The Writer's Connection, SM
a publication of The Virtual Writing Coach SM
In This Issue:
2. Publisher's Note
4. Getting into Action
The Writer's Connection explores the creative process of writing and the interplay between thoughts, feelings, and actions. We are an interactive community of authors and readers who share ideas to enhance our knowledge, skills, and experiences in writing fiction in any genre, but our emphasis remains mystery and suspense thrillers.
Published monthly, the Newsletter offers writing tips for authors, coaching suggestions, editing, and marketing information.
Topics are presented from the perspective of Keith Barton and represent only his ideas on producing your first manuscript, and are provided to the general public. Because we are an interactive community of writers, other viewpoints are welcomed and may be printed in future monthly newsletters with permission from Keith Barton.
2. Publisher's Note
Dear Writer's Connection Subscriber,
This month features information about the writer's voice.
So much is written about one’s “voice” as a writer. One can try to imitate someone else’s style, but this defeats the purpose of one’s writing in the first place. After all, would you want to read another legal thriller with great characters by someone other than Grisham? In this instance copying another author’s style is not flattery, but an insult to your own writing ability. Sinclair Lewis, a Nobel Prize-winning author once said that “every compulsion is put upon writers to become safe, polite, obedient, and sterile.” Another quote from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, poet, novelist, and playwright, said, “the most original authors are not so because they advance what is new, but because they put what they have to say as if it had never before been said before.”
Paul Ray Martin has a great little instruction book, Craft and Technique, Writer’s Digest Press, 2005 which has over 300 aphorisms and insights into writing style. I want to focus on “voice” because this is what will separate you as a new author. It’s not about the story, the characters, plot, timing, hook, as much as it is the way you tell the story. In other words, quit trying to be someone else and write with your own style. As you do a “voice” will emerge as a subtlety that will take the reader through your plot as Frank Sinatra once said “I did it my way.” Voice is you; you and your audience are in a symbiotic relationship that brings your story to life in a different way for each reader. Voice is neither learned nor trained; voice evolves (Martin, 2005).
- Write what you know about. Many first-time authors make the mistake of writing for a particular audience; write for yourself; entertain yourself; chances are if you’re excited and passionate about your craft, then your audience will as well. Write what you care about: if it’s humpback whales and their plight in the North Sea or Aleutian Islands, then do your research and show your emotion in your writing; if it’s about passionate poetry about intimate relationships then let your words bring passion to the reader. It’s hard to write about divorce if you’ve never been through one. It’s tough to write a mystery thriller if you don’t care to read them, do not have an investigative or inquisitive mind; it’s difficult to write a romance novel if you think it’s trashy and nothing more than a soap opera. Most writers typically begin with a non-fictional piece and then move to fiction. In this way they are knowledgeable about their subject matter and becoming a storyteller is the secret ingredient in developing your own voice.
- Stay true to your voice in writing your book; if you break with your voice, the book dies (Martin, 2005). In writing a mystery novel, you need to keep the plot moving, your characters interesting and diametrically opposed to one another. You will have a hero (or heroine) and villain; sometimes the victim will be your protagonist. But strong characters will not carry you story if you don’t believe in them and give them flesh and brains. Cardboard characters become caricatures without voice. They are at best unbelievable and at worst, laughable.
- Believe that you’re the only one who can tell this tale (Issac Singer, author of Zlateh the Goat and Other Stories). You don’t have to defend your voice to an agent or editor; if you’re a good storyteller your voice will carry even a bad plot. After all, the reason you have an agent or publisher is because your writing style is unique and offers a fresh approach to storytelling. Khaleo Hosseini’s, The Kite Runner, is an example of a retelling of Stand by Me by Stephen King but the story takes place in Afghanistan and moves to California. The plot of betrayal and revenge although familiar to readers, takes on a different “telling” by Hosseini in the way he weaves the lives of the two young boys into adulthood. Pathos, love, redemption, revenge—it’s all there but packaged and presented in a fresh way that brought the book to the attention of Riverhead Books, a division of Berkeley Books. Listen to some of the reviews about Hosseini’s voice: “A gripping and moving book that offers a surprising reward: an understanding of, and empathy for, the people of Afghanistan . . . the book’s power resides in Hosseini’s ability to bring that culture to life on the page . . . almost impossible to put down.” (Iowa City Press).
- Voice is more likely to develop if the writer has more concern for writing to be read than publication. Trust your instincts, observations and judgments—that’s your voice (Martin, 2005). First drafts should not be laborious; you are not perfecting your craft but telling a story; let the words flow onto the page like a broad stroke of pastels from your pallet. Don’t worry about connecting the numbers until later. The art of storytelling resides in you, the author, and only you can tell the story the way “it needs to be told” to bring passion and vitality to your reading. If you’re not fired up about your writing then neither will the reader. So write for yourself first; your readership will follow if you’re good enough and your passion for your work (not ego) is felt by the reader.
- A final point which is a corollary to #4 above—never give up on yourself, despite the rejection letters, critiques, edits, and rewrites. If you continue to receive pleasure from your writing then you are honing your voice which will be distinctive and fresh because only you can tell your story; ghostwriters cannot get inside your head and heart. Give yourself credit for being a writer and begin to see yourself as a writer.
1. Read your favorite two authors and note the differences in point of view and voice. Why do you read these authors? Make a list of how they differ as storytellers.
2. Write two paragraphs: one telling a humorous story and the other describing some tragic event. Note the similarities in voice.
3. Now rewrite the paragraphs from the point of view of a writer of the opposite gender. Again, note the similarites in voice; there should be little difference in the way you tell the story, even from a different point of view.
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About Keith Barton, Ph.D.
Dr. Barton received his Ph.D. in 1972 from the University of Texas at Austin and has been a practicing therapist for over thirty years. He is currently enrolled in MentorCoach and is accepting new clients. He has been an adjunct professor at the University of South Carolina, consultant to Fortune 500 companies in executive development, founded and managed Texas Community Living Ventures, Inc., in 1986 for providing group home services to persons with mental retardation, and has been running a clinical practice in Northwest Houston since 1990. He writes part-time with the goal of completing one novel a year. His desire to coach others derives from his passionate interest in helping others become attuned to their creative powers of storytelling.
Dr. Barton has training in coaching, cognitive and family therapy and health psychology. He has published articles, made presentations and conducted workshops about:
Anxiety and achievement
The relationship between psychology and spirituality
Copyright by Virtual Writing Coach and
Keith Barton, 2001-2010.