Author’s Voice, Editor’s Voice

I have always struggled with voice. In high school, the struggle went like this:

  • Reading Grapes of Wrath? Everything I write that week sounds like Grapes of Wrath.
    troad1fs
     A visual distillation of how I felt while reading The Grapes of Wrath. (Source.)
  • Reading The Great Gatsby? Everything I write that week sounds like The Great Gatsby. And includes a mint julep.
  • Reading Crime & Punishment? I don’t write at all those two weeks because Russian Lit just kills me.
  • Reading Stephen King in my free time? I learned how to spell harbinger real well. Real well indeed.

Then, in college, the struggle became:

  • I am pretty good at writing fanfiction in the Douglas Adams voice.
  • That’s pretty much it.
  • Everything I write contains the phrases “almost, but not quite ___” or “almost, but not entirely unlike ___.”

My problem is that I’ve learned how to write by sponging up whatever I happen to be reading at the time, and the result is I am still a bit uncertain of my own voice. What I do know is that it tends to be very direct, often rather snarky, and consecutive sentences never start or end with the same word because that drives me up the wall.

Some of this I’ve learned from how I edit other people’s work. I am the nitpicker who will go through the page and circle every instance of a repeated word in a paragraph or page, and note the total count in the margin just in case I hadn’t already made my point. I am the nitpicker who will not only notice that every sentence has the same length and structure, but (a) point it out, (b) state whether or not it seems like you did it on purpose, and (c) start scribbling in examples of how you might rearrange them.

I’ve never been quite sure how anyone feels about my writing critiques, but personally I can’t stand getting critiques back with no notes throughout and a bunch of vague comments at the end. If you didn’t think something worked I want you to show me where during the text you had that thought, and I try to do that when I edit.

My voice as an editor has helped inform me a bit more about my voice as a writer, although I have to take this with a grain of salt. If I listen to my editor-voice too much I get distracted by rewriting things I haven’t even finished writing in the first place. Similarly, I can queue up audiobooks to listen to in the car but have to keep a wary eye out for signs that the book of the week is taking over.

It helps when I pick the audiobooks to suit what I’m writing, rather than the other way around.

And heaven help me if I’m typing up something I’ve written longhand, because unlike the self-restraint described in this post over at The Caffeinated Writer I can’t help trying to fix it as I go! Approximately halfway through whatever I still have written down has somehow become completely irrelevant and I no longer have a complete draft. 

Advertisements

Writing Soundtrack #1 – Narcisse

This post was inspired by this post on Writing And Musing. It made me think of all the times I’ve heard a song that totally fit with whatever I was working on, so today I want to share some of the songs that I associate with one of my characters.

Her name is Narcisse, from my in-progress  fantasy novel Growing Magic. She’s twenty-seven, raised in a relatively privileged environment by superficial parents who didn’t really pay her much attention. Her skill as a manipulator gets her their blessing to attend her choice of school in her study program of choice, and she graduates a talented Sorcerer in a particular and specialized field — one most would consider unnecessary philosophy on the origins of magic. Then, since she has nothing in particular to do with herself, she carves out a niche for herself in the research department, where she eventually gets herself into trouble because she’s a smartass and sticks her nosey nose into places she shouldn’t.

The first song I have for Narcisse is Extraordinary Machine, by Fiona Apple. Continue reading “Writing Soundtrack #1 – Narcisse”