Voice Problems

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mudpuppy
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Voice Problems

Post by mudpuppy » September 25th, 2011, 11:56 am

I know "write what you love" is an important guideline to follow. But the problem with my writing is my "voice" and to a lesser extent subject matter. Beta readers have told me that my "voice" gives them the impression that they could never take my writing seriously (not in a funny-joke kind of way, but a childish kind of way). I know because even once the story is editted, I get feedback as in "this is kind of babyish" or "this idea has been tried before" or "I don't read short stories, I prefer full novels." I know what love but when someone views you as "childish" and therefore not worthy of their readership it hurts.

Sorry if it seems like I'm whining, just needed a place to vent. Thank you for your time.

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Ryan
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Re: Voice Problems

Post by Ryan » September 25th, 2011, 12:20 pm

First off. I checked out your blog and profile. Do you know how awesome it is that you are writing so much at a 'young' age? I didn't listen to the signs when I was in highschool and college so I didn't start writing a lot until about five years ago (38 now). Orientation! Another lifetime, an orbit long gone.

I think voice is one the toughest things to find. It's there but it can't be forced and it really can't be taught. Keep writing and revising and it'll come. I haven't written much fiction but your voice isn't really your voice but more the character's voice (I think?!). Maybe you have to immerse yourself into the character's psyche a little. This way the character's personality traits such as his or her insecurities, idiosyncrasies, and uniqueness really shine in the words and dialogue. Just a thought. Like I said, voice is tough.
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mudpuppy
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Re: Voice Problems

Post by mudpuppy » September 25th, 2011, 10:55 pm

Ryan wrote:First off. I checked out your blog and profile. Do you know how awesome it is that you are writing so much at a 'young' age? I didn't listen to the signs when I was in highschool and college so I didn't start writing a lot until about five years ago (38 now). Orientation! Another lifetime, an orbit long gone.

I think voice is one the toughest things to find. It's there but it can't be forced and it really can't be taught. Keep writing and revising and it'll come. I haven't written much fiction but your voice isn't really your voice but more the character's voice (I think?!). Maybe you have to immerse yourself into the character's psyche a little. This way the character's personality traits such as his or her insecurities, idiosyncrasies, and uniqueness really shine in the words and dialogue. Just a thought. Like I said, voice is tough.
Thank you for your comment. It is greatly appreciated!

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AnimaDictio
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Re: Voice Problems

Post by AnimaDictio » September 26th, 2011, 11:14 am

Writing has to be genuine. It must come from that place within you that is unlike anyone else. I believe that's what literary critics are talking about when they say, "voice." It does you no good to reach for a sophistication which doesn't genuinely come from you.

I loved Michael Crichton's enthusiasm for science and history, which shone through in his books. I became fascinated by the topics that fascinated him. I love the way Michael Chabon makes me feel like a Jewish insider after reading his novels, but that's because Michael Chabon himself is obsessed with Jewish subcultures.

And that passion leads them to study, learn and reflect, which in turn leads them to conclusions that haven't occurred to the average person. By meditating on those things which you already care about, you'll become well versed in them. You'll make connections the rest of us aren't making. You'll find jewels where the rest of us only see coal. That's the substance of good writing. Good writing enlightens.

So my advice is to look around you. Find those things where you already have better-than-average light. Get more light. Then share with us what you see. People will say your writing is deep.

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dios4vida
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Re: Voice Problems

Post by dios4vida » September 26th, 2011, 12:24 pm

Voice is easily one of the hardest things to find in our writing. We can have all of the grammer, punctuation, sentence structure, storytelling, characterization of a pro and still be lost when it comes to voice. Voice is something that we only find after a lot - and I mean A LOT - of writing.

Keep writing. Keep looking for places where you can add some personality to the words. Does a passage fall flat, or sound like anyone could have written it? Find some way to make it yours. Are you snarky, sweet, sympathetic, prone to symbolism or simile? Is your character one who mouths off to everyone, or do they have a peculiar way of looking at things? Put that in your writing. That's voice.

Read the masters. If you like urban fantasy, Jim Butcher's Dresden File novels are some of the best I've ever encountered when it comes to voice. I know when a quote has come from one of those books just because it sounds like Harry Dresden. That's voice in its finest.

Study the craft. Books like Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass, On Writing by Stephen King, and The Art of War for Writers by James Scott Bell are invaluable resources to enhance your writing. Master the basics to learn the more complicated tricks of the trade.

Don't get discouraged. Maybe your writing really is a little amateurish - maybe it's not. If it truly is (not just because a beta or two says so, remember how vastly tastes vary), then write more and read more. Practice and research. Learn what your fallbacks are (familiar plot twists, similar characters, not enough tension or danger) and learn what's been done before. You will improve. If your writing really isn't childish, find some new betas. Then write more and read more.

It's not the best advice, but it's all I have to offer. We're all in the same boat at one time or another. Those who haven't been there will be soon. This is all about being a writer, and why writing is a lifetime pursuit. We'll never perfect it, but the more we work at it the better we'll get - guaranteed.
Brenda :)

Inspiration isn't about the muse. Inspiration is working until something clicks. ~Brandon Sanderson

Doug Pardee
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Re: Voice Problems

Post by Doug Pardee » September 26th, 2011, 1:31 pm

On the encouragement side: "voice" is often one of the last things a writer develops. It generally comes from lots and lots of practice. Be patient, keep writing, and you'll get there.

On the straight-talk side: you're young, and therefore you write with a young voice. At this point in your life, you probably don't have enough life experience and reading experience to "fake" a more mature voice. Not that there's anything wrong with "faking" a voice that's not "you" — my protagonists tend to be female, which I'm not.

If you want to try writing more adult, you're going to need to put some effort into it. I put "Sirius and the Lovely Worm" from your web site into Microsoft Word, and it shows that it's written at a 4.7 grade level. That's pretty low. Most adult novels are probably around grade 6 or 7 (for accessibility reasons), with grade 10 being about the highest — except for literary fiction aimed at college graduates. Word says that this very comment is written at grade 7.4 level.

If I may make some personal observations about that particular story:

Third-person omniscient point-of-view is rarely done these days. With a dragon story like this, it gives a "fairy tale" aura. If you were trying for fairy tale, that's great. But from your complaint, that sounds like exactly what you don't want.

Another indicator of the "youthful voice" is that the story is mainly a bunch of single-sentence paragraphs. In the case of dialogue, that's not unusual. But in narrative, a paragraph normally consists of a topic sentence followed by other sentences that bear on the topic. A single-sentence narrative paragraph is similar to an exclamation point: it should be used rarely, and only to call attention to something very important.

Which brings us to exclamation points. You've used 20 of them in a 2000-word short story. That's something else you'll need to learn to rein in if you want to write with an adult voice. For most adults, life isn't that big a drama. For us, things happen. Not: things happen! Trust your readers to recognize the drama from the dialog and the actions that you've depicted.

Keep at it, and things will eventually fall into place.

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Quill
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Re: Voice Problems

Post by Quill » September 26th, 2011, 2:44 pm

I think voice is the natural result of honing one's craft, and more particularly, of honing a particular project. Any view of voice as a problem, then, would be best regarded a "problem" of not having honed one's craft or one's project. Even one who has honed one's craft could write out of voice, then, in the early drafts. Voice will arise in the revision and polishing, as fat is cut away and chaff blown off from the work. Voice is the shine on the finished work, and the divine aroma of the perfectly cooked and spiced stew.

This response lacks voice for those very reasons.

mudpuppy
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Re: Voice Problems

Post by mudpuppy » September 26th, 2011, 8:08 pm

Doug Pardee wrote:On the encouragement side: "voice" is often one of the last things a writer develops. It generally comes from lots and lots of practice. Be patient, keep writing, and you'll get there.

On the straight-talk side: you're young, and therefore you write with a young voice. At this point in your life, you probably don't have enough life experience and reading experience to "fake" a more mature voice. Not that there's anything wrong with "faking" a voice that's not "you" — my protagonists tend to be female, which I'm not.

If you want to try writing more adult, you're going to need to put some effort into it. I put "Sirius and the Lovely Worm" from your web site into Microsoft Word, and it shows that it's written at a 4.7 grade level. That's pretty low. Most adult novels are probably around grade 6 or 7 (for accessibility reasons), with grade 10 being about the highest — except for literary fiction aimed at college graduates. Word says that this very comment is written at grade 7.4 level.

If I may make some personal observations about that particular story:

Third-person omniscient point-of-view is rarely done these days. With a dragon story like this, it gives a "fairy tale" aura. If you were trying for fairy tale, that's great. But from your complaint, that sounds like exactly what you don't want.


You're right. I am writing for children and I was aiming for a "fairy tale " type feel. I just got tired of people saying negative things about me not being a real writer because I like to write short fiction for a younger audience. Thank you very much for your comment.

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dios4vida
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Re: Voice Problems

Post by dios4vida » September 26th, 2011, 8:31 pm

mudpuppy wrote:I just got tired of people saying negative things about me not being a real writer because I like to write short fiction for a younger audience.
Stop right there, mudpuppy.

Don't ever let people tell you you aren't a real writer because you write what you want. Those people are ignorant losers, and don't listen to them. Write what you want to write, and if they think it isn't worth their time then it's their loss.

People tell me all the time that I'm not a "real writer" because I write fantasy. I get the "oh, fantasy? Really?" and "well, then I guess you don't have to follow the rules of writing like real writers" type comments all the time. At first it hurt, but after 9 years you know what I've learned? All writing is hard. Fiction, non-fiction, children's stories, short stories, flash fiction, genre novels - it's all hard work. It's all real writing. Those who say otherwise have never tried it and don't respect it. They aren't the people to listen to. The people to listen to are other writers, those who understand that it doesn't matter what genre, length, or audience it's geared for. Writing is writing. It's hard. You've written it. Guess what? You're a real writer. Don't ever forget that. :)
Brenda :)

Inspiration isn't about the muse. Inspiration is working until something clicks. ~Brandon Sanderson

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GingerWrite
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Re: Voice Problems

Post by GingerWrite » September 27th, 2011, 12:27 am

I agree with dios. No matter what you write, be it short stories or poetry etc, is important. I get the same exact looks from people when they hear I write young adult books. Of course, I also get them because some people don't think a "young adult" could write a good book.
You are a writer no matter what the naysayers say.
Keep writing, and keep your voice. It's the most important part of you, the part that doesn't change just to please some negative Nancys. :)
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oldhousejunkie
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Re: Voice Problems

Post by oldhousejunkie » September 28th, 2011, 3:12 pm

Hang in there.

I wrote all through middle school, high school, and into college without any idea that I would eventually pursue publication. The result was stories that I love, but they had to be improved upon in terms of my writing style. I made a lot of first timer mistakes that had to be corrected.

In terms of voice, it's hard to capture and it's definitely subjective. I have a very formal voice because I write historical fiction, but unfortunately, my betas said that being formal equaled boring. Yeah...not what I was going for.

If you are writing for children, I would make sure that you have the the right betas. Seek out other children's authors...and heck, find some real children to read it!

Otherwise, going forward (and into college), make sure to fit in a few creative writing courses. That is my one regret looking back now. My college had an author in residence and I didn't take any of his courses! **forehead slap**

And don't forget, as you get older, your style will continue to develop. It is indeed rare to see very young authors for the exact reason that some of the other posters said--your voice isn't developed because your life experience is not developed. Don't force a search publication before you're ready. Take your time, hone your craft, and things will turn out in the end.

Best of luck to you!

Chantelle.S.
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Re: Voice Problems

Post by Chantelle.S. » September 29th, 2011, 8:45 pm

mudpuppy wrote:I know "write what you love" is an important guideline to follow. But the problem with my writing is my "voice" and to a lesser extent subject matter. Beta readers have told me that my "voice" gives them the impression that they could never take my writing seriously (not in a funny-joke kind of way, but a childish kind of way). I know because even once the story is editted, I get feedback as in "this is kind of babyish" or "this idea has been tried before" or "I don't read short stories, I prefer full novels." I know what love but when someone views you as "childish" and therefore not worthy of their readership it hurts.

Sorry if it seems like I'm whining, just needed a place to vent. Thank you for your time.
Whoa! And here I was believing I was the only one in the world who got told that my writing is immature!
I know exactly where you're coming from. Well, sort of. I mean, I used to share my stories with my friends when I was in primary, until that fizzled out because my friends outgrew the 'writing' phase whereas I didn't. So nobody ever read my work again, until I was fresh out of high school and my then-boyfriend now-husband read a paragraph of a story I had no intent to follow through on (and he only read it because he basically begged me to let him). He encouraged me to finish the manuscript, which I did. I was really proud of it because even though I'd been writing since primary school, I very rarely completed anything I started on.
So I was brave and bubbling over with accomplishment-goodiness, so much so that I gave the manuscript to my mom to read. My mom is an avid reader, she absolutely loves books (she's the one who cultivated my love for literacy since before I could actually read) but she reads books of our native language. So it was a feat for me to have her read a 200 page English novel.

The feedback was bad. She told me that my writing is immature. This hit me hard because 1 - I've been writing daily for 7 years, 2 - I was an adolescent and found it insulting that my writing would be called 'childish', 3 - this was coming from my own flesh and blood!! D:, and 4 - this was coming from someone who, although they don't read English, could immediately give some real hardcore critique. You KNOW it's bad if someone like THAT can tell you how it is.

Anyway, (sorry I tend to ramble), hyperbole and life-story aside, I know what it feels like. I was immensely discouraged after being told that I write 'immature'. But you know what, I got right back to writing, working on different projects, and improving my writing by myself. I borrowed books on writing and grammar from the library, I subscribed to Writers Digest, I started following agents and authors' blogs, and I participated in writing prompts and challenges. I've been soaking up anything and everything I can to improve my writing. When I went back to my manuscript a few years later, I could barely get through chapter 1 without grinding my teeth or squirming in embarrassment. I take my hat off to my mom, and everyone else, that I subjected to reading it, because my mom had been right: the writing was REALLY immature.

I can't tell you that I've found my voice/style. My writing has always been my own, and all I've done is improved on what I've always had. Maybe it's just one of those things that will work itself out with time. You write what you love, but you also write what you know. If you have a fascination with nature, bring that across in your writing. If you're intensely religious, bring that across in your writing. Write from your heart. I think maybe that's how you find your voice, the thing that sets you apart from the rest of us. It's not something you can force or obsess over. It will come naturally, the better you get and the more experience you gain, and the more you live.
"Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s." -Stephen King

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dios4vida
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Re: Voice Problems

Post by dios4vida » September 30th, 2011, 11:37 am

Chantelle.S. wrote:...our native language.
What language do you speak natively in New Zealand? I've always wondered.
Chantelle.S. wrote:When I went back to my manuscript a few years later, I could barely get through chapter 1 without grinding my teeth or squirming in embarrassment. I take my hat off to my mom, and everyone else, that I subjected to reading it, because my mom had been right: the writing was REALLY immature.
I think most of us have been there. I remember thinking my first novel was so amazing (written from ages 19-21). I was beaming with pride. I got decent feedback on it from my family (the only ones who would read it) but not even a blink from agents. I went back after I'd finished my second novel and *urgh* it was terrible. I wouldn't have given it a second glance, either. I have no idea how my Mum or husband found anything decent to say about it.
Brenda :)

Inspiration isn't about the muse. Inspiration is working until something clicks. ~Brandon Sanderson

Chantelle.S.
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Re: Voice Problems

Post by Chantelle.S. » September 30th, 2011, 4:45 pm

dios4vida wrote:
Chantelle.S. wrote:...our native language.
What language do you speak natively in New Zealand? I've always wondered.
Here in New Zealand the natives speak Maori. And luckily most of them are fluent in English, else I would be completely lost in dialect. But my native tongue I was referring to is Afrikaans, I'm originally from South Africa :)
"Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s." -Stephen King

http://smithee24.blogspot.com/
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