Voice is King

fine art of king arthur
King Arthur - Charles Ernest Butler


I read a handful of literary agents’ blogs: Rachelle Gardner and Janet Reid’s more than others. I also keep my eyes peeled around the internet for writers I can emulate and there’s something I noticed that may be the key to successful fiction writing.

Voice is King.

Yes, you need a solid plot, intriguing characters and enthralling descriptions. But what grabs the readers and agents first and foremost is voice.

And I also think it’s the HARDEST to achieve, which is probably why query is so damn hard.

A voice that is forced and fake is cringe worthy and does the complete opposite of a natural writing voice does, sends me screaming in the opposite direction.

I also realized I have no voice in my stories. I think I have some voice here in my blog—my natural voice—the voice of my brain thinking. But when I go to write a story, that voice steps back to let I don’t know…some robot come and write. It’s probably my perfectionist. You want the writing to be the best that it can be, but as you revise and edit, there’s the huge risk of editing out the voice and just getting the monotone textbook voice of a college professor.  Or worse, slap on some over the top phrases and words to create a more colorful voice, ya know, dog? This is why I have a bad tendency to hate first person. It usually can’t stand the voice.  But a good voice can even make a fan out of a biased idiot like me.

The best example is Jonathan Stroud’s Bartimaeus books. They were sitting on the shelf for months because the first chapter was in first person. When I finally got myself to read the first, I was hooked. Bartimaeus is the most awesome, funniest, most interesting character I’ve ever read in the YA genre.  I love him to death! And it’s his voice—his character— that really steals the show.  I don’t even want to know what those books would be like if Bartimaeus didn’t speak in first person.

I think for a new writer, it’s easiest to develop a natural writing voice. There’s no pressure to writer perfect and sometimes the first draft has the essence of the best draft and should be guarded during revisions (though this is so hard when everyone is telling you left and right everything is wrong with it and advice begins to contradict each other and soon the voice is dead). But the best thing about Voice in writing is that it’s the part of writing where we can have the most fun with, where there are no real rules and you get to become an actor where your characters are the part.

If you get Voice right, that’s almost all you need to get a person’s attention. And the key to that is getting into the story and characters and less into the technical aspect of writing (but not too far).

Writing is like a balance act on a tightrope a hundred thousand miles in the air over a pit of bloodthirsty tigers.

It’s too easy to tip one way and get eaten.

Because everyone’s trying to push you.

Especially yourself.

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