Will your voice sink or swim?

OK, enough about me and my journey. Time to get back to what I love to write about. I love sharing my discoveries about writing with my readers.

I am excited because I just read an article in the September 2013 issue of Writer’s Digest that has been particularly insightful for me on the subject of voice. I hope it will help you as well.

The article is an excerpt from the book, Creative Nonfiction (1996), by Gerard Philip. In it Philip quotes Bob Reiss as saying our writing will sink or swim, based on our voice–a sobering thought.

So, as writers, you can see it is critical that we understand what is meant by voice.

According to Philip, voice is the cumulative effect of the following:

  • the words you choose
  • how you craft your sentences
  • the form in which you write
  • how you do your research, and even
  • the questions you ask in an interview.
    • An excerpt from Steven Harper’s book, Writing the Paranormal Novel (2011), printed in the March/April 2012 issue of Writer’s Digest, adds that voice is also about:

    • how your words sound on the page (rhythm)
    • the themes you explore, and
    • your emotional response.

      Philip says, “Voice is what the reader hears in his mind’s ear, the strong sense that the words of the story are coming from another living, human personality with a unique perspective on events.”

      I agree with Philip that you can’t fabricate or “overlay” voice on your work–“It is intrinsic in everything you do from the moment an idea occurs to you until you turn in the finished draft.”

      You bring your unique perspective and attitude to the story. Philip quotes Bob Reiss as saying voice is, “You’re kind of sensitivity. You’re kind of anger. You’re kind of whatever the dominant thing is in you.”

      In other words, it is everything that is you. Everything that distinguishes you from another person.

      Are you reading Writer’s Digest?

      I noticed today that I can drop $40 on two books with scarcely a thought, but I’ll spend considerable time deliberating over the purchase of a blouse for $39.99. Needless to say, my closet looks a little bare and my bookshelves are overflowing.

      My reading is mostly about curiosity and learning. I do read the occasional novel, but I’m more often in every section of the bookstore but the novel section. Sometimes I buy a couple of novels the library is getting rid of for 50 cents or a dollar. I don’t like to worry about returning novels.

      Recently I have been making more trips to the library. My latest reading has been about the writing process, as you may have guessed. The book I borrowed yesterday is called HELP! for Writers: 210 Solutions to the Problems Every Writer Faces, by Roy Peter Clark. I just returned Writing the Memoir, by Judith Barrington. It is an excellent reference book. I extended my borrowing time and made some detailed notes for later reference.

      I have also borrowed every Writer’s Digest copy the library has, all thirteen of them. You’d think a library would have a good stack of back issues. I mean, isn’t a library all about writing? I’ve been deliberating getting my own subscription, but it’s so much more fun having a half dozen magazines to peruse. I just looked online and between the five libraries in my city they only have a total of 46 Writer’s Digest magazines. A shame.

      The advantages of reading a magazine is that it condenses the best and the latest information.  Take for example, 25 Agents Who Want Your Work: How to Land a Book Deal, from the October 2012 issue. Or, How Creativity Works: 5 Writers Take You Inside Their Process, November/December 2012.

      The magazines are published approximately every other month and each is a collector item if you are a writer. An annual subscription costs 19.96 if you live in the US, 29.96 if you live in Canada and 31.96 for international customers. You get eight copies for that price. Writer’s Digest also offers valuable resources such as webinars and tutorials, free writing downloads, a weekly writing prompt and workshops.

      A special reduced price is made available for those who purchase a subscription to WritersMarket.com at the same time. This actually looks like a great deal. WritersMarket has up to date listings of writing markets (you probably guessed that!). It can also help you track your submissions and has a few other special features that make it like a personal assistant for writers. I haven’t subscribed to WritersMarket yet but I am seriously considering it.

      I will be away on holidays without consistent internet access for the next two weeks so you may or may not hear from me. In the meantime, check out a couple of Writer’s Digest magazines. You might get hooked on them.