Angie Azur is a YA Sci-fi Writer.
Writer for PALEO Magazine.
Former Intern at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
SCBWI & COWG Member.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

VOICE - Get out of your writer's box!

I had an "I finally get it" moment the other day at a writer's retreat. I've learned about voice from various teachers at Chatham University, and Writer's Boot Camp. But, for some reason it didn't really get in there. I didn't really make a strong connection.

Every piece of writing I did as an MFA student, and as a Script Writer student always had a strong voice. I know this, because the teachers and fellow students told me. They would write on my manuscripts, "Strong Voice!" Or "I love your voice!" So I thought I had it. Nope, not even close.

It wasn't until this last writer's retreat, when I had a tough critiquer - a literary agent - but an awesome one, that I put 2 and 2 together for the first time and got 4. 

I read my first chapter of THE LINK out loud to the group. The group consisted of the agent, leading it, and four other writers. As I read my chapter, I felt good about it. No, I felt damn good about it, and I just knew I would get good remarks. And, I did. But, I didn't get the "it" factor remarks. 

Here's what they said:

  • Great writing
  • good action scenes
  • strong MG voice
  • the ending is such a cliff hanger
  • I want to read more
  • your writing is strong
  • keep going

Now this all sounds promising, but I've heard it all before. I was still missing something. Did anyone mention character? NO! Did anyone connect with my character on a level that they felt they knew her? NO! Did anyone say my character had a strong voice? NO!

And, when I left this group, I was pissed. Not at them - at myself. It should have been better. With all my writing knowledge, I should have seen that my character lacked VOICE. My writing was good. People wanted to read more, but my character was flat. Who is she? 

When I got back to my cabin I sat down at my computer...and stared. I had nothing. I felt I had tried everything for this character, and maybe she was just not in there. Then my mind spiraled out of control. Maybe I'm a horrible writer? Maybe I suck? Maybe I've been wasting my life....and on and on until my roommate showed up.

She had gotten that coveted, please send this to me, remark on her manuscript. So I said, lets pop open the bubbly and celebrate your awesomeness. We did. And then I kept drinking....and got quite tipsy, dare I say drunk? And, then it happened. I heard my character. I heard her voice. And I started to write. And I started to laugh. 

I'm pretty sure my roommate thought I was nuts - but in my insanedom - it worked. I got my character's voice for the first time down on paper. 

Moral to the story:

 I need to drink to let myself write out of my writer's box I have created for myself.

The next reading of my manuscript, I had the agent laughing....6 times. I counted. She told me to keep going with this, and that it's great. I told my drinking story, and everyone laughed. The agent actually said that she sometimes tells her clients to have a drink to loosen up and get out of a stuck attitude. 

I joked back, saying, the next time she saw me, I'd have an awesome manuscript, but I'd be an alcoholic. 

Okay, so drinking a few glasses of champagne helped me get my character's voice. I'm not saying it will help you...but why not try it out. 

  • Write at a different time than what's typical for you
  • Alter your state of mind -- a little -- see if it helps
  • Let go - don't care - just let your fingers fly over the keys
  • Make yourself laugh - think about the odd things you think about and write those as your character's
  • Pull an all nighter - the more tired you become, the less tight your writing will be
  • Go on a trip for writing - just you - stay at a lodge and write

I hope these suggestions help you get out of your box, and free your fingers to be the best writer you can be!

Good Luck

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