Friday, April 8, 2011

Scoring a Well-Rounded Manuscript: Voice

For many of us, time and practice help us become better writers, and more knowledgeable of the craft. We learn and get critiques and study and write, write, write, to help improve each manuscript. And we discover over the years that there are certain elements we want to include in each story to make it as well-rounded as possible.

I like to look at it like the game of bowling. Yep, scoring a well-rounded manuscript is like scoring a strike. Your goal with each roll of the ball is to knock down each and every pin, just like your goal when you attempt each new story is to encompass the most important elements of fiction or non-fiction writing and get it into your story.

These elements include everything from plot to characters to sentence structure. But today we're going to talk about Voice.

I see Voice as the lead pin. It serves that position well because, in order to score a strike, you need to hit this lead pin. It touches the rest of the pins necessary to score well. Similarly, in writing, Voice touches and makes an impression on the rest of the story in order to accomplish your goal.

So what is Voice?

It's your own unique writing style. Your vocabulary, the tone in which you write, your style, sentence length, etc. All these things are part of Voice.

How do you know your Voice?

Ask yourself these questions:

What style are you drawn to when you read?
What entertains you and inspires you to write?
What comes naturally to you when you put pen to paper?

And how else can you determine your own unique writing signature?


Journaling or blogging
*What comes out naturally, whether more poetic or more staccato or something else, is typically the writing style that's going to suit you best and sound unique to you.

Free writing or a writing prompt
*Use a writing prompt, like a set scene, or even a picture, and free write about it for around ten minutes to see what comes out.

*Practice and try new things. Experiment with styles, POVs, tenses, and even with genres if you're just starting out and not sure where you fit (humorous, literary, etc.) in fiction or non-fiction.

Let others in
*Allow others to read your work. Sometimes you have a very distinct voice and don't even realize it.

I'd love to hear how you all discovered your voice or if you're still experimenting, so please share in the comments.

Also, this is the final day of our Giveaway Party! If you'd like to win a copy of Denise Hunter's Surrender Bay, please leave your e-mail address in the comments. Winners will be announced tomorrow.

***photo by battlecreekcvb


Amarissa Amber Cale said...

Great post! Loaded with inspiration for an early morning boost! I thank you for that.

Years ago, I fell in love with Homer's work. The flow of the language from his day, and the descriptive ability, I found gripping. Regardless the translator, Homer's work never lost it's charm.

Homer, Virgil, and Shakespeare have the ability to ignite the imagination.

Give them a try... you just never know!
Cheers, Amma

Beth K. Vogt said...

Good insights on discovering voice.
My crit partners helped me find my voice. Submitting and rewriting (and rewriting) uncovered my writing style in ways nothing else did. When you stick with other writers for the long haul--years--they learn your voice too and challenge you to stay true to it.

Faith Hope and Cherrytea said...

great post! thx ~
i was unaware of this myself until others pointed it out to me on my blog-they liked my 'style' of writing. which then made me conscious of it - for the good :) but it has come about by writing consistently via blogging and now my first article to be published in the premiere edition of "CAST" magazine next week! kinda exciting :) blstef1 at mts dot net would luv the book!! thx for the giveaway! i'm a subscriber and GFC friend~

lgm52 said...

Sounds great..would love to win it!

Debra E. Marvin said...

One way I recognized my voice was to read something I'd written a long time ago and I could see the same, well, voice. Through all the ways I hope I've grown as a writer something about my style has stuck. Gosh, I hope that's not a bad thing...
Getting critiques is helpful. Some critiques include a makeover of your sentences. Often it's because they can be improved; sometimes it's just that someone else would do it differently. I know what feels right to me now whereas I used to just switch it in whatever way the other person suggested.

Have a great weekend ladies. I really enjoy your blog!

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Hi Amarissa, isn't it fun how we can fall in such a unique kind of love with the classics? Definitely good inspiration for writing today :)

Beth, that's a great point. Others can recognize our voice and tell what sounds like us and what doesn't. Also a great way to help discover your true writing style.

Oh, and both you ladies are entered for the drawing :)

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Oooh, Faith, congratulations on the publication of your article! How exciting. Yes, blogging is a great way to discover voice. I read so many posts that just shine with a unique voice and I'd love to see what those people write like :) I'll enter you for the drawing.

Lgm52, thanks for stopping by! I'll enter you, too!

Debra, you bring up a great point. Once you discover your voice, definitely stick to it if it's just a more preferential way of organizing words. And that's a fun idea, reading something one of us has written from the past. Even when we grow in our craft, we can probably still see a distinct voice there. Have a great weekend!

Keli Gwyn said...

I went though a period where I felt pressured to find my voice. When I stopped my relentless pursuit and just wrote, it emerged.

What's interesting is that my voice is not at all what I expected it to be. I'm kind of an old fuddy duddy in real life who thinks puns are great fun and ruins most jokes because I muff the punchlines--if I remember them that is.

In spite of all that, there's an element of fun to my voice. My publisher even used the word "humor" in one of the marketing blurbs they sent me for proofreading last week, which tickled me. Mary Connealy I'm not. My readers aren't likely to roar like hers, but they might smile once in a while, and maybe, just maybe, they might even go so far as to chuckle once or twice.

My advice to writers is not to force their voice as I tried to do but to let it emerge naturally using the many great methods you mentioned, Cindy.

Pam said...

This isn't something I've given much thought to but I do appreciate your explanation. I think the more one writes, the more apparent their voice will be. I agree with those who commented it is best not to try to force their voice but just to write naturally.
I would enjoy winning Denise's book.

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

I've been told I have a voice, but I sure don't hear it. Well, I do, but the Texas twang makes me sound completely ridiculous so I try not to listen! I hope the more I write, the more my voice will come through...sounding strong and not so stupid. :)

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Keli, I am SO looking forward to reading one of your stories :) Thanks for sharing that bit of advice on voice for all of us.

Pam, I agree, too. Forcing anything in writing usually turns out stilted or not at all. I've got your name for the drawing!

Sherrinda, if others are saying you have a voice then it's there. I think sometimes it's harder for the writer to see it than anyone else who is reading their writing.

Have a great weekend everyone!