If you don’t subscribe to Writer’s Digest Magazine, you should. It’s one of the few things I really think is essential to all writers. I’ve had a subscription for over ten years, and just renewed it for another two.
This months issue contains an article entitled “Writing with a Natural Voice” by Larry Brooks and it was filled with helpful sparks of wisdom. The first paragraph:
“By far the most common entry-level mistake in the writing game, the thing that can get a perfectly good story rejected by an editor on the first page, is overwriting: a writing voice that is overly laden with energy and adjectives, that tries too hard, that is obviously the work of a writer trying to poeticize a story that doesn’t have a chance.”
I think this is probably the thing I see the most in stories by new writers. I know I was certainly guilty of it back in the day. I think it happens because agents make having an “Original Voice” such a big deal. New writers try so hard to have a unique voice that they overdo it. In fact, Mr. Brooks advises all writers to try to write “crisply and cleanly.” To some extent, I agree with him. It’s important that you not bog down your prose, that you not try to make it like poetry. It’s not poetry, people. Unless you’re writing a certain style of literary fiction, trying to make your fiction like poetry will probably get you rejected.
However, I do think that you need to have a strong “character voice.” By that I mean that the personality of the character has to shine through your writing. We have to see the world through the character’s eyes to connect with him, to fall in love with him. If you can’t do that, you’ll get rejected as well. The line between too much voice and too little is very fine, so fine that it can be very difficult to find a voice for you writing. What do you think? Do you have any helpful words of wisdom for mastering voice in your writing?