I attended an editor’s chat the other day, and one of the questions asked was, “What makes a manuscript stand out the most?” Invariably, the answer from all the editors—including me—was voice. Some authors were put off by this. Either unsure what “voice” actually encompassed, or fearful because your author’s voice is not as easy to hone as the mechanics of writing a good novel.
Why would voice be the main selling point for a manuscript? Because while the words in a manuscript might be technically correct, they might not grab the reader—make them laugh and cry and feel with the characters. It’s voice that draws you in. It’s voice that make you read into the wee hours. It’s voice that sells a manuscript.
But how can one work on voice? Isn’t it something either a writer has or doesn’t?
It’s true that a certain aspect to your voice comes naturally, and there is little to be done about it. Yet, certainly, like other aspects of writing, voice can be honed and worked on.
One way to do this is by writing. Seriously. The more you write, the more your own unique voice will develop. I remember my first manuscript (which was a mess, by the way) was read by a NYT best-selling author, and when she got to the final forty pages or so, she said to me, “Ah-ha! Here is where you start to become publishable. Here is where your voice comes out.”
She was so right! I have since retired that manuscript, but, it was such a fabulous learning process! I often read manuscripts for submission and realize that this author’s voice doesn’t really shine until near the end.
There are many reasons for this. One being the author finally knows her characters by the end.
Which leads me to my next point. Get to know your characters. Do whatever you need to. Consider doing character sketches, or interviews, working out their GMC (goals, motivation, and conflict), and learning all you can about them. If you know them very well from chapter one, you will have a much better voice for them as you’re writing.
Finally, read widely in the genre you’re targeting. The voice for a Regency historical romance is very different than the voice for a sensual erotic contemporary. And the voice of a book written 10-15 years ago, even in the same genre, will be very different than the voice of a book that would be contracted today. I’m not suggesting you mirror another author’s voice, but be sure to make yours sound as marketable and fresh as you can within the confines of your own genre.
Also, I’d like to say that whatever your voice is (dark, humorous, sexy) work with it. And make it work for you.
How about you? Have you learned any tricks to honing your voice? I’d love to hear from you!
The Wild Rose Press