Thursday, April 29, 2010

Finding Your Inner Voice

As an editor, I am very aware of my authors' voices. When doing a line or content edit, I try very hard not to change their words into my words. When I meet with authors, I tell them up-front, "I won't change your voice." Sometimes they look at me like I'm crazy. I'm used to that. But other times, more often, they thank me and we get on with our meeting.

Recently, I had a conversation with my agent. I was feeling unsure of the genre that I've decided to concentrate my time and effort into now. My instinct, before at least, was to write stories that dealt with adult women and their issues - something I know a lot about! But when she poised the question - or request - of writing in a new genre because the women's fiction market was flat, I decided to try middle grade. I didn't think it would be that hard; I've got two youngish boys in my house and a husband who is a big kid himself (sorry, honey, but you know it's the truth.) I wrote a full manuscript (book one in a series) and then a partial for a completely different series. I felt pretty good about the stories, or the potential for each story.

Since those two manuscripts, along with a women's fiction mss, are floating out in editorville, it's easy to doubt my new found MG voice. Is it authentic? Will readers gravitate toward it? Will they realize that an "old" lady wrote it and not some young, hippy chick?

I certainly believe that my women's fiction voice is not the same as my middle grade voice. In MG, my characters say "crap". In my women's fiction, my characters say "shit" or something much stronger since shit is not my favorite swear word. : )

I'm so much more aware of how my boys talk now. Whether it's talking to each other, to my husband or me, or to their friends, their lingo is becoming my MG voice. It's still my voice, but at a much younger age. And who wouldn't want to be younger these days?

Music also helps me find my voice, especially if it's for someone much younger. I listen to Linkin Park, Black Eyed Peas, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Pink, Train...just to name a few.

When my characters seem like real people, my voice comes so naturally. I've created these "people", so I get to live out their adventures. It's way cool.

In whatever genre, author voice is distinct to each writer. Do not try to write like someone else. When you do that, the writing is not authentic. I learned early on that copying (not plagiarizing), but copying someone else doesn't make me sound real.

Do you notice your voice? How do you feel when others (editors or critique partners) try to change your voice?

Oh, and that conversation with my agent, yeah, she told me I had a younger voice. I tend to agree.


Buffy Andrews said...

Hey Kris, I so totally agree with you about voice. When I wrote Freaky Frank (my MG novel) I was completely him. I laughed my (big) ass off every night when I sat down to write. The novel just poured from me. It was pure awesomeness. To laugh and love and live that ms. I mean, I was this boy who could read minds (good crap, like the teacher going to fart or pick a booger and wipe it on his tie. But I can just as easily switch and I'm Ella or Grandma D from Ella's Dance. These voices are totally different. In the YA I'm working on now, there's Annie and David and their voices are different, too. And when I read my newspaper columns, they are a totally different voice. What the hell, maybe I have multiple personalities. Keep up the super work you are doing. I totally admire you.

Unknown said...

Oh Buffy, as my 11-yr-old would say, "I've got you snowed!" Nothing to admire here. Just a woman who loves words and who loves to help others with their writing.

I loved what I read of Freaky Frank! I totally got into the whole concept and wanted to read more. I hope I get to someday.

Back to voice - I agree that writers who write in multiple genres have different voices. It can't be the same for each genre, but I do believe that there is an underlying "Kris" voice or "Buffy" voice. I write the way I do, no matter which genre.

Thanks for stopping by!

Anonymous said...

My voice is the one thing I don't like editors to mess with. It makes my writing what it is, and I feel it is that way for all least it should be. Kudos for saving your writers that pain :)