I’ve had a lot of fun reading and critiquing the entries for THAT DOGGONE VOICE WORKSHOP. The talent and professionalism amazes me. Unfortunately, due to series of unforeseen events, agent Lauren Hammond with ADA Management won’t be able to make it to all your entries to comment on them. But I have to say, the wonderful voice team did such an awesome job of critiquing your work that I’m in complete awe of their brilliance.
Should you want to post a revision of your first page in the comments of your entry’s post, please feel free to do so. I will give you final feedback on it.
Here’s a few words from the fantabulous Voice Team …
Leigh Ann Kopans
Thanks so much for having me and letting me read all the amazing entries in That Doggone Voice Workshop! I mean, we seriously lucked out, didn’t we? From a random entry picker, it’s like a miracle that every single writer was so talented. Wow.
So, well done, all of you.
You know, Brenda, you ran this workshop because Voice is just SO difficult to grab a hold of and wrestle into a book. And as hard as it is, it’s that much more difficult in just the first 250 words of a novel. Writers have to ground the reader in the story’s world, tell us something about the main character, give us a story hook, entice us to turn the page, AND establish voice.
Confession time: I realized while I was writing this recap that I actually have no solid advice on a surefire way to establish voice in your writing, because all I’ve ever done is listen to my characters and write down what they said. But then I realized that that’s really not such bad advice. Look, you’ve done the hard work of dreaming up this story and characters to go with it. Trust those characters that they know how to tell their own story.
A lot of the snags I hit when reading the entries had to do with the writer of the story jumping in and cutting off the Main Character. “Wait,” the writer seemed to be saying, “I don’t think you know what you’re doing here, Main Character. Shut up for a second and let me step in and explain to the reader the precise pink tone of that Heffalump’s fur, or the exact tang of the fancy vodka you’re drinking. Or even what you really meant to say when you said that one thing.” Well, here’s the thing, writers –
With all due respect, no reader picks up a book to hear us tell our characters’ stories for them. Readers crack those pages open to step into our characters’ minds for a moment. So, forget about YOUR voice and let us hear THEIR voices.
Of course, during revisions we’ve got to comb back through and make sure our characters don’t switch favorite slang words midway through the manuscript, or use words from an SAT prep course when they’re a normal twelve-year old. But for most voicey stuff, my advice is simple – sit back, close your eyes, and imagine what your character would see, feel, and think. Then write that down. Again – You’ve done the hard work in dreaming her up – now let her do a little work for you.
Thanks again for letting me play! I had so much fun reading, and am seriously impressed by everyone’s hard work!
Becca (Becks) Coffindaffer
I will say that it was a great contest that had a lot of strong entries and a lot of opportunities to learn. Even if you didn’t make it in, going through the comments to see what stood out to the judges can help give you a new perspective on your own work. I was actually surprised by how much we DID agree on because I expected more differences of opinion, but it just goes to show that good writing speaks for itself. Even if it’s not your genre or your “thing,” we can usually all recognize when someone is at least conveying voice effectively. A lot of voice has to do with the actual, physical sound of the words, so something as basic as coherence was just so, so important. We have to have an idea of what’s going on in a scene before we can figure out anything else.
Get eyes on your stuff. Critical eyes. Several pairs, if you can.
Voice isn’t just about dialogue; it’s about the underlying meaning of the words you use and the pace of them. I think if books were movies, voice would be the soundtrack. When it’s done well, you don’t even notice it – you just feel it. When it’s done poorly, it just grates on your ears.
Final note: I tried to just find my favorite one and I couldn’t choose because several were already well on their way. So well done there. 🙂
I don’t know if any of that helped…
First of all, let me say it was an absolutely pleasure being part of this! I read some AMAZING entries and you’re all SO talented! It blew me away–and it made reading so much fun. So thank you all for playing, and thanks to Brenda for inviting me!
Although I didn’t get around to doing a round-up tweet at the end of it, there were some things that stood out to me throughout all the entries. The one thing that separated voice from GREAT VOICE for me was, above all, focus. I know I made comments along those lines for a few entries, but I think it deserves saying. In snippets like this it’s most obvious, but focus is important on every page of your manuscript, and especially if you’re working on your voice there are certain details you can focus on. Know who your main character is, what their quirks are, and how that shows in their language. Know the kind of observations they’d make (sights? smells? sounds?) Do they use short, snappy sentences, or longer, descriptive ones? Can you vary the rhythm? In the end, for me, focus is about one thing: now what every chapter, every paragraph, every sentence means. Because for a strong, vivid, flawless voice, the right word counts.
You’re all such talented writers! Best of luck with these stories, and I can’t wait to see your successes around the internet! 😀
Don’t forget the Entangled Publishing pitch event starting July 16. Also, I have some wonderful events coming up on the blog, so check back soon. I’m so excited!