Monday, May 11, 2009

Where’s My Voice?

Where’s My Voice?

voice_vitamins(1) First, some random notes:

  • The Mariners started out April well but have fallen apart. I hate when my hopes rise and then are dashed with a six-game losing streak.
  • I got on the scale this morning. Looks like I’m down a few pounds finally. Every pound lost can remove seconds per mile during a race. In a longer race those seconds can add up to minutes.
  • Started doing some yardwork (for the first time this year) and now my yard looks like a war zone. I’m going to need to reseed half of it. I have a serious mole infestation. I also couldn’t get my power washer or tiller running.
  • I’m really loving Brooks’ World War Z. I need to figure out who represents Brooks, because I think my novel is in a similar genre. BTW I did have Zombies on my list of disasters for Dawn’s Rise but they didn’t fit in. I do have them in 30 Days:The Singularity Matrix.
  • I discovered I can still run the Seattle Rock’n’Roll Marathon…if I raise $1000 for Cancer. Who’s willing to support me?

I’ve been thinking over the last couple of days about my “writing voice.” Have you ever noticed that when you read things like emails and blogs from people, you can actually hear their voice in your head? It’s like they’re talking to you as you read. My writing voice is kind of like my email/blogging voice. Not super great. Lots of adverbs and adjectives, if/then/but/and/or run-on stuff, and not much description. In fact, during editing I’ve removed a bunch of description as being too “descriptive” and not “active.”

I need to find my literary voice. An agnostic impartial voice that just describes the actions and scenes. People keep telling me about the screenplay model. A screenplay is essentially an instruction kit for a movie: “First actor A says ‘blah blah.’ He walks left. Actor B says ‘blah your own blah’” I need to eliminate anything that’s not active. Note that thinking and feeling are not activities. It’s important to hear the inner monologue sometimes, and that’s really what separates novels from screenplays, but I think I’m not doing it very well. I really think I need to take some literary classes.

I’m left with these issues then:

  • How do I set a scene without being expository and inordinately wordy?
  • How and when do I introduce all the background material for my book’s universe?
  • How do I show what a character is thinking/feeling without just saying it?

Note that these aren’t my only literary deficiencies…but I can only tackle so many at once.


  1. I can tell you that I began with a written outline with sidenotes in the margin on what I wanted. It became a short narrative story about my book. I researched and researched to make sure I could connect the dots BEFORE I even wrote it...then when I was sure I had enough to get started, I grabbed the laptop.

    I find that you can write crap and make it better when you are in the editing phase. The important thing is to get the skeleton down first. Then you can add the "connective" tissue. Then make the parts work with muscle. Later comes the major organs, fat, and systems. And finally, you get to make it look pretty (silky skin, flowing hair, a great smile, gorgeous eyes, and a personality).


  2. My style is that I sit down and write. I know where the story starts, and how it ends--basically what the main issue of the story is. Then as I write my brain fills in all the details.
    This "editing phase" is where I'm getting stuck. Right now my novel looks like lipstick on a pig. (or is that lipstick on a hockey mom?)
    It's hard to get it to lipstick on a supermodel (or superhero)

  3. Don't beat yourself up too much about the editing. Your voice will come eventually. Just look at the parts of the writing you feel most comfortable with, and sort out why you like them. Then replicate that in other places.

    When you are being "immediate" and staying with the action, then your style is great! It's just a question of fitting in all the background details.

  4. If you're writing SF, don't worry too much about the voice. Voice is more applicable in things like Chick lit, romance, or urban fantasy, where the character speaks directly to the reader.

    In SF, concentrate on getting the maximum information across with the minimum of detail, and pace, pace, pace. Keep it tight, keep it moving.

    Voice in SF would more aptly be described as style. Write in the style that suits you, but also tell a good story.

    Don't get bogged down in developing a "voice".

  5. I see what you guys are saying. Maybe I'm just talking about style here, since it's written in 3rd person. Whatever it is, I hope to find it soon! :)


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