Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Self-Editing Checklist: Voice and Viewpoint

If you've been following along in this series, hopefully your scenes are taking shape with purpose and consistency. This week we'll take a look at voice and viewpoint. So without further ado, here are Points 4 & 5 of my self-editing checklist.

#4 - Is my own voice coming through, or is it contrived? Yes, this is the ever-elusive issue of voice. Everyone says it's the first thing editors or agents notice in a manuscript. I'll admit I was skeptical of this until I became a contest judge this year. The unique voices really did stand out above the floundering ones. But how do we know if our own voice is unique?

While it can often be an intangible thing, a good test is this. Have a friend read your work and tell you if they can hear you saying it. I've noticed this phenomenon with my blogging buddies. Ever since I met them at the ACFW Conference last year, I can hear them speaking the things I read on their blogs. That means it's true to their voice.

For more ideas on developing your voice, check out Cindy's post from a couple weeks ago, as well as these posts on Katie Ganshert's blog. (Awesome stuff there!)

#5 - Analyze the viewpoint. Are the characters too perfect? Are you portraying them as real human beings with real-life struggles? For those who write Christian fiction, is there any Christian lingo or jargon that could be confusing?

This point could spark a whole debate of how much "Christian" a Christian novelist should put in their books, but that's a discussion for another day. The key to this point is knowing where you stand on the spectrum, knowing where your target publisher stands on the spectrum, and then staying within it.

Your homework for the next two weeks, should you choose to accept it: Work through some of the voice exercises in Cindy's post and on Katie's blog, then read your scene and listen for your authentic voice. Analyze the viewpoint in your scene and make sure it falls within your target publisher's viewpoint (and yours too!).

Have you discovered your voice? What are some tricks you've used to discover it? How closely do you pay attention to the viewpoint of your novel?

*Microphone photo by Idea go /
**Glasses photo by dan /


Casey said...

I think I have discovered my voice...I just have to cultivate it! :-)

Keli Gwyn said...

My voice emerged when I ceased my intense search for it and let the words flow naturally. What's odd is that it's not what I expected, so I would have missed certain elements of it had I forced the issue.

Tessa Emily Hall said...

Great post! I think voice is such an important thing to keep in mind while crafting your novel, and analyzing the viewpoint is the first step to establishing your unique voice.

I wrote a post on voice also about a year ago if you'd like to take a look:

Sarah Forgrave said...

Casey, Cultivating our voices = write, write, write. Happy writing! :)

Keli, I LOVE what you said. Wow. A natural sounding voice can't be forced.

Tessa, So true about the tie-in between voice and viewpoint. Thanks for sharing your link too! :)

Mary Vee Writer said...

What a great idea: "Have a friend read your work and tell you if they can hear you saying it"
New way to test. I like it. Plan to use it.
Thanks Sarah

J E Fritz said...

Great post with great links. I'm always worried about my voice, especially whether it's contrived. I know what my voice is, but there are times when I either forget it or overdo part of it. It's hard to balance it just right.

Sarah Forgrave said...

Mary, So glad you liked my idea. Well, technically it's not my idea...I'm sure someone came up with it before me. :)

JEFritz, It is hard to balance, isn't it? I remember reading a blog post somewhere that talked about how voice isn't innate to a manuscript in the first draft, but that it emerges with each edit you go through. I really liked that thought and have seen it play out in my own writing. Thanks for stopping by today! :)

Pepper said...

Oh dear, I struggle sometimes with those 'perfect' heroes. (sigh). I have no trouble giving my heroine flaws, but the hero?
It's a learned skill. :-)

And voice? What a great way to analyze it! I've had several judges comment about my unique voice, but I'm still trying to understand - espcially since I write in various genre. Somehow I feel my voice changes based on the genre. Is that even possible?

Sarah Forgrave said...

Pepper, I totally get what you're saying about voice. I write pretty serious articles for a webzine and my novels have a lighter tone. But hopefully I bring a unique voice to both. I'd like to think it means we're multifaceted women. :)