Tag Archives: writing advice

What is a writer’s “VOICE” and how to find yours

 

838-02489441

When I first started writing I kept hearing this mysterious term, “voice”, mainly in the many rejections I received. Publishers would inevitably say something along the lines of, my “voice wasn’t developed.” It drove me mad. What did they mean? It was me writing, not anyone else. It took me a while to figure out that voice in creative writing terms just means a writer’s own particular style.

Put simply, which is how I like things, it means unadulterated plain old you on the page. Not you trying to be smarter or funnier or fancier than you are. Just you – the way you would talk to your best friend, the way you’d write a letter to someone who’s known you all your life. In my work with new writers I often come across people who think they have to use a whole lot of big words and mountains of adjectives and metaphors to sound “Writerly”. Which brings me to my first point.

Forget about being Writerly!

young-woman-writing

Fancy may work for some people who are born that way, or lived a hundred years ago, but these days it’s best just to write as you would speak. Of course you can throw in the occasional unique metaphor and fabulous big word, but most of the time keep it simple.

YOU are enough just the way you are.

Yes, that’s you. Your life and all you’ve lived and who you’ve become because of it is totally unique in the whole world. No one else can write your stories because only you can tell them in your own special way echoing all those experiences. If you grew up swinging around on a hills hoist washing line being sprayed with a hose, the story you tell about childhood is going to be very different to the person who slammed face first into a tree in a tobogganing accident. Claim who you are and let that shine through. The specific details of your life can reveal universal truths.

Once you’ve claimed your voice, everyone who reads your stories will say, “Oh that’s so and so, I’d know her voice anywhere.” Editors will accept your work for publication and say, “Great unique voice”. YES! That’s what we’re aiming for.

1950s-laughing-happy-excited-woman-vintage

But how to do it?

Read on.

TOOLS for developing your unique voice

1. Free writing

Write whatever comes into your head, stream of consciousness style. No stopping, don’t let your pen leave the page. Set a time for five minutes and just go for it, no editing, no fiddling with grammar, no checking spelling. If you don’t know a word then just put a question mark beside it. Even if you’re only writing “I don’t’ know what to write, this is silly, that’s fine. You can complain as much as you like, just keep writing. Find a writing prompt, set a timer, and go for your life. Write as fast and as much as you can in those five minutes. You’ll be surprised what you can do. Get used to writing rubbish 😊 Once you’re used to that, then you’re free to go! You will need to edit what comes out later, but just think of all the words you’ll have to play with.

2. Keep a journal

Use the free-writing technique to write a journal. Every day write at least an A4 page by hand, letting words flow off the top of your head onto the page. The more you write, the more natural your voice becomes. If you are too busy to do this every day, every second day will do. Writing, like anything else, is all about practice. The more you practice the better you get. The more you get used to writing completely naturally without thinking about sounding flash or clever, the more your natural voice will emerge.
3. Look at emails, letters or texts you send friends – are they different to the way you’ve being trying to write stories/ poems etc? Do you sound like you? If you feel uncomfortable writing in any form it may not. But I’m guessing if you’ve picked this book up then you’re a writing kind of a person and those messages to your friends and family are lighter and more natural than the artificial voice you may have been trying to put on for your writing. Next time you write a story pretend you’re writing to a friend instead of some imaginary publisher.

3. Look at emails, letters or texts you send friends

Are they different to the way you’ve being trying to write stories/ poems etc? Do you sound like you? If you feel uncomfortable writing in any form it may not. But I’m guessing if you’re reading this up then you’re a writing kind of a person and those messages to your friends and family are lighter and more natural than the artificial voice you may have been trying to put on for your writing. Next time you write a story pretend you’re writing to a friend instead of some imaginary publisher.

4. WRITE!

Write every day, whenever you can. Scribble down what you see while you’re on the bus. Who is that strange woman in the purple hat and too much pink lipstick? What’s her story? Play with your imagination. Write down your dreams and give them another chapter. Fill notebooks with lots of messy writing about anything that takes your fancy. Write until it comes naturally.

vintage-woman-with-arms-in-the-air

Have you found your voice yet? How do you know? I’d love to hear from you if you’d like to leave a comment.

If you’d like to receive more writing hints and tips, drop me a line here.

And if you’d like a whole weekend of writing and yoga to get those creative juices flowing then see HERE for my next retreat.

Until next time – HAPPY WRITING!

Lots of love

Edwina xx

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , ,

SUBMIT! SUBMIT! SUBMIT! The 10 Point Plan to Publishing Success.

woman posting ms

Whether you’re a writing newbie or an old hand like me there’s one rule that stays true – in order to get published you need to submit. Scary, but true.

You want someone to read them, right?

When I first started writing in earnest back in 2002, I wrote short stories while my young children were having their naps. I joined the QLD Writers Centre and formed a writers’ group with a few women I’d met in workshops. After they’d given me advice and positive feedback, I felt brave enough to send some stories out to competitions.

crying babyIt took guts. I know how scary it is to even have anyone else read your work, but then submitting to competitions or publishers can feel like you’re sending a newborn off to face the world alone, without even a blankey. I was filled with anxiety but also a trembling hope.

I was thrilled when I won the Avid Reader short story prize and was published in a free local newspaper. When I went to collect my $50 book voucher from Avid Reader bookstore, I felt as if I’d made the New York Times best seller list and was beaming ear to ear when Krissy Kneen helped me pick out a book. I chose Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott which is still one of my favourite books on the writing life.

It gave me the courage to send out more stories, and the following year I came runner up in the Josephine Ulrick Prize and had two more stories published! I was beside myself. This writing gig wasn’t as tough as I thought it would be.

Then I started work on a novel and my publications list dried up. I was still writing but I’d forgotten I was supposed to submit stories as well. It felt like my beginner’s luck had dried up. I was yet to learn that the trick is to keep submitting anyway. Persistence is the key. Write, write, write. Submit, submit, submit!

persistence quote

Which brings me to THE 10 POINT PLAN!

My writing buddy Fiona Robertson first told me about the 10 Point Plan a few years ago, when I’d let my submissions dribble to just about nothing as I focused on full length works. She’d heard about it from someone at her writers’ group, who’d heard about it from someone else, and so on. If anyone knows who actually thought of it, please let me know because I’d like to give them the credit and thank them.

It goes like this.

Aim to have at least 10 points out in submissions at any time and you will inevitably get published. It may not happen straight away but keep on writing, redrafting and sending those stories out and I promise you that sooner or later IT WILL HAPPEN!

1 Point per story or essay/article/pitch.

3 Points per full length work or grant application

However, I’d still aim for 10 points worth of short pieces out at the same time, because they’re easier and those small wins feel really great.

If you’re starting out, it will take time to amass the number of pieces you need to have them to submit, but it’s a great motivator to do so. If you’re writing something longer, like a full-length memoir or a novel, think about whether there are sections you can excerpt and edit to create fully self-contained pieces.

A lot of journals and competitions these days ask you to either subscribe to their publication or pay a hefty entry fee. If you’re flash with cash go right ahead – it’s great to support small presses and literary journals. However, there are still places you can submit stories at a low cost or even for free. These are my favourites. Some journals will allow simultaneous submissions – this means submitting your story to other journals at the same time, but always check each publications requirements.
opporunity knocks

Keep an eye out in the Opportunities sections of your local writers’ centre and join online writing communities that share publishing opportunities and competitions. I belong to several and select the best of these to share with my writing friends.

If you’d like to be kept in the loop, join my writing gang HERE.

The 10 point plan keeps me on my game and makes sure I’m submitting stories, redrafting and resubmitting and best of all creating new content to send out – that’s the fun part. I write down everything I submit in a special hardcover book I keep at my desk and record when I sent it, and also when I should expect to hear back.

When I get a rejection, I cross it out – sometimes if I’m very disappointed, with lots of thick black scribble. Rejections aren’t personal, they’re stepping stones to success, I remind myself.

snoopy rejection

And sometimes I get a big fat glorious YES! When that happens, I highlight my entry in pink, draw stars all around it and dance like a happy fool.

happy snoopy

Those emails you get accepting your work for publication are worth framing – well at least worth printing out and sticking to your wall for a while. Even the good rejections that come with a personal comment about how close you got, with advice on redrafting and asking for other stories feel like wins. And they are.

So hop to it and start submitting today. Think of it as a lottery. The more entries you have the better the odds.

I’ve just hit my 10 points for this year. How many points do you have out?

If you’d like to be kept in the loop about competitions and journals to submit to plus also get writing hints and tips, join up HERE to become a part of my writing community. I’ll do my best to help you succeed in your dreams to get published.

GOOD LUCK with all those submissions!

Lots of love
Edwina xx

Tagged , , , , , , , ,
Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: