Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Your Voice

How do you create your own voice? By writing.

Voice isn't something that can be taught, norr can it be forced. It comes over time by writing a lot. You can copy the style of other other authors, but only as a way to find your own voice. If you do write it another person's style it will read badly.

The early works of famous authors have a voice, but not a mature one and sometimes not a distinctive one. Terry Pratchett's early books are in his voice, but they could also have been written by other authors. His later discworld books are his and could only have been written by him. The same applies to Charles Dickens, Stephen King, Isaac Asimov Jane Auten and any famous author.

In short, there is no easy way to find your voice, but there is a method that can help, which I've lifted from 'Self-Editing for Fiction Writers' by Browne and King.

First of all, take a yellow highlighter (or pink or green or whatever your favourite colour is), read through you current WIP and highlight all the sentences and phrases that really appeal to you. Then, with a red pen, read through the same piece and underline all the sentences and phrases that you don't like or jar with you but can't think of how to replace.

By comparing the two, thinking about what doesn't work in the bad parts and what does work in the good parts, you should be able to get some idea of your voice. It will take time to do this, but be patient with yourself. Some authors take years to fully find their voice.

Finally, here are some quotes about words and writing.

See you on Friday.

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Slang is a language that takes off its coat, rolls up its sleeves, spits on its hands, and goes to work (JB Priestly)

'Whom' is a word invented to make everyone sound like a butler. (Calvin Trillin)

The word 'good' has many meanings. For example, if a man were to shoot his grandmother at a range of 500 yards, I should call him a good shot, but not necessarily a good man. (GK Chesterton)

An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke. (F Scott Fitzgerald)

A synomym is a word you use when you can't spell the word you first thought of. (Burt Bacharach)

Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents and everyone is writing a book. (Cicero, 43 BC)

Write someting, even it's just a suicide note. (Gore Vidal)

My advice to aspiring writers: marry money. (Max Shulman)

The way British publishing works is that you go from not being published no matter how good you are, to being published no matter how bad you are. (Tibor Fischer)

I'm writing a book. I've got the page numbers done. (Steven Wright)

Anyone could write a novel given six weeks, pen, paper and no telephone or wife. (Evelyn Waugh)

I dedicate this book to my daughter Leonara without never-failing sympathy and encouragement it would have been written in half the time. (PG Wodehouse)

A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit. (Richard Bach)

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7 comments:

Lisa Shafer said...

Voice is always such an interesting topic, I think. :)

E. Arroyo said...

Some great quotes. I had to write quite a few novels to finally find my voice. I think I got it... =)

Martin Willoughby said...

Lisa: Because voice is so specific to an individual it's also the hardest to talk about.

EA: Voice is hard to define but someting you know when you see it.

defcon said...

I like to think I've found my voice, or at least my style. I probably still need to work at it, like everything in life.

And nice quotes, though I still like the occasional exclamation!

Martin Willoughby said...

Defcon: I avoid excalmation marks because my teacher told me to use them. :)

Milo James Fowler said...

Great quotes -- "whom" in particular. I like the idea of going through a WiP and marking the best sentences versus the ones we ain't too thrilled about. I find that my voice changes based on the genre I'm writing, but I suppose that's a naturally occurring phenomenon.

Martin Willoughby said...

Milo: In one sense the writer's voice changes according to the character, but we always have the same style whatever we write.