Monday, December 27, 2010

Writer's Laryngitis - Getting Your Voice Back Again

One of my writers of women's fiction has an amazing voice in her writing. In fact, it was really that voice appealed to me so much when I signed her last Christmas and it was the same voice that sold he book before in 11 days. In any case, we have been working on her next project and while talking to the editor about it, she was really luke warm about it. The story was O.K. but there was simply something missing. After 30 minutes of talking, we both figured out what it was. She had lost her voice.

When agents and editors are looking at books to sign, we are looking at several things. Obviously we have to determine if the story is right fo us. This is the plot and storyline. We also look at the marketability of the story. It may be great writing, but if the book isn't something we can sell appropriately, then we pass on it. One of the biggest elements we look for is a voice that stands out. We want something distinctive to help you stand out in this huge world. Think of some of the big guns out there in the romance and women's fiction genres: Nora Roberts, Janet Evonovich, Brenda Novak, Jo Beverly. When you pick up one of their books, there is a distinctive voice screaming at you. It is that "something different."

As a published author, that is also something we are looking for in each of your books. Editors and agents are looking for something that is consistant. We don't want a cookie cutter of your last book. We want a new story, but we want your same voice. Unfortunately, for many authors out there, losing their voices can mean a certain death for a writer.

So, let's return back to my author who was suffering from an accute case of writer's laryngitis. What did she do?

She sat down with the initial story and kept re-working it. She tweaked it, she turned it, she recrafted scenes.

But it didn't work.

She pulled out a blank sheet of paper and started over, coming at the story from a different angle.

But it didn't work.

The problem was simple. She was looking at the plot and trying to fix something that, at some level, didn't need to be fixed.

So she went back to her first book and read it. It was then she discovered the problem was her voice. That personality she had in the first book was just not there. In this new book, all she was doing was telling a story. It was nothing but words.

After writing over 10 new versions of the story, that new version WITH her voice had just what she needed. She had regained her voice and now the words are sailing through her fingers and onto the computer screen.

What is your voice? Do you really know it?



  1. Voice is confusing to me. It seems as if each story couldn't help but have a different voice than the next story. Wouldn't different characters, new plot and all that automatically give a new voice?
    In the art world you paint a certain style even when you try to change it. Is it not the same in writing?
    And what would cause your voice to change from one story to the next?

  2. Voice is the characteristic style of your own writing. While the characters have their own voice, it is the way you as the author paints the picture.

    Your voice shifting from one story to the next is actually because you are focusing too hard on a plot and not "listening" to what you write.

  3. A strong, sure voice is what captures and keeps me. Whiny? Gone. Blithering? Gone. Rambling around in a mind maze? Gone.

    Thank you for addressing this subject. It seems that we writers struggle with voice more than anything else. Until the magic happens and we find it. Blogging showed me mine. And I've watched other new bloggers find their own.

    What a ride, that rebel, Olivia

  4. I don't think I have trouble writing a strong voice; the tough part for me is making sure it is not the same with each piece I write. I seem to have this witty, sarcastic tone that loves to come out in my main characters. Sometimes I really have to push it aside to get the RIGHT voice out.

  5. Thanks Scott, and all the others too. I've had many people tell me at art shows that they can spot my work from across the room. I hope it's the same with my writing.

  6. I guess I'm not grasping this. I thought I did but it keeps getting fuzzy on me. With my only book, people told me they loved my voice. I figured it was because it was a romantic comedy and I was funny back then. Now, older, most of my manuscripts are more serious--I just figured, like Mary Hicks, that each story would have a different voice because it was a different story. Thanks for the examples you gave. I'm going to google articles on VOICE and see what I can learn.

  7. I know I'm late to this party but this is such an interesting post. As we mature as writers we accept the need to edit more, to write and rewrite. Sometimes I find, like your writer, I know something is wrong but I am buffing the wrong thing. Instead I have to step back and see what is really wrong. I've just spent a week feeling my way to discover what is really wrong with my story and so it really resonates!