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New Workshop on Voice … it’s not as elusive as you think

Friday, 22 June 2012  |  Posted by Brenda Drake

It’s time to sign up for That Doggone Voice Workshop (make sure to scroll down to enter), but first a few thoughts on voice…

The same question tends to come up often at conferences or in writing groups. How do I get voice in my novel? Until recently, this seemed elusive to me. I thought this was the ungettable get. That there was some great secret to writing voice. I was wrong.
So, first off, there’s the narrative voice – your writer’s voice. It comes from your natural voice developed by how and where you were raised. Your education plays a big role in your voice. Your likes and dislikes come through in your voice. Also, your beliefs and attitudes make up your voice. It’s those distinct characteristics of your personality that comes out in your writing. If you imagined your story as a body, the plot would be its bones and the characters its heart, with voice breathing life into it.
Voice can’t be forced. You shouldn’t try to copy your favorite authors. There’s no formula for getting your voice other than writing and developing your skills. The more you write, the better your voice becomes. I think this comes from being comfortable and confident in your writing. It happens when you don’t force it and let it flow from your raw thoughts.
How do the mechanics of your writing influence your voice? It’s the flesh of your story. It’s your word choices, sentence lengths, punctuation, and dialogue that contribute to your voice. It can be your chapter lengths and chapter outs that add to it. How you describe things. How much description you add to your created world. All of this is unique to your individual voice style.
And, finally, it’s how you write your characters. Their distinct beliefs, attitudes, characteristics, and dialogues can mirror your own personal experiences. Now, individual character’s voice is another thing entirely. To get a character down, I like to be that character and play-act them while I write. I read out loud while writing them, as if I am them. Try it. Alone, is best, or you’ll get the puzzled-are-you-crazy looks in Starbucks. Happened. More than once.
One more thing, don’t hold back because you think you won’t be taken seriously. Unleash your wonderful personality I see in Twitter, Blog, and Facebook posts. Your voice is uniquely your own, embrace it. Use it. All it takes is letting go of the restraints binding you. Just be yourself, and write.
Here’s a great example of voice from my agent and writer, Lauren Hammond. It’s from her upcoming (Monday) release, WHITE WALLS…

My eyelids have dropped down, but I can still hear all these voices echoing around me. I don’t know where I am or what’s going on. I have the vague notion that I’m in a hospital, but the last few months have been a blur. I’ve been tranquilized to the point where I’ve felt like a robot and I can’t be sure of anything anymore.

Frantic shouts are everywhere combined with loud footsteps. There must be several people in the room. A woman shouts, “Page the anesthesiologist!”

All of the commotion is messing with my head. It’s like I’m here in the moment but really, not. It’s almost like I’m standing off to the side somewhere, but I’ve been blindfolded and I’m only able to hear and not see.

Open your eyes again! Look around!

I keep yelling at myself, but no part of my brain seems to want to obey.

I wish someone would remove the blindfold. I wish someone would fill me in on the certainty of my situation and let me discover where I really am and not allow me to assume it on hunch.

Someone hovers over me, peering down at me. I can’t bring myself to open my eyes, but I can feel their body heat and behind my eyelids I can see their body casting a shadow over me. “Does anybody know her name?”

My angel speaks. “No.” His deep voice is somber. “She had no identification on her. She was dressed in a hospital gown when she was dropped off. Until we can actually speak to her, we have no way of knowing who she really is, so we’ve listed her as Jane Doe.”

The person still hovers above me and I swear I can feel his eyes as they scan my face. “What the hell were you running from, young lady?”

I can’t say anything, but if I could I’d tell him this; if you spent months in the place where I was, watching people die and fade away into nothing, you’d run too.

The contest…

My agent and writer, Lauren Hammond, will read twenty first page entries (250 words) and let you all know if you have voice. This is opened to all genres and your manuscript does not have to be finished.

Lauren Hammond: Living In Literary La La Land
Lauren writes crazy good stories and is such a wonderful agent. She had faith in me when I had lost faith in myself. She’s a mean plotter and can spot what’s wrong with a manuscript. It’s her guidance that led me to a great publishing deal with Month9Books. I know in her hands, I’m going to reach heights I never imagined I would. Plus she’s able to talk me off the ledge when needed. Can you tell I love her bunches? Cause I do!
Along with the talented Lauren’s comments, I have a team full of awesomeness who I feel have such wonderful voices that will also critique the entries.
Introducing the Voice Team …

Leigh Ann Kopans
Leigh Ann Kopans
Leigh Ann is aMAZing, not only is she a talented writer, but she also has a critique superpower that not even the strongest Kryptonite can stop, just ask her 18 critique partners. They love her, as do I. She recently signed with the equally amazing Tricia Lawrence of Erin Murphy Literary. The force is strong with this one, which is appropriate since her story ONE will be out on submission soon. Check out this interview with her here.

Becca C.
Becca (Becks) Coffindaffer
Okay, I think Becks is my twin (born years apart) but cuter than me and I don’t have her fangs. We both are sarcastic and blond. During some of my contests she’s participated in, I’ve noticed her fantastic voice. I love it! She’s on the rise! She has a degree in creative writing and offers editing services on her site. Go check it out.
Marieke Nijkamp
Marieke Nijkamp
Marieke and I both write YA Fantasy and MG. Her YA novel is PALADIN and my upcoming release has Paladijns (old world spelling) in it. I think we’re on the same page (pun intended). From what I’ve read so far, she’s a talented writer. I’ve been told she’s read slush for years and is an outstanding critiquer.

So there you have it, the V Team! Of course, I’ll be offering up advice, if you want it or not, and I can’t wait to read your work. There’s many opportunities to rack up entries in the Rafflecopter, and I’ll post the 20 winners next week along with details on how to submit your entries.

Not only that, I’m giving away two eBook combo packs of Lauren Hammond’s INSANITY and WHITE WALLS from the entries in the Rafflecopter.


So what are you waiting for? Sign up in the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win one of the 20 spots in the workshop.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Filed: Misc

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