Any fans of “The Voice” out there? Have you been watching this season? Wow. Just wow. What incredible talent!
If you haven’t seen the show, let’s catch you up. “The Voice” is a singing competition with three phases: the blind auditions, the battle rounds, and the live performances. During the blind auditions, the celebrity coaches sit in large red chairs with their backs toward the stage. Each contestant has ninety seconds to sing for their life and get at least one coach to turn their chair around. If more than one coach turns, the contestant chooses which celebrity they want as a coach. It can get competitive fast once the power is in the hands of the contestant. The coaches flaunt their many accomplishments, diss their fellow coaches, and at times, are not above some old-fashioned begging.
If only there was a reality show like this for writers, where editors fall all over themselves to tell us how amazing we are and how much they want to work with us. Right?
As this season of the television show has played out, we’ve been struck not only by the fantastic voices of those who were chosen, but also by some incredibly talented singers who were not picked up. When the coaches pass on a contestant, instead of a generic, “not my cup of tea” or “it just didn’t grab me,” they give constructive comments, mostly centered on the lack of development of the performer’s voice. Some singers need to find who they are as an artist. Others are encouraged to study their craft and learn to work through their nerves. And there are some who, although they are “technically flawless,” lack an emotional connection with their song and ultimately with the coaches.
Developing a strong singing voice takes practice, training, practice, more training and more practice. Sound familiar?
But whether singing or putting words on the page, once you’ve got the technique down, there’s more. In both music and writing the goal is to connect with the audience. To evoke emotion. And that happens through your writing voice.
Your writing voice is the intangible thing that makes your work different from everyone else’s. It’s your particular way of telling a story and it begins with your view of the world and your life experience.
Think about your favorite authors. Even if their name didn’t appear on the cover of the book, you’d recognize their work. The words their character’s use, the rhythm of the conversations, the way the author paints the setting with a handful of paragraphs or with a single sentence. When done right, their voice casts a spell, transporting the audience or reader to another world, time or place.
In music, that unique voice is what catches your attention and makes you want more. It’s the same with writing.
Though we believe voice isn’t something that can be taught, we do believe there are some things you can do to help strengthen your voice.
1. Say it your way. Be true to yourself and your own experiences. Your individual truth is an ingredient of your unique voice.
2. Dig deep. Use emotion, don’t hold back, share your fresh and original worldview. No one else sees life in exactly the same way you do. Use that.
3. Be brave. Using your true voice in your writing may seem scary. You may feel exposed. Good, then you’re almost there! Work on setting aside your fears and allowing your unique storytelling to come through. Vulnerability is strength.
4. Learn the craft. A strong voice is not simply spitting out raw prose and thinking you’ve got it down. Learn the basics, hone your writing skills, polish your work. Only then can your voice shine through.
5. Don’t over edit. By that we absolutely do not mean, don’t edit. Bad writing is bad writing and must be whipped into shape. However, fix the grammar, improve the sentence structure, correct the punctuation, but don’t edit the life out of your work.
6. Stay strong. Listen to your coaches, your beta readers and critique partners. They have your best interests in mind. But don’t let your desire to do it right or make it marketable, overcome your storytelling voice. It’s possible to be technically correct and lose your voice in the process.
Ultimately, it’s your voice – that wonderfully different and distinctive way you string words together – that’s what will make your work stand out from the millions of other storytellers.
In The Voice competition and in writing and publishing, those who do well: have talent, learn from their coaches, and work hard to hone their skills. It takes all of those things to create great stories.
But those who stand out will have that difficult-to-define element that makes their work memorable, makes you want to hear more, and tugs at your heart. That’s voice.
As Voice coach, Pharrell Williams, said to a contestant in one of the final episodes of this season, “This is what you were born to do.”
For you, too, writers, this is what you were born to do.
Thank-you so much Seekerville for letting us stop by! And now we have a question for all of you:
By the way, there will be a drawing among those commenting for a Sparkle Abbey book of your choice.
Sparkle Abbey is the pseudonym of mystery authors Mary Lee Woods and Anita Carter. They’ve chosen to use Sparkle Abbey as their pen name on this series because they liked the idea of combining the names of their two rescue pets – Sparkle (ML’s cat) and Abbey (Anita’s dog). The authors co-write the bestselling Pampered Pets Mystery Series which focuses on the wacky world of precious pedigrees, pampered pooches, and secrets in posh Laguna Beach, California. The main characters and amateur sleuths are Texas cousins, Carolina Lamont, a pet therapist, and Melinda Langston, a pet boutique owner. The first books in the series, Desperate Housedogs, Get Fluffy, Kitty Kitty Bang Bang, Yip/Tuck, Fifty Shades of Greyhound, and The Girl with the Dachshund Tattoo have received rave reviews. Midwest Book Review calls the series, “A fun and sassy mystery!”
The next installment, coming in June, Downton Tabby, is currently available for pre-order on Amazon.
The authors love to hear from readers so stop by their website www.sparkleabbey.com or visit them on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/sparkleabbey to check out all their news.