Here on Daily (w)rite, as part of the guest post series, it is my absolute pleasure today to welcome author Emily R King, who is a reader of everything, but a writer of fantasy and YA.
She’s a fantastic author, and has been a super-patient with this post which should have gone up some time last year (Sorry, Emily!). Her books are on my Kindle, and they should be on yours, too.
Listen in, as Emily R King talks about that elusive thing, the voice of an author, and offers suggestions on how to develop it.
I am often asked how I got published. I’ve given a lot of to-the-point answers as well as longer explanations that focus on hard work, determination, and luck. The more I think about my eight-year road-to-publication journey, the more I’m certain writers do something pivotal during the process of drafting, revising, querying, and submitting. We find our voice.
Voice is a story element that no one can quite put their finger on. Readers either connect with our voice or don’t. There isn’t much in between. While at SCBWI LA summer conference, I listened to a panel of reputable, high-powered agents discuss what they liked and disliked about manuscript submissions. When the moderator asked them about voice, their clear-cut advice suddenly became vague. They all agreed voice isn’t something they can teach. Voice is there or it isn’t. So how do we find our voice?
Practice. You don’t have to write every day, but you should set goals and meet them. Whether they be daily, weekly, or monthly, write when you can and meet your self-imposed deadlines. The more you write, the more experience you have honing your voice. You don’t have to always finish what you start. Not every story will sing to you. Try to finish drafting the ones that do resonate. Practice every stage of your process, including revisions and line edits. Your voice will become more apparent the more in tune you become with your process.
Read many genres. Research books that do voice well. Usually these books connect with a wide audience or serve their niche in the market. The main character doesn’t necessarily need to be a mouthy teenager or have a Scottish accent or drawl. Their voices should feel relatable, accessible, and build the narrative. If you write chapter books, your voice will be different than if you write YA contemporary. Compare and contrast. Get a feel for where you think your own voice fits. Be mindful that voice is also about sentence and paragraph structure, word choice, point of view, similes, purple prose, etc. What do you do well? What could you improve? Exploring different genres will help you pinpoint where you belong.
Try different genres. Before I found my sweet spot in upper young adult fantasy, I wrote a YA paranormal, a YA contemporary, a YA thriller, and a MG fantasy. My middle-grade got a lot of attention from agents. Every one of those agents came back and said my voice was off. I realized I had the genre right but not the category. Not to say I won’t switch genres in the future, but it’s best to settle upon one genre until you’re established in the marketplace and build readership.
Feedback from critique partners, betas, and agents. Listen to your early readers. If they aren’t connecting with your main character, you could have an issue with voice. Perhaps your character should be younger or older or your storytelling is more suited for sci-fi than fantasy. Whatever feedback you get, listen before you discard it. Thoughtful, constructive critiques can steer us toward tweaking our voice.
Theme We all have causes that are close to our heart. These beliefs and unique viewpoints sneak into our writing. We aren’t out to teach or preach. Our upbringing and how we view the world naturally leaks into our stories. These themes connect us with readers who share similar ideals. Your theme may be general, such as death in Harry Potter, or more plot-focused, such as female equality in The Handmaid’s Tale. Always be thinking of ways to put your authentic self on the page. Whatever is near and dear to your heart is worth exploring. You don’t have to be a bad guy to write one, but some piece of you is that villain. Do you know what piece it is? That’s voice.
Passion Do you like to create complex magic systems? Cozy mysteries? Fast-paced thrillers? Slow-burn romances? Write what makes you happy, what draws you back to your keyboard time and time again. Writing is hard. It’s even harder when you’re ambivalent about what you’re creating.
As you can see, voice belongs to the individual. Honing it takes a combination of practice, reading, open-mindedness, and understanding why you write in the first place. We all have something to share. Don’t write for the market or to please your critique partners. Be authentic. Your voice will emerge and readers will connect with your work.
Emily R. King is the author of The Hundredth Queen Series and forthcoming Evermore Chronicles. Born in Canada and raised in the USA, she has perfected the use of “eh” and “y’all” and uses both interchangeably. Shark advocate, consumer of gummy bears, and islander at heart, Emily’s greatest interests are her four children. She lives in Northern Utah with her family and their cantankerous cat. You can find her at emilyrking.com.
Are you a reader, a writer, or both? As a reader, do you care about the author’s voice? Do you read more short stories or novels? Do you read some authors more than others?
If you’re an author, are you self-published or published traditionally?
Have you read Emily’s work before? As a reader or writer, do you have questions for Emily R King?
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Glad you shared this post even if it’s late. Gold advice here. Finding our voice is critical, it took me a while to figure it out. I like all her advice and tips. Thanks
I can’t help switching genres – a different one has been in my head for the last year and won’t go away!
It took you eight years to get published? I envy you.
When you see the book through the characters and not the author, I’ve observed, it says the strong voice of the author. But can I not an author have more than one voice to resonate with in more than one genre?
Hi Damyanti – being true to self … and always setting a similar tone … we cannot be someone else or try to force our writing – at whatever level we’re at … Emily has done well for herself … but I’d say you too have a voice – and have a great way of writing for us to enjoy reading and want to be involved with your ideas and thoughts … cheers Hilary
I have heard that some people cheat : listen carefully and intently to what others say.
But then you are a thief, aren’t you, stealing their voices? Some people claim “great artists steal.” Is that true?
Enjoyed the post!
I never thought about trying to find the genre that my voice fits in. Not sure I agree, but it’s worth considering. I always thought you wrote the genre that you care about and then your voice would come through and distinguish you from others.
I am an author and a reader. I prefer self-publishing. I read more novels or novellas and non-fiction/ reference than I do short stories. I haven’t Emily’s work, but I will say that’s a very stunning cover! Good points about voice and how to work on finding it.
Inspiration shouldn’t be to please others with topics “selling good”. Commitment to the most inner part of the Soul, and the Path to Freedom, that is my inner voice. I hear her and follow her suggestion, always, doesn’t matter if the people likes what I write. I wish you serenity :-)claudine
Thank you so much for your advice! I’ve been struggling to develop the voice of a new character. I think being true to myself would help.
Such good advice, Emily. And I agree–finding your voice makes writing a passion not a labor. Excellent post.
Great counsel. A great interview.
An exceptional post with so much great advice. Thanks for sharing, Emily’s thoughts.
Some very sane piece of advice here. I’m so glad I stopped by. Thank you D and Emily.
More power to you.
“You don’t have to always finish what you start. Not every story will sing to you.” I just love the way that Emily has phrased that idea. It is true. I’ve found it with poems and stories I’ve jotted down (Yes, I still write before I type). Some of them just don’t sing.
This is a wonderful post. Emily and Damyanti, some time ago a wrote a poem called “Finding Your Voice”. I’d like to link this post of yours to mine on the poem. But only with your permission. Would either of you mind please?
Finally, Emily, as an Aussie new to your work, if I were to read a book of yours, which one is best to being with?
Thank you both.
Thanks for sharing… I usually let the heart do the talking and the fingers do the walking… 🙂
“The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.” Gustave Flaubert
I agree with Dutchll
A post with lot of useful tips
I am both a reader and a writer. This is such an important post. I’ve always been a varied reader, but more recently I’ve been attempting to stretch my comfort zone even further. I’ve noticed a difference in my fiction writing, and my blog posts. Thank you, Emily!
Good for you! And thanks for reading. 🙂
I am surely checking out Emily’s work after reading this. I needed these guidelines.
This is wonderful 🙂
Thanks for reading!
Good advice, but a very difficult thing to develop. I would posit that discovering/analyzing/developing your voice is a very abstract activity. I would say that it takes a well developed self awareness because you have to be aware of the voices you use in your life. I wish I could achieve that level of self awareness sooner than later 🙂
So true, Scott. And like voice, the process is different for everyone. As you pointed out, self-awareness is key!
Fabulous advice. 🙂
Thanks for sharing, dear. So much contributes to make your voice. I have to read it few more times so bookmarked it.
I hope this helps your process!
I agree that it’s a mistake to write to please anyone. I don’t really worry about my voice. I worry more about getting the right word, the timing and the characters in reasonable shape. That’s hard enough! Lovely author.
Very true! Thanks, JT.
I agree! Over time I’ve found words I reuse too often, phrases that are tired, and have developed and incorporated new words/phrases and attitudes of each character. Our voice shines when we become unique.
Great advice, Claire!
Great post about voice, and it is nebulous, isn’t it? The author’s voice is so different than the characters’ voices, which are much easier to describe. I think this post nicely pinpoints some of the elements that contribute to an author’s voice, all of them mushed together into something unique and original – style, word choices, themes, story structure, genre preferences, reading preferences, experience, tone, worldview. And above all practice, which hones and solidifies one’s voice. Happy Writing!
“Nebulous” is the perfect description for what makes a good writing voice. It’s really hard to pin down.
I so agree with everything that Emily has shared here.
When I began blogging, I tried to write in a style that really didn’t belong to me. And, that’s when my friend told me to write the way I speak, the way I think…basically, in a style all my own. It did take a lot of practice to work on it, but once I realised that my readers could relate to what I wrote, it felt that, yes, I was doing something right!
Thanks for this post, Damyanti….Information every writer needs.
Well done! Sometimes when we read someone else’s writing we really want to sound like them, but then we lose what’s unique to us. I’m glad you found your voice. 🙂
I know Emily!
It does help to settle on one genre and perfect it. And themes based on my own morals appear in every book I’ve written. (Usually by accident though!)
Alex! I’ve missed you! You’re the blogging king. 🙂