (or soul) or what-have-you. I have a lot of fear surrounding my deeper feelings, I knowing this will help me get passed it all. I love blogging, even if it is a struggle, so I know I’m on the right track.

  26. #31 by Fiona Marsden on April 10, 2012 - 2:02 am

    This is an area of particular struggle for me as I have only in the last eighteen months returned to trying to write seriously. I wrote depressing poetry and started to write Regency Romances and Scifi in my late teens but family committments and other interests rather swamped them for the next (ahem) years. The whole write what you know can confuse things. I’ve always loved the Presents line so I thought, ok I’ll start there. But my manuscripts (nine of them to date) don’t fit the current imprints. I seem to be writing for the 70’s and 80’s Presents or equivalent) style. Now they are neither fish nor fowl. Too much for the Romance line, not enough for current Presents. I’ve started reading other imprints and in the interests of learning more about sex scenes have dabbled in some erotica. VERY educational ;-]. I like, even love if a writer is permitted to do so, my story lines and am reasonably confident about some of my characterisation. NOt so sure about execution, pacing. And most of all market. I’ve written what I like to read, within the parameters of what I can live with putting down on paper which includes some challenging story arcs. But even if I manage to write them well, still a matter for debate, I’m not sure that the market I’ve chosen, HM&B romance, will be interested in my voice. A voice that is probably a little old fashioned in some ways when they are pushing to strengthen their product in the younger adult demographic.

  27. #32 by Fiona Marsden on April 10, 2012 - 5:45 am

    Wrote a novella which seems to have vanished into ether. Never mind, synopsis now available. Voice is a major issue for Princess Fi who is returning to writing after hiatus of years. Strong on plots, shaky on execution, very uncertain voice is likely to appeal to target. Target HM&B who are now pushing to attract younger demographic. Can middle aged frump with old fashioned morals create voice to be heard by younger generation when young adult children don’t listen to voice.
    Can there be a HEA for Princess Fi or should she be writing for church newsletter?

  28. #33 by tracikenworth on April 10, 2012 - 6:34 am

    I’m learning the more I read, the finer-tuned the voices of my characters sound to me. I read non-fiction and just about every genre of fiction out there.

  29. #34 by Susan Silver (@Susan_Silver) on April 10, 2012 - 8:44 am

    I think about voice a lot, it took me awhile to realize I had one. For me. it has about how you see the world uniquely from someone else. Are you good with little details, imagery, or foreign characters. I realized this year my talent comes from my love of pop-culture. I can really bring to life a character involved in one of the niches like comic books, or record collectors. It also shows in my nonfiction work because I often use movies or tv as metaphors. To me that is what a voice is, it separates me from other writers.

    You know you can recognize a Stephen King book or Dr. Suess within a few sentences, because they each have a strong writing voice. You don’t need to know the author to recognize their work when you hear those sentences.

  30. #35 by KM Huber on April 10, 2012 - 8:52 am

    Put this one in your “Rather Fine Essays” folder, Kristen, as it is a solid piece of writing. As I’ve mentioned before, what I most admire in all your posts–and my admiration is great–is the authenticity of your voice. To learn voice, all one has to do is read your blog for it is just as you say, “I am true to my voice,” in other words, authentic.

    If a piece of writing doesn’t sound authentic, it isn’t. A colleague used to pick out my “writery” phrases–a combination of Little Darlings and just pure fluff/crap–that really helped me cut to the bone of my writing and was a lesson in removing ego, an ongoing struggle.

    Truly, a beautiful essay, Kristen.

    Karen

  31. #36 by Cricket on April 10, 2012 - 8:58 am

    As a storyteller (perform live), I’m still refining my voice. Often, I’ll get half-way through a rehearsal and realize I’m immitating another teller. It feels right for the story. It’s usually a good sign — I’m comfortable enough with the story to add Voice. The trick then is to change Voice, usually by immitating a very different teller. “How would Joe tell this story? What would he focus on? How would he portray this character?” Or even, “How would Mary NOT tell it?” Then I cut loose and see how I tell the story. It ends up a much better, more original, more “me” telling than if I focused only on my initial impressions of what the story needed.

  32. #37 by bronwynworthington on April 10, 2012 - 10:59 am

    I appreciated your comments about how studying psychology can improve our writing. I’ve noticed talk therapy has vastly improved my creative juices while also expanding my depth of insight.

  33. #38 by deb reilly on April 10, 2012 - 12:58 pm

    Kristen, I doubt you’d have gotten the same benefit from Pottery 101 as from skydiving! But I get your point. We have to take leaps of faith in order to learn more about ourselves—which enriches our lives, and our voice…right? Again, great post. Thanks!

    • #39 by Author Kristen Lamb on April 10, 2012 - 2:31 pm

      I don’t know. Any nut can jump out of a plane (as I proved), but pottery might have been a better use of time. Would have taught me patience, attention to detail, discipline. I might have met others and learned their stories instead of being so focused on myself and trying to prove something. I am glad I did it, because there is nothing quite like falling from 15,000 feet. But, I now see there were equally valuable adventures that might not have been so dangerous or expensive, LOL.

  34. #40 by J. L. Mbewe on April 10, 2012 - 1:46 pm

    I understand what editors/agents mean by “voice” but I don’t think I could explain it so somebody else understands. But this post did it great! I love how you focus on the art of writing. Most everything I’ve read has focused on the craft so it is refreshing to bring them two together. We nail down the foundation, build the structure and then add the beauty. In my own writing journey, I’m peeling back the layers and looking for my voice. It’s there, waiting. I’ll find it. Thanks for sharing!

  35. #41 by granbee on April 10, 2012 - 4:03 pm

    Kristen, thank you SO MUCH for being this patient with us and really making the concept of the writer’s “voice” so very clear in this post. This is a fantastically helpful post. It gave me some new ideas on how to put myself inside the characters in my narrative poems. A whole lifetime of past observances and continuing ones, very painstakingly carried out, are a great beginning for me in fine-tuning my writers’/characters’ “voices”.

  36. #42 by Peter DeHaan on April 10, 2012 - 4:58 pm

    As someone who occasionally and uncomfortably stands up in front of people and talks, one of my biggest supporters surprised me by saying, “I really like your style.”

    I was shocked at the suggestion that I had a style. I assume the same could be said about our writer’s voice: we may not know we have one, but we all do.

  37. #43 by Susan J on April 10, 2012 - 7:07 pm

    Great information; that clicked. In a recent post you were describing new authors being passionate about their first book, and if it falls short of impresfive, their continuing to try to fix the unfixable with numerous rewrites. Hopefully these tips will allow those of us on the “pre-b working up to new-b” end of things to have a better shot at not wasting that first idea, the one that’s moving us toward writing in the first place. Looking forward to more tips, and planning to check previous posts and whether you’ve included these in your published works, along with the social media instruction. Thanks for what you’re sharing.

  38. #44 by mliddle on April 10, 2012 - 10:44 pm

    Hi Kristen!
    I was struggling to understand voice, so I followed your recommendation and purchased Les Edgerton’s Finding Your Voice. I fell behind in my reading and this post came right on time. It provides a helpful summary as well as providing another perspective of understanding voice. Thank you for the post which will go in one of my Evernote notebks.

    I am still chest high in getting used to my website and blog, but as I constantly think of my new book, I loved how you compared writers to both directors and actors. It helps me to keep my perspective as a writer. Thanks again for helping us writers. And i’m glad you told us to read all types of bks, including psychology, sociology and history. These shape all characters and we ought to know how.
    Monique

  39. #45 by Ileandra Young on April 11, 2012 - 8:48 am

    Finding my voice is a hard work and understanding exactly what I mean by that is tougher still. But at least your post gives me an clearer idea.
    Thanks for the post!

  40. #46 by Melissa Lummis (@melissalummis) on April 11, 2012 - 9:09 am

    I truly believe that voice is my art and to that end I am constantly adding to my palette and tool box. Its one of the reasons I love reading your blog; it has been rewarding. I have a long trail to hike towards my writing goals and I am in constant need of information, support and motivation. So, thanks for sharing your “art”, your voice. “I was less prone to listen to what other people thought and decided to take my path,” rings true – I am working hard towards that goal right now. Thanks so much, Kristen.

    Best regards,
    Melissa

  41. #47 by David Jones on April 11, 2012 - 9:38 am

    Voice, this is the one area of writing that I have the hardest time dealing with. When I complete reading a book, I couldn’t tell you the difference in the character if i tried. Sure, I know the names and who they were, but what set them apart. no way. Half way through the book I try to list the characters, and what made them who they are. I can never accomplish this no matter how I try.
    The author has never been able to create what I call three-dimensional characters for me. They all seem to be one-dimensional. I have read “finding your Voice” and I am doing all the exercises in the book. I hope they help me.

  42. #48 by wckedwords on April 11, 2012 - 6:38 pm

    But were you dressed as Nacho Libre when you jumped from the plane?
    Ooops…sorry. I’m easily distracted by shiny things like tights. Now, about voice. Finding the voice of my characters actually comes the most natural to me. I’m not sure if it’s my acting background, the degrees in psychology, or just the extreme sensitivity I’ve had to others since I was child. It’s structuring everything to keep the right pace in the plot that both baffles me and makes me realize writing is actually “work.”

  43. #49 by broadsideblog on April 12, 2012 - 10:26 am

    I know your blog is focused mostly on fiction, but the question of voice is also important for (us) writers of journalism and non-fiction as well. My latest book has a snarky/sassy voice which is, in the sections where it’s loudest, suits my material (a critque of having worked retail)…ironically, it’s too scary for some of the people I want to market it to as a speaker. They seem to be convinced this is my *only* voice — not a deliberate narrative choice.

    My blog has a distinct voice and has brought some editors to me. I’ve been writing for a living for 30+ years, so I better have developed one by now! I think that voice is also variable, even in non-fiction. I write some material with that sassy/jocular tone and sometimes in a much more somber one. I think the best writers are able to choose among several voices.

  44. #50 by Heather Marsten on April 15, 2012 - 5:52 pm

    Thank you for trying to define that elusive voice. I’m working on a memoir and I’ve had to mature the voice of me from child to adult. The more I write, the more the voice is coming out. Thanks for your hints and helps.

  45. #51 by searchingtosee on April 19, 2012 - 6:02 am

    This post really resonated with me. I am trying to write, and ‘find my voice’ but it is taking me a lot of time to feel comfortable with my characters (not sure how else to put it). I think I just need to live with them for a while before I can write them, maybe. I had coffee with one of them the other day (I mean, really, in a coffee shop and everything, but no I didn’t order her a coffee and I didn’t talk to her out lound – I’m not crazy…. honest). It was an enlightening experience though and helped me think about how she would act in different situations. After that I wrote a whole scene and really was able to focus on her mannerisms and facial expressions (detail is so important). Little exercises like that can help with creativity.

    I think blogging can really help with this too. I had this idea to write a sort of meta-blog about the process of writing my book. Just to help me gain a bit of distance from it, think about it from different angles. If nothing else it will get me writing.

    Thanks, again, really glad I found this blog.

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