Monday, October 17, 2011

That's MY VOICE You're Messing With!

This post is geared more toward writers than readers, but I think it's an interesting enough topic for readers as well. (Heck, I'm a reader too.)

There are all sorts of terms writers use in conjunction with their craft. Voice is one word that gets confused all over the place. What the heck is voice? According to Wikipedia: "Writer's voice is the literary term used to describe the individual writing style of an author. Voice was generally considered to be a combination of a writer's use of syntax, diction, punctuation, character development, dialogue, etc., within a given body of text (or across several works)."

In other words, if someone is reading a book to me while my eyes are closed, I'll know it's an Author X book by the tone, the sentence structure, and the general way dialogue and character development pan out. For example, Shelly Laurenston is an autobuy for me because I absolutely LOVE her voice. She writes funny characters, witty dialogue, and fast-paced, action-filled plots. Oh, and her characters are crazy, which I adore. You could read me a passage from one of her books and I'd know she wrote it. That's VOICE.

But what happens when an author writes something and it gets edited to death? A great fear many of us (authors) have is that we'll lose our voice. Sometimes I write sentences that aren't sentences. I make up words in dialogue, and I leave off pronouns. Intentionally. It's my voice, a certain style that makes my book different from someone else's. Editing is a wonderful tool to clean up grammar and spelling mistakes, but at some point, the editor has to realize that the author has to state things her/his way. It's easy to change "a" to "the" for the hell of it, but a good editor knows when to leave it and when to change it.

I've had more than my share of good luck when it comes to great editors. And yeah, I've had one or two that made me bite my lip wondering why I bothered to write the book since it no longer sounded like mine. But from one author to another, I have to say, if your editor is editing out your voice, speak up. As a writer, you do have rights. That's not to say you shouldn't take criticism, because an editor has a job to do after all. But at what point do you sacrifice your work to be published? And yes, I know, a lot of times authors have no choice. You signed the contract, the editor and the powers that be aren't budging, and you're stuck. So when you finish your next book, take it someplace else. Somewhere the editor "gets you" and lets your voice shine through. There's nothing worse than an editor/author relationship that isn't working. Voice is important. And writing is a business. So be a professional, ask for help, and take it when it's offered. If not, walk far, far away.

And to Ann, Grace, Alissa, Mary, and Claire, you'll note I keep submitting. Thanks for letting me keep my voice. :)

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