What is voice?

finding your voiceAh, voice. As writers, we hear about it a lot. Lately, I’ve seen discussion of it crop up on social media, and I’ve been scribbling a lot of notes about voice in the margins of the manuscripts I’ve been editing.

We’ve all heard the advice: Write what you want to read. And this, I think, has just as much to do with voice as is does plot. A lot of finding your voice has to do with telling the story you want to tell in such a way that only you could tell it. Your voice is the particular tone, style, technique, and word choices you use to tell your story, but it’s also the unique perspective, personality, and flavor that only you can bring to it. How you approach the world, how you interpret your surroundings, and how you filter it all onto the page is your voice.

You’re totally clear on what voice is now, right?

This is why we can procrastinate and resist writing. This is why we’d sometimes rather comb the cat or clean toilets than park our bums and just write. Because if you start to think about voice, or more precisely, if you start to wonder what voice is and how does one find such a thing and what if you don’t have one, not much writing will get done because panic will open the door for that inner critic, and the inner critic will win.

First of all, you have a voice. You do. But we always talk about finding that voice. Here’s a trick: go back and read old writings, whether they be journal entries, blog posts, whatever, but read them chronologically. Start with the oldest piece of writing and work your way to the present. I bet you’ll see a thread of recognition in each one, and I bet that thread gets more vibrant the closer you get to your most current writings. That thread of recognition? Those telltale signs that some bit of writing is yours and yours alone? That’s your voice. And it’s not your voice because it’s brilliant or quirky or offbeat or astoundingly new, though it may be. It’s your voice because, even when taken out of context, it’s your style — your particular makeup of word choice, flow, rhythm, cadence, personality, and perspective.

A good voice is original and credible. A good voice has the ability to remain consistent even as the plot shifts. A good voice carries the reader through to the end of the piece, essay, novel, etc. but doesn’t overshadow the story.

So here’s how to succeed in finding your voice: don’t overthink it. This is why freewriting can be so powerful. Get out of your own way, write a lot, and most likely your voice will find you. Be mindful of the narrative techniques you tend to gravitate toward (metaphors, hyperbole, foreshadowing, backstory, etc.) but don’t obsess over them*, and try not to veer wildly off course. (i.e. Sophie Kinsella said that she once tried to write a thriller wherein she had written a cast of really nice people who suddenly started killing each other.)

*In the process of finding and cultivating your voice through journal entries, first drafts of novels, picture books, essays, etc. it’s fine to fall back on devices like metaphors and backstory, etc., but once you move on to subsequent drafts you’ll need to take a critical eye to the piece and try to recognize when something is overplayed.

Discovering our voice means we have to write the story we want to read in the most authentic way we can, which is the only way it’s going to be a success. Scratch that. It’s the only way we’ll write to the end.

If you’re interested in learning more about the editing services I provide, click here. I’d love the opportunity to work on a project with you. 

Under Construction

*This post might turn out to be long but stick with me — there’s something in it for you!

I’m sitting here trying to figure out a way to tell you what I’ve been doing since November 17 (the point at which I disappeared), but it’s all very slice-of-life stuff.

I got busy.

Family came to visit for Thanksgiving and that was a blast. And then we got sick and that was not a blast. Then there was everything that leads up to Christmas and it was all merry and bright. And then the boys were struck with something like the flu but they’ve had flu shots so not the flu exactly. And then I fell victim and it was most definitely the flu. And then it was two days before Christmas and pretty much the only person I had shopped for was Mia. Oops. And then it was Christmas and fa la la la la la la la la. And then we had a snowstorm, the end.

But what I really want to say…because this is my space (not to be confused with MySpace which I’m pretty sure is defunct by now) and I’m fairly confident there are approximately three people who read this blog…and my mom tells me that I should swallow my pride and let it out…

Taking a deep breath…

The last half of 2012 was not kind to us in the finance department. Things aren’t good and they’re only getting worse. So…I’ve been job hunting.

To give you some back story because I don’t think I have so far, I come from a publishing background. Children’s publishing specifically. I used to work at a literary agency in New York until we moved back to Indiana right before Mia was born. Since then, I’ve done some freelance writing and editing and manuscript critiquing. When I found out I was pregnant with baby number two (the twins thing would be a shock later), I had just finished a project that kept me busy for most of 2010. It was the perfect time to take a break and just be pregnant. Which turned out to be a grand plan because that pregnancy kicked my ass. And then the boys were born and, hello, who has time to work with infant twins?

Who has time to (insert any verb here) with infant twins?

So, a few months ago I decided we were finally in a good enough routine that I could get back to doing some freelance work. Imagine my surprise to find that a year and a half later most of my contacts can’t be found. I’m trying to network, and I think I’m making new contacts, but it’s slow going. Too slow for our circumstances. So, I’m now the proud owner of an updated resume that is currently circulating the WWW and probably not being seen by any real people anywhere.

So this is where you come in.

See? I told you there was something in it for you.

I need your help.

Okay, so not quite for you.

If you happen to know anyone in need of any writing, editing, copyediting, proofreading or manuscript reviewing work, I’m your girl. Likewise, if you’re in the Indianapolis area and you just happen to be looking for a detail-oriented, creative, reliable, dead-line driven and all around awesome professional, ahem, I’m right here.

So that’s that.

Another thing — you’ll probably notice the “personality” of this blog changing a bit in the near future. Though I’m still using this space as a “mommy blog” (ugh, I really don’t like that term), I’m also going to incorporate more material on writing and books. There will be some book reviews (mostly children’s books — picture books through YA), some discussion on current publishing trends, industry news, maybe some author interviews, who knows. I don’t really know what’s in store but I’m excited to find out.

Cheers to 2013!