The BLS blog is especially for emerging and experienced writers, both published and unpublished.
With a mix of tools, tips, news, and discussions, this blog focuses on getting books and articles published, rather than the craft of writing.
Julie invites you to learn all you can....
Once more I turn to the wisdom of Joyce Gram, writer and editor. Style and
voice are essential to creative writing, but elusive at the outset of a career. Again Joyce helps us out:
Elizabeth Lyon begins Manuscript Makeover, her masterful tome on
fiction writing, with one of the most difficult distinctions in the art of
writing, that between style and voice. She imagines a panel
discussion among literary agents and editors at a writers’ conference on what
they most look for in a novel submitted by an unpublished writer. Original
style, answers one, distinctive voice, and then story. Fresh, original style, says
another, individuality of the author’s voice. The puzzled Everywriter in the
front row courageously asks what is meant by “voice” and how that differs from
“style,” to which one of the panellists responds, “It’s difficult to put in
words, but we know it when we see it.”1
Not all attempts at definition are so unhelpful,
and once you see—really see—the difference, I think you will begin to relax and
not try so hard to cultivate your voice.
The best definition I have heard comes from my
own writing teacher, Eileen Kernaghan, who says, “Style involves
the structure and rhythm of the sentences, choice of words, use of metaphors
and images. Voice is the disguise you wear when you write.
It’s more than style or point of view or word choice, though it incorporates
all those things.”
All fiction writers strive for a strong,
distinctive, authoritative writing voice, one that will lift their words out of
the fast-food category and into collective memory, like “Call me Ishmael. Some
years ago…” But, as Browne and King say in Self-editing
for Fiction Writers, this is “something no
editor or teacher can impart. There are, after all, no rules for writing like
yourself. Voice is, however, something you can bring out in yourself. The trick
is to not concentrate on it.”2 The best exercise in developing your voice, they
say, is to work on your manuscript.
To which I say simply: read and write, and
write, and write.
Julie speaking again: Voice may not always be the writer narrating. It can be someone
else who is not your gender, personality, or nationality. In that instance, you have to
know the character in depth and imagine them telling the story to
someone else. For example, you may write for twelve-year-olds and your voice
may be the main character who is a boy or girl of thirteen from Scotland. Not easy but
doable with lots of practice, expert guidance, and sound feedback.
Notes: 1 Elizabeth
Lyon. Manuscript Makeover: Revision Techniques No
Fiction Writer Can Afford to Ignore.
2008. 2 Renni Browne and Dave King. Self-editing for Fiction Writers.
2nd ed. 2004.
Also recommended: Constance Hale. Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wickedly Effective Prose. 2001