Recently I received feedback from an editor that said, “Your voice isn’t strong enough.” It wasn’t, ‘this needs a stronger voice’, only referring to the piece of writing. No. It meant the voice I wrote in normally for my romance novels weren’t as strong as it should be.
Now, if you’re a newbie like me, you first need to absorb the information and then go on a Google search to find out what exactly the editor meant, because in Part 1 of On Voice here on my blog, Lee Child explained in a lovely quote what having a ‘voice’ truly meant as an oral storyteller.
The publishing industry, however, has its own definition of what ‘voice’ is in the written word and when they tell you to strengthen your voice, it has everything to do with your style of writing.
So in a quest to distinguish my voice and make it stronger, I’ve discovered these points I have to focus on.
1. I need a persona when writing.
Uh…yeah I know, sounds weird. But I need one. I need to have a character I can ‘step’ into when I’m writing, almost like placing on a ‘thinking hat’ but more concrete since this persona is going to be ‘put on’ whenever I sit down with my laptop and work on a story. This will allow me to develop and refine my writing objectively. By doing this I’ll also be able to, in future, drop this persona and write as a different type of character because I’ve distanced the ‘daily me’ from the ‘writing me’ and in so doing, made it easier to switch between narrative voices. Some prefer to ‘step into’ their main character and ‘live’ the story through them.
I need to use stronger verbs, alter the sentence structure, use alliteration, internal rhyme, onomatopoeia and uncommon words.
For me this will happen during the self-editing process, when I go back over the first draft, or second or third…you know where I’m going with this *smile* I even read that you can make up words to make your voice distinctive as you write a certain character. The idea here is to match the setting and situation your character is in.
Authority refers to the writer’s confidence or control of the material. The idea here is to have a strong, credible voice.
How do you attain authority? By doing your research. You must provide specific, concrete temporal and/or physical detail. To write with authority, you have to know what you’re talking about. Even in romance! Spend a good amount of time developing characters, location and plot. This gives you power and control.
4. What do you want the reader to feel?
The emotions you use your voice to invoke will stick with readers. When they open one of your books it will all come back to them. What do you want your readers to feel on page six of a new manuscript? What strategies can you use to draw out that feeling?
These are only a few points that stood out to me that I’m personally focusing on in my writing at the moment. There are definitely more on voice and how to develop it.
One thing to keep in mind; voice evolves over time and working on yours will create a strong authorial voice.
Do you have any tips of your own? Then leave a comment.