First a question for the Seekerville regulars: How often do you start reading a post and immediately know which Seeker wrote it even before you read the byline?
That’s because you recognize the author’s voice, her unique way of framing her thoughts--everything from word choice to syntax to punctuation and paragraphing. Sol Stein (Stein on Writing, St. Martin’s Griffin, 2000) says, “Recognizing an individual author’s voice is much like recognizing a person’s voice on the telephone.”
Our own Camy Tang explains voice in her article “Finding and Honing Your Writer’s Voice” (A Novel Idea, ChiLibris, Tyndale House Publishers, 2009). “Voice sets the stage for the story,” Camy writes, and “serves to distinguish one writer from another.” Stein explains that voice has “two components, the originality of what is said and the originality of the way it is said.”
When editors or agents try to quantify what they look for in a publishable manuscript, quite often it comes down to “a unique voice”--a comment that often leaves writers scratching their heads. How do I find my voice? How will I know when I’ve found it?
Sol Stein recommends an exercise to help writers find their voice and “discover what they alone can do.” He explains the process in detail in chapter 22 of Stein on Writing, “Tapping Your Originality.” The short version is to imagine you’re standing on a rooftop about to address the crowd below, and you’re only allowed one sentence, the sentence the world will always remember you by. What will you say, and how will you say it?
Seen in this light, voice becomes more than mere word choice, arrangement, and inflection. Voice carries the message of who we are as individuals. Voice conveys the theme of our lives.
Finding your voice doesn’t just happen--or maybe it does. It certainly can’t be forced. It happens when you silence your internal editors and censors and just let the words spill onto the page. It happens when you stop imitating the voices of authors you admire and just be yourself. It happens when you’ve written and written and written until you finally figure out what you really have to say.
Just for fun, here are excerpts from past blogs by each of the Seekers. If you think you know which Seeker goes with which quote, post your guesses in the comment section. I’ll report back this weekend with the correct answers.
I hate to compete in anything because I hate to lose. Disappointment can stab like a knife to the gut. (In my case a liver biopsy comes to mind.) So I’d rather avoid the pain by running from the source of that pain. A writers’ contest can bring momentary glory or sheer misery, anger, loss of self esteem, frustration.
Sit back and relax because today we're going to chat it up about influencers and I don't mean the kind who post kindly reviews on B&N or pass a new novel around, drumming up new readers. Nope. This kind of influencer, good or bad, is all up to us, the writer.
Why do we keep writing when we keep getting slapped down? Perhaps we have some God-given drive that keeps us at it. Or that last contest win helps us hang in. Or maybe we’re just too stubborn to quit. Whatever enables us to persist, I believe if we don’t give up, good things will happen. And when they do, the fulfillment of our dreams is worth every scrape and bruise.
I have the soul of an artist. My creative juices are fueled when I can let my mind wander. I love long walks and whiling away hours in the garden. I hate to be rushed. But like the rest of you, I have a life, commitments, obligations—the many details of which must be attended to whether I like it or not. As a writer, I have to MAKE time to write.
So what's your excuse for not writing? In truth--I really don't want to hear your excuses, and I doubt if you really want to hear mine. We both know we have a drawer full of sorry rationalizations, when we should have a drawer full of manuscripts, short stories or articles to peddle.
If you must blog about your disappointment, thoroughly disguise the details and certainly don’t name names! The Internet has a long, l-o-o-o-o-n-g memory. Better yet, avoid any kind of Internet-related commentary. Eat chocolate until the urge passes.
First chapters make or break a book so start with an opening that grabs the reader.
Luckily, first lines do not have to be written first. Discern where the story’s going and how you want it to unfold. Launch the characters on their journey then go back and rework the opening.
Okay, lock the door and pull down the shades—today we’re talkin’ multiple POVs. Yeah, yeah, I know, we’re all gonna have to go to confession afterwards, but that’s the price you have to pay for taking risks.
I remember once, I was injured in an unfortunate brainstorming accident. I told the situation and ended with, "It's a romantic comedy." My brainstorming partner...who is NOT a Seeker...just gave me this weird, dead serious look and said, "There's nothing funny about that situation. You can't make jokes about that."
Well, hello Death from Brainstorming.
Now, as I was saying, the critique group. While attending my very first meeting of my local RWA chapter, I found a group of romance writers who lived relatively close to me and met monthly, rotating meetings at the homes of the members. Each month we brought 10 pages of our best work, distributed copies to each member and then proceeded to read aloud our genius.
Good morning Seekers and friends. Pour yourself a cup of aromatic chocolate velvet coffee or some blueberry herbal tea and lets talk researching the contemporary novel. Research? A contemporary? Wouldn't you simply write what you know from experience? Don't we already know the styles for clothing, the types of transportation, the currant issues? Why do you need to research?
When you THINK you are completely done, double-check the rules one more time. If you haven’t done something (like write your check, or put postage on the return envelope) write it at the top of the rules and highlight it. In your excitement, it’s much too easy to get to the post office and seal that sucker up, forgetting all about the return postage and/or your check.
Tension is tension. It can be external or internal, positive or negative. But mostly, keep upping the stakes, meaning make really bad things happen to your character. Make their worst fear come true. Give them two choices with equally bad consequences and make them have no other choice than to choose one. LOL!
I had so much fun reading this book. Her heroine bordered on unlikeable because she could be snotty. But I just loved her anyway. What made her sympathetic was that she was at a crisis point in her life and career, and you just had to pull for her. Plus, she was hysterical. She would say and think things that I might wish I had the nerve to say! :)
I know this sounds hard, but a writing retreat is for you to WRITE. And it’s too easy for people to call or email or IM and say, “I know you’re writing, but…”
Excerpt #16 (yes, I know there are only 15 Seekers)
I live to offer unsolicited advice, watch out when it's solicited. The short and sweet of my advice today is that an aspiring author is no different than an aspiring anything else. You must ask yourself what you are willing to sacrifice to accomplish your dreams. Then you must ask everyone else in your life what they are willing to sacrifice for your dreams.
BTW, someone who comments on today's post will receive a copy of one of my Heartsong Presents romances, winner's choice of Autumn Rains or my latest release, Romance by the Book. Watch for the announcement in the Weekend Edition!
In reality, Sailor Kern is a swimming instructor at her local YMCA in Birkenstock, Missouri. But in her dreams, she shares a life with famous romance writer Chandler Michaels. And now she's about to meet him in person! And not only meet him, she gets to be his assistant the whole time he's visiting Birkenstock. But romance and reality don't always mix, and Sailor is in for some big surprises. Will Sailor follow her dream man, or will she see the true hero God has placed before her, right in her own hometown?