Aaaah! Voice. We’ve all got those "voice" rejections, haven’t we? Even
if some were form-y, but still--sometimes they HURT! There was this manuscript I went out on sub with a few years ago, and
I got a few “voice” rejections. So just reading the word “voice” right then was
enough to make me CRINGE. And sure, there was that pesky word: “subjectivity.”
Still, I tried. And I thought I got it. I went to Amazon to browse sample chapters of a
lot of NYT bestselling books. And guess what? I didn’t love the voice of all of
them. In fact, I just loved the voice of like 60% of those bestselling books.
Okay, so “subjectivity” was a real thing! But still, right then, I hadn’t sold any
book, and I thought my voice could still improve. But HOW THE HELL could I make
I didn’t know. Honestly. Still, I kept writing, switched agents, revised, etc. And still, a big, fat nothing.
Then, on a whim, I applied to book packagers. Many of them.
Alloy, Working Partners, Cake Literary, etc. And, even though I got a few
rejections, I also got a few “We loved your sample chapter! Do you want to
audition?” And I did. And these packagers gave me characters to
write about. Characters with flaws, interests, different streaks in their
personalities, etc. So now I had to craft a voice for them, for many characters I
hadn’t even created myself?? Talk about hard! But you know what? That was the
BEST writing exercise ever. I was forced to get out of my comfort zone and
explore different personalities that I wouldn’t normally write about.
Now THAT helped me with the voice thingy. I got into these many different characters’ minds. Trying to really
get their goals, what made them tick. I got into the exact moment of their scenes,
the conflicts in their heads. And slowly, things started to click together for me. Because I had
learned to feel the characters.
I think voice is about that. When you are writing with your heart,
with your guts, when you FEEL THROUGH your character.
So, this is my tip if you want to work on your voice. It’s an exercise:
go to Netflix or whatever, and pick 4-6 characters from a movie/series that you
know well BUT wouldn’t normally write about. And write a scene—like
fan fiction, but WAY OUT of your comfort zone. And don’t stop until you truly feel
those characters. Explore the words they like to use and see why, and zoom in their minds--and create, too. And when there's even a sentence in your writing that reads without a voice, ask yourself, why?
It worked for me, at least. I started to get compliments on my
voice. I got a three-book deal—with FOUR different voices. And most of all, I can
finally say, I am happy with my own voice. And, if in the future I get voice
rejections, I’ll be like, whatevs.
Tell me, did you find your voice? How?