Saturday, December 06, 2008

Elusive Voice

As a writer, I’ve heard and been involved in numerous discussions about ‘voice’ that elusive quality every author tries to find and hopes to have. As an editor, I’ve been involved in a number of disputes over ‘voice’ with authors who felt changes to a manuscript impacted upon their ability to weave words in a specific way that defined their ‘voice’.

Like a lot of authors out there, I can’t give a concrete definition of voice. Sure it’s ‘the way you put words together’ but it’s a lot more than that too. I do believe it’s more ‘invisible’ than many people believe. You can have a voice without realizing you do…and I think a lot of writers who are certain they have a distinct voice, really don’t.

I have to say this, finding your voice is something you absolutely cannot do with a dirty page…if an editor is busy correcting your grammatical and spelling errors, you shouldn’t be concerned about having your ‘voice’ ironed out of your manuscript because it’s not visible to begin with. It’s a lot like drawing in pencil on a black piece of paper, or painting a picture on a torn, wrinkled canvas. The picture you create may be lovely, but it’s not visible with all the background darkness or mess. Dirty copy – typos, awkward phrases, grammar nightmares hide your voice and make it impossible to tease out.

Before you worry about voice – or losing your voice to a brutal edit, consider how clean your work is. Is the background [your grammar, your spelling, your punctuation] as clean and error-free as possible? If it’s not, don’t worry about losing or finding your voice. Clean your brush, sharpen your pencil and start with a fresh canvas and your elusive voice will emerge over time.


Jen said...

This is a great post!

Very thoughtful and right on the money.

Bernadette Gardner and Jennifer Colgan said...

Thanks! I hope it comes off as helpful rather than too ranty.