Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Know your VOICE

My editor tore apart my latest piece. I paraphrase our discussion, but it went something like this...

Editor: "Nice voice. It seems to have changed between your last story and this one. This one is more frenetic."

Eric: "I've been experimenting with a less detailed voice, getting to the point without the meandering. I tend to over-describe and I wanted to challenge that habit with this piece."

Editor: "The Beatles were famous not for writing the same song over and over, but for writing a different song on every track. No such thing as a new story. At this point in literature, it's all been said. The only difference is voice. Nurture that thought."

That, folks, is straight from the horse's mouth. She's not an actual horse, but she can kick like one.

Know your voice. Make it unique. Don't be afraid to stretch those vocal cords and challenge your method.

Just as voice and not the song makes the singer, voice and not the words makes the writer.

- Eric


Sarah Ahiers said...

ha! I loved this:

"She's not an actual horse, but she can kick like one."


Phoenix said...

I think this is fantastic advice - I perceive it as somewhat more uplifting than you, perhaps :)

I always worry when I write something that it's not original. But what your editor said is true - what needs to be original is the voice, the point of view, not the story. How many Hero myths are there in the world? And yet we fall for them, time after time, because of the voices that tell them. Star Wars isn't very original. But is it a damn good story? Yes.

And for the record, from your reading I have gathered that you have a very good voice. ;)

Jemi Fraser said...

It really is all about the voice. It's what's made me fall in love with books for years :)

dolorah said...

When I find an author I like, I read everything they write. Eventually I tire of them not because the stories or the writing is bad, but because the tone and voice is so consistent I get bored. It gives the feeling that the author is writing the same character over and over, just changing the name and setting occasionally for variety.

Voice is tough to achieve. I think it comes from strong characterization. Make your POV character come alive, and like real people, it will different for each story.

Well, that's how I think of it. That's a conversation I'd like to have with my editor someday. (sigh) Sounds like your editor was pleased with the outcome. Take it for what its worth from an unpublished writer: but from what I've read from you, each story has a strong, clear, unique voice. I've liked it.

I'd have to read 15 or so of your novels/short stories though to make an accurate judgement. You got those ready for me yet? :)


Eric W. Trant said...

Falen: I thought the horse thing was funny, too. Isn't it strange how things come to you only when you are writing them, and you wonder where the heck that came from.

Phoenix: You had to go with Star Wars, didn't you... Samurai meets cowboy meets space ship meet bazillion dollar industry. Thanks for the compliment. I'll check your blog here in a second, hope you have something new for me!

Jemi: Exactly. Voice voice voice. A singer is a perfect metaphor for this. Story counts, don't get me wrong, the song has to be good, but it's the voice and tone and inflection that makes the song so original that only ~that~ singer can sing it properly.

Donna: POV is certainly your strong suit. What I've read of you is strong third, deep in the head, almost first person. That'll certainly tweak up your voice. Check your email.

- Eric

dolorah said...

Ah, you lovely, adorable man. You know just how to "speak" to a girl.


Raquel Byrnes said...

I hear what you're saying. It seems to be one of those ethereal things, voice.

Karen Jones Gowen said...

Liking your editor's comments! So true about voice! And so true about the Beatles. Except when they changed their voice with each new decade, I stopped being a fan.

Anonymous said...

Great post, Eric. I believe voice is something you have. You can nurture it if you have it. You can't just stumble across it and call it your own, though.


MBW aka Olleymae said...

Sounds like a cool (but tough) editor!!! Great advice :)

Nighfala said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nighfala said...

Ignore that last. I didn't mean to curse! It was just, hey, wait a minute, you have an editor? You're getting published? How did I miss that?

Zoe C. Courtman said...

I completely agree. I worry about finding new horrors for my dark fiction - but then I realize it's not about the monsters, the original plot, etc. It's about how *I* tell the story and how the characters react. Oh, and there's an award for you over on my blog :D

steveroni said...

You sure got me to thinking here (saw your comment on Dulce's Poetry blog)...

As the Voice and that Look through those eye-windows combine to reflect the very soul, well, who can deny the truth trying to hide there?

As the words speak, so the voice conquers all (esp. if they come from your editor!)

Glad to meet you, Eric!

Olivia J. Herrell, writing as O.J. Barré said...

Pssst, you have an award over at my blog...btw, I wanted to do that sentence thingy, where'd it go??


Olivia J. Herrell, writing as O.J. Barré said...

btw, I read this post earlier but don't see any comment by me so, here it is. Dude. You've got voice. Always. No matter what!


Nighfala said...

Olivia, I have discovered that if you try to schedule a post in advance but accidentally post it automatically and then take it down, it's still going to show up in Google Reader and other links to the blog.

Eric, your post made me think. I have edited my first chapter so much that the writing is squeaky clean, but soulless. I lost my voice in the editing process. It doesn't sound like me anymore. It sounds like all the other YA authors out there writing fantasy of various types.

And I don't even want to be a YA author!

I need to get my voice back.

Eric W. Trant said...

Zoe: In horror, there voice is everything. Musically, I think horror mixes well with jazz or grunge rock, both of which rely almost entirely on voice and sound.

Steve: Words speak and voice conquers. I like that.

Olivia: Thanks for the award!

Christine: From my thoughts on writing: Revision can take a good rough draft, pound out the lumps, roll the kinks smooth, straighten the curves, round the edges, and untangle all the thoughtless knots—until there's nothing left but a bunch of flat, balmy words. Blech!