Finding Your Voice

by Katherine Reay, @Katherine_Reay

“Voice” is so important – and, in many ways, so illusive. It’s unique. Yet every writer has one. It’s the narrative tone in which you feel most comfortable and it conveys your story with the greatest strength.

I was at MIBA’s (Midwest Independent Booksellers Association)fall conference last week and participated in a round of “speed dating” with bookstore buyers. Another writer and I were paired together and we traveled table to table to pitch our stories. Five minutes each. Talk fast. Move on. While some writers, I heard, had a bit of competition over their five minutes, my partner and I had a blast.

She was amazing… She finished her MFA a couple years ago and hated the literary fiction she was writing. She felt it was boring, and she said everyone else did too. She couldn’t sell anything. Then she started writing a humor column for a blog and a street-smart-bold-sassy-brash voice came out of her. She started having fun with the blog and the character, and the words flowed fast. A couple years later find her sitting beside me, pitching a hardcover book ready to drop next April by Random House.

I’ll tell you more about her book another time because I don’t want to get away from the point: VOICE.

Reading the story above, a writer might think it best to adopt a provocative, snarky, funny, or cynical voice to attract agents and publishers. But that would be missing the point of the above writer’s experience. It wasn’t that my new friend adopted this new tone to attract a contract; she unleashed it within her to tell a story. Catch the part about the words flowing? She said she couldn’t put them down fast enough –t the voice was within her and it wouldn’t be silenced. I experienced that myself with Dear Mr. Knightley. Sam Moore would not leave me alone until I laid out her story – and let her live it.

I suspect that happens often that happens when one finds a story’s voice. Thoughts and words, emotions and drama, flow more freely because they come from something creative, organic and exciting within the writer.

Without honing, refining and delivering your own voice, your story can create a layer of distance between you and the reader – and everyone can feel it. You never want that. Yes, you want to deliver 3-D characters, strong plot, and tense conflict – but most of all, you want to deliver impact. Distance dimishes impact. I say investing a little effort to discover and hone one’s voice is time well spent…

  1. Don’t think. Don’t edit. Plan to throw it away. Simply sit down (or stand at your desk as I do) and have fun writing whatever comes to mind,in whatever tone evolves. This is a great exercise to get the juices flowing and dig around for your unique voice. Don’t let this distract you from your work, but do give this a few minutes everyday. It may surprise you.
  2. Read novels with a strong sense of voice. Filling up your well of great stories is always a good idea. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is one of my all-time favorites. Death has a fascinating voice… To Kill a Mockingbird, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Phantom Tollbooth and The Catcher in the Rye are other great examples – the last two being a couple of my favorite books.
  3. Share your writing with trusted readers. This is a tough one, but I do recommend it. Find a couple people you trust and share a variety of writings and ask what they think. In fact, that is how the woman in my story came to find her voice. Friends called her again and again asking, “Why don’t you write like this all the time?”
  4. Have fun! You’ll find my posts almost always include this. Perhaps because I need reminding myself. I can take this journey far too seriously at times and that is a sure-fire way to kill creativity, voice, expression and joy. So have fun!

Thanks for spending some time here with me today! A little time working on this all-important and somewhat illusive aspect of writing will make your stories more powerful, more authentic, and more saleable. All three are exciting adventures. Enjoy!

Katherine


The Austen Escape

Mary Davies finds safety in her ordered and productive life. Working as an engineer, she genuinely enjoys her job and her colleagues – particularly a certain adorable and intelligent consultant. But something is missing. When Mary’s estranged childhood friend, Isabel Dwyer offers her a two-week stay in a gorgeous manor house in England, she reluctantly agrees in hopes that the holiday will shake up her quiet life in just the right ways.
But Mary gets more than she bargained for when Isabel loses her memory and fully believes she lives in Jane Austen’s Bath. While Isabel rests and delights in the leisure of a Regency lady, attended by other costume-clad guests, Mary uncovers startling truths about their shared past, who Isabel was, who she seems to be, and the man who now stands between them.
Outings are undertaken, misunderstandings play out, and dancing ensues as this company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation, work out their lives and hearts.

Katherine Reay is the award-winning author of Dear Mr. Knightley, Lizzy& Jane and The Bronte Plot, an ALA Notable Book Award Finalist. Her latest novel, A Portrait of Emily Price, released in November 2016 and received Starred Reviews from Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and a Romantic Times TOP PICK!All Katherine’s novels are contemporary stories with a bit of classical flair. Sheholds a BA and MS from Northwestern University and isa wife, mother, rehabbing runner, former marketer, and avid chocolate consumer. After living all across the country and a few stops in Europe, Katherine now happily resides outside Chicago, IL.

Surprised By My Own Voice – Guest Post by Morgan Busse

Morgan L. Busse writes fantasy and steampunk for the adult market. She is the author of the Follower of the Word series, including Daughter of Light, Christy and Carol Award finalist, and currently free on Amazon. Morgan lives on the West Coast with her husband and four children. You can find out more about Morgan at www.morganlbusse.com

* * * * * 

Voice. That elusive part of writing. The part that distinguishes one writer from another. Voice is hard to nail down, but once found, brings a uniqueness to one’s writing. 

So what happens when your voice doesn’t match your genre? 

I write fantasy. When most people think of fantasy, they think of J.R.R. Tolkien. His voice is eloquent, lengthy, lyrical, and full of description. Many fantasy writers share a similar kind of voice. It’s the standard when it comes to this genre.

However, my voice is different. I discovered my voice after writing Daughter of Light, the first book in my epic fantasy series. My writing voice is blunt, short, and to the point. I tell the story in a strong, quick tempo, moving along at a clip pace. Not the style usually employed by the average fantasy writer. 

A couple reviews reflected the fact that some readers did not like my voice. They wanted the poetic sound usually found in fantasy. 

I didn’t know what to do, so I decided to try and change my voice. I believed I needed to write in a certain way in order to be a fantasy writer. It was like trying to write a square word into a round story. It didn’t work. In fact, those scenes stuck out so bad that my editor called me on it. He gave me the freedom to be me, and to write like me. 

So I tossed out those scenes and went back to writing like Morgan. 

After reading an article a friend of mine wrote about voice, I realized even more how important it is to embrace my own voice. Not only is voice my style of writing, it encompasses the stories I write and how I write them. No one can write the stories I write, in the manner that I write them. When I write a story, I draw on the things I have went through during my life: my parent’s divorce, death of loved ones, loss of jobs, loss of house, cancer scares, months of wondering how we would survive unemployment, deep depression, and emotional wounds dealt by people. 

Throughout my life, even in the darkest times, I found hope. And I clung to that hope like a life thread. Through my writing, I explore the darkness and how to find hope. 

My life and my writing style have formed my voice. To not be true to my voice would be the equivalent of not being true to myself. 
Sometimes I don’t like my voice. I wish I could write eloquent prose, running along with beautiful descriptions, long colorful sentences, and dialogue that sounds more ancient. 

But that’s not me. I’m Morgan and I will write in Morgan’s voice. After all, I’m the only one who can write my stories. 

How about you? As a writer, have you discovered your voice? Did you like it or did you wish you could write like someone else? 

* * * * * 



About Tainted: 

What Happens When Your Soul Dies?  

Kat Bloodmayne is one of the first women chosen to attend the Tower Academy of Sciences. But she carries a secret: she can twist the natural laws of science. She has no idea where this ability came from, only that every time she loses control and unleashes this power, it kills a part of her soul. If she doesn’t find a cure soon, her soul will die and she will become something else entirely. 

After a devastating personal loss, Stephen Grey leaves the World City Police Force to become a bounty hunter. He believes in justice and will stop at nothing to ensure criminals are caught and locked up. However, when Kat Bloodmayne shows up in his office seeking his help, his world is turned upside down. 

Together they search World City and beyond for a doctor who can cure Kat. But what they discover on the way goes beyond science and into the dark sphere of magic. 

* * * * * * * * * * 

Ronie Kendig is an award-winning, bestselling author who grew up an Army brat. After twenty-five years of marriage, she and her hunky hero husband have a full life with their children, a Maltese Menace, and a retired military working dog in beautiful Northern Virginia. She can be found at:
     www.roniekendig.com
     Facebook (www.facebook.com/rapidfirefiction)
     Twitter (@roniekendig)
     Goodreads (www.goodreads.com/RonieK)
     Instagram (@kendigronie)
     Pinterest (http://www.pinterest.com/roniek/)!

Reviewers call Ronie’s newest release, EMBERS, “Simply amazing!” 

What’s In A Voice?

By Rachel Hauck

Since last summer, I’ve been crazy over a worship song “Great Are You Lord.”

Originally sung by All Sons and Daughters, I’d never heard of the song until I happened upon Amanda Cook singing it for a live set.

I listened to it none stop.

Brought it to my worship team at church. Ten months later, it’s still a monthly favorite.

I’d pull the song set every week if I didn’t want to wear everyone out.

Just recently however, I learned another favorite worship leader of mine, Jeremy Riddle, also lead the song in a worship set a few years ago.

In fact, I’d listened to that live set several times. Jeremy sang “Great Are You Lord,” the bridge “All the earth will shout Your praise…” with energy and sincerity.

But the song never stood out to me. Didn’t make an impact. Until I heard Amanda Cook sing it.

Why is that? What is that?

Same song, different singer, and one deeply impacted me while the other did not.

Was it a time in my life? Was it a season? Was it the unseen of one worship leader over another?

I don’t know because I admire them both.

But there is something in Amanda Cook’s voice, in her worship, that resonates with me in the deep. I’m moved by her voice, her songwriting, inspired to love Jesus more.

Voice is a critical part of life. Of writing.

It’s more than the tone, than inflection, than a string of words put together.

It’s the vibration of one’s heart that makes Voice reverberate with the masses.

Sometimes the “it” factor causes one voice to stand out above others.

We see this a lot in politics. And in pulpits.

As writers, our voice is critical.

How you phrase things, how you tell the story, how you emote onto the page will draw or repel readers.

If we challenged two writers to write a story on the same issue/topic, invariably one would be more successful than the other.

Let’s say they are both great writers. Both have superior editing and cover design. Both work social media and are very personable.

Nothing on the outside makes a difference. But yet one book will do better than the other.

It’s Voice.

A sound that comes from the heart of the author that touches something we can’t distinguish in tangible terms. Soul? Spirit? Unseen?

Who knows but an author’s voice is so key to success.

I remember meeting Karen Kingsbury in 2002 at the first ACFW onference. I’d not read any of her books but everyone at the conference loved her.

After I heard her speak for the first time I knew why. Voice! Karen is a great, emotional story teller.

I’m not such a great emotional story teller, so I find what works for me. I find my voice. And I have to fine tune, train my own writing voice.

If I could boil it down to this, I’d say voice is about passion. Emotion. About conviction. About being real, being “you” on the page.

Sometimes writers are so focused on craft they leave voice behind. Or a writer can get lost in trying to write the “next great novel” that they leave out their own heart and soul.

Books overly manufactured can read excellent, but lack “feel.”

Let’s not leave the feel out of our novels.

Sometimes our books have all the right feel and emotion, passion, but it just doesn’t resonate with readers.

But trust it will in time. Trust the Creator in doing what’s right concerning your writing and career.

Maybe you’re like me and you have to take a step back and just write what you love. Forget about market or competition and just be passionate about all you’re writing.

Maybe you need to shut up the voices of doubt and indecision rattling around in your head, and believe God is working in and through you.

We all know success does not indicate the best. Or that God loves one person more than another.

At the end of the day, you must be true to Him, and true to yourself, and the person God has made you to be.

And lift your Voice! Whether one or a million hear you, be a voice. Not an echo.

***


Rachel Hauck is an award winning, best selling novelist. 

She lives in sunny central Florida with her husband and ornery pets.


A graduate of Ohio State University with a degree in Journalism, she worked in the corporate software world before planting her backside in uncomfortable chair to write full time eight years ago.

She’s the author of EPCA and CBA best sellers, RITA and Christy nominated books. 


She also co-authored the critically acclaimed Songbird Novels with platinum selling country music artist Sara Evans. Their novel Softly and Tenderly, was one of Booklists 2011 Top Ten Inspirationals.

Rachel serves on the Executive Board for American Christian Fiction Writers. She is a mentor and book therapist at My Book Therapy, a conference speaker and worship leader.

Rachel writes from her two-story tower in an exceedingly more comfy chair. She is a huge Buckeyes football fan.

Visit her web site: www.rachelhauck.com.

Finding Your Author Voice

By Rachel Hauck

The writing community talks a lot about “voice.”

The “sound” your writing makes when words and ideas are strung together.

Voice is unique to each author.

It is the single thing that makes one author stand out from another.

Four romance authors could write the Valentine’s Day scene of a hero bringing a rose to his beloved and each story would be dramatically different.

But equally enjoyable.

Voice is how “you” say things.

Readers might say, “I love her voice.”

A writer might say, “Oh, my editor is killing my voice.”

And sometimes “voice” needs a bit of adjustment. Authors can get overly sensitive about their “voice.”

But like a singing voice can be trained, so can an author’s voice. In fact, a good editor can help you find your voice.

Ami McConnell at Thomas Nelson saw and “heard” something in my voice and challenged me to write deeper and with more intention.

I’m grateful!

However, that voice is NOT the one I want to talk about today. I want to talk about “voice” as it relates to what you write.

Often new authors genre hop, trying to figure out what they want to write or with what publisher. Perhaps they see a trend and migrate to “what’s’ hot now.”

Established authors might get bored with what they’ve been writing and try something new. It’s a risk — remember John Grisham in Painted House — but more easily done than a new author.

It’s hard for an editor to see an author year after year at a conference and never know what kind of story the person is going to bring.

I love thrillers. I love a bit of sci fi fantasy. My husband comes up with some GREAT story ideas.

But they are not my voice. At least not for now.

Often people suggest I write a certain kind of book. “Write military.” Or, “write about trafficking.”

While I love the military and adamantly oppose human trafficking of any kind, those stories fall outside of what I think God is calling me to write.

I’m not saying “never” but right now, my writing voice is about love. Not just human love but the love of God for us.

I’m finding strength in writing with a supernatural element. Family Fiction said:

“Rachel’s portrayal of the supernatural presence and intercession of the Holy Spirit… is artfully executed and a powerful testimony. Often modern supernatural encounters with the Holy Spirit read as instances of mysticism and imagination, but Rachel Hauck illustrates Reggie’s spiritual awakening with a purity that leaves little doubt to its credibility.”

The supernatural fits my voice. It’s something I can do pretty well.

So combining my love stories with an element of the supernatural is becoming more and more my voice.

Down the line, I may find I can add a justice element to my love-supernatual stories. 

This is my voice. It’s what I like to write. It’s what I write well.

So, what’s your voice? What do you do well? What seems to pop off the page?

Sol Stein said, “Write something only you can say.” 

That’s voice!

My challenge to you is find out what YOU can write. What God is calling you to write? Stick with it. 

Don’t change your mind based on what someone says or what’s trending. 

If you don’t know “your voice,” do some testing. What do you read? What movies do you automatically gravitate toward? What do readers love the most about your work? What do you love most about your work?

I realized I could write supernatural elements early on, with my first chick lit, Georgia On Her Mind. I expected pushback from my editor. But low and behold, she loved it.

I’m sure you have a similar element in your writing.

Give yourself some times, too. It actually takes awhile to find your “voice.”

So keep writing. Keep seeking. Find your voice.

***

Rachel lives in sunny central Florida.
A graduate
of Ohio State University with a degree in Journalism, she worked in the corporate
software world before planting her backside in uncomfortable chair to write
full time eight years ago.
She’s the
author of the EPCA and CBA best sellers, and RITA nominated books. She also co-authored the critically acclaimed Songbird Novels with platinum selling
country music artist Sara Evans. Their novel Softly and Tenderly, was one of
Booklists 2011 Top Ten Inspirationals.
Rachel
serves on the Executive Board for American Christian Fiction Writers. She is a
mentor and book therapist at My Book Therapy, a conference speaker and worship
leader.
Rachel
writes from her two-story tower in an exceedingly more comfy chair. She is a
huge Buckeyes football fan.
Here latest novel, Princess Ever After and novella A March Bride, released in February 2014.

Visit her
web site: www.rachelhauck.com.