Monthly Archives: July 2011

Voice

“I don’t think it is possible to give tips for finding one’s voice; it’s one of those things for which there aren’t really any tricks or shortcuts, or even any advice that necessarily translates from writer to writer. All I can tell you is to write as much as possible.” – Poppy Z. Brite

Voice: it’s that thing which every writer has, the one single thing that every writer needs. It’s also one of the hardest things to explain or to improve upon as a writer. Voice is at the core of our writing; it’s what makes our books sparkle and shine. And there’s no real way to improve voice except to read and write, read and write. Writing’s not something you can master in a day or even in a month; it takes years of practice to write publishable stories or novels. Voice is the main reason for that-because you need to practice and practice and practice to find your true voice, and once you’ve found that voice, writing becomes a lot easier-and your writing becomes a lot better.

There are multiple layers of voice: the voice that is yours and yours alone, the voice which belongs to the genre you’re writing in, and the voice of your character. The voice that is yours and yours alone is usually most evident in sentence structure, and in the level of attention to detail. It’s something which makes a story identifiable as yours; it’s the underlying truth of the story. The voice which belongs to the genre you’re writing in dictates the tools of the genre and the tone of your writing-the writing of a romance novel will have a different tone than that of a mystery novel. How important the voice of your character is depends on whether you’re writing in third person or first person, but it always makes a difference. In particular it’s important to know how well your character is educated, and to make sure not to use words that are well beyond their knowledge.

You can only improve your voice by writing more. You can only improve your genre voice by reading and writing in that genre, and studying what makes it different from other genres. And you can only improve your character’s voice by writing more pieces from their point of view.

Today I’d like you to write three pieces, each one focused on a different kind of voice.

The first will be a couple paragraphs from your point of view. Imagine you’ve gone on a trip or a retreat of some sort and that you’re in the absolute middle of nowhere, surrounded by trees, maybe a lake or a river, and animals of all kinds. Describe that place, the perfect place for you.

For the second I want you to write a couple paragraphs describing that same place, but throwing in something commonly seen in your preferred genre. Focus on using tone to convey genre, and don’t think too hard about the character that’s seeing it.

Take a character that’s important in your stories but who you’re not too comfortable writing as, and describe-from their point of view-describing the place that you wrote about in the first piece. Make sure that the tone of the words still fits with the genre, and that the words themselves fit with who you are.

Your voice remains at the core of all three pieces, but if you did it right, you’ll notice that as one layers onto the other, it goes from being a description of a place to part of a story-part of someone else’s story.

How noticeable is the difference between your voice and that of your character?

Week 5

This week I’m pretty sure I only did two chapters, but they were both long chapters. I also just finished writing what, in my opinion, is the best scene in the entire book, which wasn’t there before.

Although most of the plot involving Riana’s past is in the second book, I decided that I needed to spend some more time on it in the first. The scene that I just created showed Riana facing Eternia, a spirit who she worked with once upon a time who she failed. Eternia led her to find an antidote that she needed to heal her leg, and she promised Eternia that she would look after what had been Eternia’s land. It’s a really touching scene and I’m very proud of it.

I’m having a hard time not going back to edit what I’ve done in this draft, to save it until the draft is actually finished, but at least I already know what my next edit’s going to look like. All in all I’m pretty pleased.

I’ve also got about 14K for Camp Nanowrimo, including the chapters I wrote last week-I decided they were fair game. This is a short update, but I’m almost finished a book that I’m supposed to review (a long time ago) so that should be up on Wednesday, and in the last week or so my brain’s been full of ideas for blog posts, so sometime soon you can look forward to me returning to my regular post schedule. I should also be finished this draft of Moonshadow’s Guardian entirely within the next two or three weeks, so it’s going to be a pretty exciting time here.

Before I go, I’d like to make a shout out to Red Parrot, who’s sponsored me for my camp Nanowrimo goal. Nanowrimo means a lot to me, and the fact that somebody believes in me enough to donate on my behalf means a lot to me too. I’m confident that I can hit my goal and have fun doing it.

Have a good weekend everyone! I should be back on the block on Wednesday.

How’s your summer writing/editing going?

Week Four

So this week I’ve edited three chapters, written one short story and published one lens on Squidoo. I’ve also signed up for Camp Nanowrimo, with a goal of 80, 000 words for the summer. What I thought would just be a severe edit has turned into a full rewrite, and to be honest, I don’t think I’m going to use any more chapters from the last draft of Moonshadow’s Guardian. This will allow me to reach a much higher word count.

Around the end of the school year I applied for a summer job program. I told myself that if I didn’t get in, I would spend my summer writing instead. I didn’t get in, probably because I had pretty much nothing to put on my application, but I did get a new laptop and I have been writing my butt off. In fact, I’ve been writing almost full time hours-from eleven or twelve until five or six, and yesterday from noon until eight.

Unfortunately writing doesn’t make a lot of money. This leaves me with a lot of inner conflict. I’m supposed to get money from the government and I’ve already been waiting for a month and a half. All the food I eat, the chocolate milk I drink (it’s always on sale in my area), the places I go, all of that is paid for by either my grandmother or my boyfriend. And while my grandmother agreed to be my caregiver and doesn’t fuss about it, and my boyfriend likes spending money on me when he has it, I feel very much like a parasite.

When summer started my biggest internal dilemma was telling myself that yes, I could take a break. That it’s okay to go out for a couple hours with some friends and have a bonfire, because I’ve got all summer, with all my days free, to get this work done. Now I’m in the process of convincing myself that it’s okay not to have a real job, as long as I focus on my goals and my dreams. Writing isn’t going to make me a 500 dollar or more pay check in two weeks. Someday it will be my career, and someday I might even be rich and famous-though I’m not holding my breath for that. I feel bad because right now I don’t have money to throw at the wonderful people in my life and I have no material wealth to share.

I’m seventeen years old, and as much as I always tell other people that not every kid needs a job in their high school years, sometimes I’m not so convinced of it myself. I need to remember that writing books and short stories and whatever else I might write isn’t about a pay check in two weeks, it’s about making money and enjoying life for the rest of my life. The time I spend writing is more of an investment in my future than a summer job.

For that reason, I keep writing on Squidoo for advertising royalties which will only go up from here, and I’ve started a fundraising page for Camp Nanowrimo, hoping that I’ll be able to raise $80, or $10 for every 10, 000 words I write. You can read my lenses here, and you can sponsor me for Camp Nanowrimo here.

In the meantime, I’m going to put on a brave face, tell myself that I’m awesome, and write a book.

Editing Week Three

This week so far has been one of my most productive weeks all year. It’s summer, which means I don’t have to think about school and all the fun stuff that comes with it, and so I spent my first two weeks mainly goofing off and am now getting down to some serious business.

So, this week I’ve edited two and a half chapters of Moonshadow’s Guardian, and I’ve got the first chapter up for critique in two places. I’m participating in an online writing workshop called the Writer’s Circuit, where a number of youth and one writer in residence compare work. I’ve still got to read one more story this week, but I have the rest of today and all of tomorrow to do so.

The third thing that I’ve been doing is revisiting my ancient Squidoo page and working on my lenses. I’ve completely redone my Writing: My Passion lens and created a new lens called What Makes Terry Pratchett so Great? The reason why I decided to actually work on the lenses that I have and to create new ones for Squidoo is because I returned to find that my account-which lay unused for two years-had collected me a whopping three dollars.

That might not seem like a big deal to you, but that’s a huge deal to me. Back in the day I put up two lenses and got halfway through creating a couple more-the one I’m most excited to finish is about how to win Nanowrimo with extra words-and then I abandoned the site for two years. To the point that when I went to update my bio, it still said I was fifteen. Heh. I didn’t expect to find any kind of money there. Maybe a dollar. But three whole dollars gives me the hope that if I work my butt off this summer finishing the lenses I’ve started and making new ones, I might actually have some sort of income from the site. Even if it’s just twenty bucks a month, that’s more than I had before.

Two days a week will be devoted to reading and to creating or updating Squidoo lenses. Three will be devoted to editing and short stories, which I hope to write four of this summer-one every two weeks. My weekends are my days to spend to myself… or, should I say, with my boyfriend. There’s some overlap from day to day and blog posts happen on a novel day-just to make sure my editing stats are up to date-but overall my system seems workable. Don’t quote me on it though, it’s only been a week.

All of that said, I’d like to talk briefly about one of the hardest parts of creating a (I don’t want to say how many) new draft, especially when you have parts of it up for critique. That hard part is not going back and fighting with all the newly written and edited chapters. I did cheat and I did go back to fix the next chapters I’m putting up for critique, but I’ve forced myself to stop, leaving them in an all right but imperfect condition. Those chapters are going to go up for critique even though I know I can make them better, and I’m going to keep plunging ahead, because if I don’t make myself finish this draft, I never will.

Tomorrow I might quickly go over the next chapter I’m putting up for critique just to make sure it makes sense, but I’m not going to let myself get caught up in it for hours on end. I need to push ahead until I reach the end of this new draft, which might I say I am very proud of.

This draft is turning the novella back into a novel, which is pretty exciting for me. And it’s working out in all sorts of ways I couldn’t have imagined, even though somewhere along the line I lost all my notes. (I do mean all my notes.) I guess that’s just one of the joys of working with a really familiar story-I only need so many of my notes.

How is your editing going? What other writing projects are you getting excited about this summer?

Review: Perfect Ten by Karina Fabian

Perfect Ten is a short story written by Karina Fabian and published by Museitup. It’s the story of a life insurance adjuster named Sheila who ordinarily lives a life without risks. She recently won a vacation, however, and this vacation leads her to Las Vegas and then to an anonymous dating service.

Sheila encounters the thrills of her life but finds out that Coyote, however attractive he may be, is not the perfect ten for Sheila.

As a Reader:
This is a fun little story that’s been sitting in my inbox for… a while… and I’m glad I finally got around to reading it. Sheila’s a funny character with some odd quirks, and that makes this story work a lot better. The adventure she goes on surprised me entirely and kept my interest until the very end.

I highly recommend this story to anyone who likes what feels like a romantic comedy.

As a Writer:
There’s not too much to say about this one as I particularly enjoyed it. It stood up to scrutiny; the story could’ve happily stretched another few pages but it didn’t have to, and it has a classy ending. In particular I like the characterization of Sheila, down to the little cautious gestures-putting on her purse with the flap facing her side to avoid pickpockets. It’s a pretty well written story and I’m pleased that I finally got around to reading it.

You can buy it for just $2.50 here. It’s a fun little read and a great way to kill some time.