Friday, July 11, 2008

Marcia Lee Laycock - Part II of Finding Your Voice

It looks like ICRS fever has deadened the comments section of this, and many other blogs. ICRS is a HUGE Christian retail extravaganza taking place in Orlando, Florida. Editors, authors, agents, store owners, publishers, distributors, and all aspects of the Christian music industry gather there each year to see what's new, what's hot, what's wonderful in Christian retail.

It's thrilling to me that, while I'm not actually participating this year, I have, for the first time, people there representing me and my books! My fantastic agent is there, as are both my publishers and editors. It's very exciting as I try to imagine what all goes on there.

Please pray for ICRS and the people there. Pray for safety in traveling and in all they do. Also, pray that God's will be done on every level of the event. It's so easy to get caught up in the fun, dazzle, and shear volume of what's out there, but the heart of these people is to glorify God though various means, and to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world.

And, after you finish praying, read on for the second (and final) installment of Marica Lee Laycock's guest post on Finding Your Voice. It's one of the "trickiest" aspects of writing, I think, largely because it's something that must be developed over time. Read on for more fab info on voice.

Finding Your Voice Part 2

Think of three of your favourite authors. If you picked up a book by each one with a blank cover that did not reveal their names, could you tell which book was written by which author? Chances are it would be easy, because each has a distinct way of telling a story. They use words differently, sentence length and structure will vary, and the very tone of the writing will give them away.

So how do you develop your own voice? Young writers, like young painters, often find themselves copying the voice of a master. Years ago I wrote a short piece about my daughter that still makes me chuckle when I read it because it is so obvious I was reading a lot of Walter Wangerin Jr.’s work. I can hear his ‘voice’ in the story. That’s not all bad. As a painter learns the craft by imitating the masters, so we too as writers can learn a lot by imitating the master writers. But as young painters move beyond their masters, so we must move beyond our favourite authors.

How? The answer is simple, yet difficult. It’s kind of like trying to be humble – the very act of trying can create the opposite affect. The best way to make it happen is to simply relax and write. Write in all kinds of genres and write just for fun. Write a blog. Write a letter. Try free-fall writing. And poetry – write poetry even if you don’t think you can. Write from your heart, write with the mind and soul that God has uniquely given you. Write with integrity and honesty.

Over time your voice will shine through because over time you will discover who you are as a person, as a child of God and as a writer. As you face the challenges of that discovery, be brave enough to let “you” out onto the page. It’s what your readers are looking for – your voice, your way of putting words into concrete form. The more open and vulnerable you are on the page, the stronger your voice will be.

And don’t worry. As a child matures into an adult, your work will mature with the ring of your own voice. Write. And just let it happen.

Remember, you can visit Marcia on her website:
She also has a book trailer for her novel One Smooth Stone on YouTube:
Visit, leave a comment, and rate the trailer!

I love these book trailers. I think I see a future blog post about book trailers - a how to, and a who does them post.... sound good?

Okay all you non-ICRS attenders. Get your thinking caps on and share with us your experience with Voice. What's yours? How did you develop it? What's distinctive about your voice? How have you managed to make your voice stand out without drowning your characters?
This is a critical aspect of writing, and I know we can all learn from each other here. Don't be shy!

I bid you good writing.


Joanna Mallory said...

It seems to me that as I develop what I think is my voice, one component is the way I interpret some of the negotiable rules of writing. Not do I head-hop or forget grammar rules (although sentence fragments seem to be part of my voice in fiction). But maybe adding a touch of narrative even though we're not to "tell".

I prefer deep point of view, as a reader and as a writer. Someone who's not used to it may tell me I'm "telling" again, when I'm "showing" the character's inner thoughts. Someone who's used to it can show me where I've taken it too far, or where I need to take it deeper.

I think the trick to finding our voice is to learn how "they" say to do it, and then to discover how to slip just a bit of my own way in. Not enough to spoil the mix, but enough so that it doesn't sound quite like anyone else.

On another blog I read someone well-respected say that when we edit all of this out it's like we're sanitizing the work and there's nothing to set ours apart.


Bonnie Grove said...

I like what you have to say about voice, Joanna.

I love sentence fragments for my first person protagonists because I myself think in fragments, so it feels natural.

I like what the "well-respected" person said about editing the life out of our work. Rules are meant to be understood and applied if applicable. Or, bent for interest. As long as you break the rule on purpose (which is part of my voice. I'm a brat and I love to break the rules. Drives Microsoft Word nuts).

Voice, ultimatly, is what sets us apart from each other as writers. I have a strong contemporary voice, but if were to write historical fiction, I would need to make adjustments to my voice in order for it to jibe with the setting.

Okay you readers - this may be a good time to ask questions about voice.

What have you heard that you don't understand?

what questions/frustrations do you have about developing your voice as a writer?

There are many experts who are checking the comments section of this blog and are willing to answer questions and offer solid advise.

But, you have ask.

Serendipity said...

Voice: Er...I'll be honest, I still don't understand what that means. I've been basically writing as I speak, I mean, as I think the characters would speak. Ok, I don't really know what I'm talking about. This is the part where no one looks at me like I have three heads and then refuses to ever read anything I've ever written.

Bonnie Grove said...

Well, you know how I love to recommend good books for writers!

There is a book on Voice called Finding Your Voice, How to Put Personality in Your Writing By Les Edgerton

I can't recommend this personally, as I haven't read it (anyone out there read it?)

Check your local library system to see if you can pick it up through them. If not, Writer's Digest has it on sale right now for $8.50 (

Writing the way you speak is a good place to start when it comes to finding your voice. The process of writing correctly will refine your voice (which is what you are already doing - relax! you're getting this!)

A watch word I use in my writing is "authenticity". Does this sound real? Does this sound like the other things this character has said and done?

And, as Marcia talked about, your work should sound like yours. If you had a piece of writing mixed in with a bunch of other people's writing, would your friends and family be able to pick yours out? That's a good thing.

A critique group could help you as well.

Marci said...

Chiming in here after being away on a speaking circuit.

Joanna - yes, I totally agree with what you said - an authentic voice sometimes does forget all the rules - not that we don't know them, of course!;)

Serendipity - Relax! As Bonnie said, if you are writing like you speak you are well on your way. Being too focused on trying to "do voice" will result in flat or stilted writing. Just have fun with it!

Bonnie's comment on reading books about voice are a good idea too.

Blessings on your journey. Marcia