Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Writer's Voice

"Voice" is a cliché. You don't want your story to sound like someone else wrote it, yet it still needs to flow so it doesn't slow down the reader. So how do you insert your personality without weighing down your words?

I've received tons of rejections the last three years, and few explain why they've rejected my manuscript. I got one rejection last month in which the agent stated she didn't prefer the voice. Getting a specific why was nice. But, what and the heck was it about the voice that didn't fit?

The nice faded to a new pain. Voice is the reader's overall experience. So overall, the agent felt I sucked. Oh, how pleasant.

In our critiques we frequently get "didn't work for me." I've come to believe those are cues that our unique voice is stepping forward. It isn't a bad thing. Just like some don't like fantasy, I don't care for cozy mysteries. Doesn't mean the writing isn't good. It is a matter of taste.

Don't simply whitewash those areas that didn't work for your critique partner. But do edit the hell out of it. Is it concise, clear, say what you intended, with consistent language? If yes, then your voice is probably showing.

Write Every Day!

Regards, Mac


  1. "Didn't prefer the voice," is pretty vague. Don't let that make you think you sucked. It's so true about voice. I think it takes time to develop your own.

  2. Few would-be writers understand voice. Most think they can sit down and crank out a story. Tell it like it is, and they’re done.
    Wrong. Voice is what makes good fiction good. Anyone who can hold another’s attention for thirty seconds is probably a good storyteller. Voice is the spice. Voice is the unacknowledged character in your story, the one that makes for delicious reading. Voice is what gets the reader past the first page.
    Voice flavors the story, makes it more than weeknight beans and franks. It’s the component most lack in their stories, the reason why writers can’t capture a publisher’s eye.
    Like other aspects of writing, voice has to be true to the context.

    "Some felt the Lumpkin County fair was nothing but a bunch of cotton candy and cheap thrills sprouting from the backs of flat beds. Most knew it was the highlight of the summer, the only entertainment for miles and months.
    Albert hadn’t been to a county fair in a dozen years or more. He’d be going to this one like a fool wearing gasoline for cologne and using a lit match to find his way with a girl way beyond his dim understanding. Sometimes the fun is keeping the devil away from his work."

    You get voice right and a whole lot of other mess falls into line.

  3. You're behind, John... ;O) ... but nice you drop by routinely. Love your comments.