Aspiring writers gathered together in the Hyatt Embassy Sunday morning to hear Debra Dixon and Nancy Knight explain what “voice” is and how to find it in your writing. Voice isn’t necessarily something you acquire in a first draft; it is a process that often involves a lot of weeding out the parts that do not work.
Sometimes knowing what something isn’t helps to define what it is. Voice is not the plotting of the character’s journey or the style in which you write. Voice shines through your writing and is about truly knowing what is in your heart. To find this, you must figure out what matters to you in the world. When an author’s voice fails to come through, it is likely that the author doesn’t want to feel the emotional rollercoaster ride that the character is experiencing or that the author doesn’t quite have command of the writing craft. Some tips on cleaning up your writing included utilizing proper grammar, reading books on the craft of writing, and finding and replacing words like it, thing, stuff, and just.
So how does one go about finding and perfecting voice? Dixon emphasized the importance of keeping an experience journal where you jot down actual pieces of conversations overheard, detailing the way a leaf floats down from a tree, and recording the moments that matter in your daily life. In other words, “if you are in an earthquake, you better be writing it down,” Dixon said.
Knight has two set-in-stone rules: you must read and you must write about what you see occurring in the world around you. If you don’t understand the world around you, you will not be able convey it on paper.
Finally, as an author, you must truly understand what your book is about. If you don’t know what you want the reader to take away, then you don’t know your book.