Thursday, December 10, 2009

Guest Blog...Let Your Voice Be Heard

Since I have been busily scribbling away on The Hooded Man, I bring you a guest blog by my good friend Jennifer L Hart. Not only is Jen an amazing person, but she is a phenomenal writer! I am honored and glad she decided to stop by today.

Take it away, Jen,

Let your voice be heard!

Thank you Courtney the Magnificent for having me! The Hooded Man for Next Best Celler! Yeah baby!

Kay, I’m done sucking up. ;-)

See what I did there—other than brown-nose the good hostess— I gave you a taste of who I am as a writer, the particular flavor which makes up my voice. One part snark, one part pop-culture sass, two parts grateful human being.

Voice is one of those nebulous phrases aspiring authors read about all the freaking time, with no real concept of what it is. Quite a frustrating predicament; I mean how can you master something if you are unable to pick the suspect out of a lineup?

When I first started amassing rejections for The Misadventures of the Laundry Hag: Skeletons in the Closet, one of the most memorable was “Truth be told, I’m afraid these pages just didn't draw me in as much as I had hoped.”

As much as I appreciated the good agent’s effort in responding to me personally, you have no idea how much time I spent fretting over this sentence. In addition to the question chasing it around inside my brain.

What was I doing wrong?

Several things, but the biggest was obsessing over one person’s opinion. Took me awhile, but after reading a particularly horrific book told in first person POV I realized because I didn’t like the protagonist, I didn’t like the story. Was the author at fault? Absolutely not, it was my personal opinion, nothing more. Similar to the way some people like chocolate while—shockingly—others don’t. Could I change the agent’s opinion? Not on Laundry Hag.

So, I spent time focusing on my story instead. Tightening up paragraphs, deleting passive sentences and stall phrases. By getting rid of the clutter, I allowed my voice to belt out a chorus I was proud of for the first time. While I believed in my idea beforehand, I loved my story after. That’s what editing is all about!

I sold the manuscript. And as of a few days ago, the next in the series!

So the best way to develop your voice is to write, edit, repeat. Get to know your story, your style and the parts which comprise your unique ability. Will some not like your work? Of course, rejection is part of life. Only you can decide if developing your voice as a writer is worth the effort. I can tell you though; the world wants to read your story. Will you share it with us?


C.J. Ellisson said...

I think I got that EXCAT phrase in on of my rejection letters from an agent. I think they have a phrase book they must use - polite but to the point.

I know what you mean about not liking the character and thinking it's the writing. When it's first person people really need to relate right off the bat - and I've had many a writer who hated my voice with a passion.

C'est la vie.

Others like it and I'm sticking to my guns.

Maybe I won't be once the rejections hit a hundred, but so far I'm sticking to my guns ;-)

Jennifer L Hart said...

Even a book of phrases is better than a form rejection, at least for me. An actual arrow in right direction is always a bonus.

It was shortly after I received that note that I found autocrit. It highlighted all the was were (passive voice stuff) and pointed out the words I leaned on. It was like a lightbulb clicked on.
"Oh,jeeze, I see it now!"

Liane Gentry Skye said...

Great advice, Jenn. I'm the queen of clutter in my writing, and my final pass is largely cutting out the extra poundage. Of which there is mucho!!!!

Jennifer L Hart said...

We allhave our weak spots Liane and until I was smacked upside the head with it, I didn't see it either. Now, I'm hyper sensitive about the passive voice thing, which makes me twice as loud ;-)