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Our September Author Interviews--9/6 Kathleen Valenti, 9/13 David Burnsworth, 9/20 Jeri Westerson, 9/27 Frances Brody. Please join us in welcoming these authors to WWK.
September Saturday Guest Bloggers: 9/2--Anne Bannon, 9/9 WWK Bloggers, 9/16 Margaret S. Hamilton, 9/23 Kait Carson, and on 9/30 Karen Borelli.
“May 16, 2017 – The Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA) today announced the finalists of the second annual Star Award, given to authors of published women’s fiction. Six finalists were chosen in two categories, General and Outstanding Debut. The winners of the Star Award will be announced at the WFWA Retreat in Albuquerque, New Mexico on September 23, 2017.” In the general category, WWK’s Carla Damron was one of three finalist for her novel, The Stone Necklace. Go to Carladamron.com for more information. Congratulations, Carla!
Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:
Warren Bull's new Lincoln mystery, Abraham Lincoln In Court & Campaign has been released. Look for the Kindle version on February 3.
Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published. Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th.
In addition, our prolific KM will have the following shorts published as well: "Sight Unseen" in Fish Out of Water, Guppie (SinC) anthology, just released, and "Making Tracks" in Passport to Murder, Bouchercon anthology, October 2017.
Margaret S. Hamilton's short story, "Once a Kappa" was published as a finalist in the Southern Writer's Magazine annual short story contest issue. Mysterical-E published her "Double Crust Corpse" in the Fall 2016 issue. "Baby Killer" will appear in the 2017 solar eclipse anthology Day of the Dark to be published this summer prior to the eclipse in August.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Developing Your Own Voice
I have heard or read or been brainwashed (in other words, I don’t remember the sources) two comments about becoming good at writing. The first is generic and postulates we need about ten years to become good at any endeavor. The second applies only to writers (and has been attributed to Ray Bradbury) and stipulates you need to write a million words to learn how to write well. (At 100,000 words a year, the two statements coincide.)
Both observations mean you need to spend time, butt in seat, fingers on keyboard, writing to become a good writer. I know there are geniuses who seemingly are born writing great material. That, my friends, is what makes them geniuses and the rest of us normal. Since you’re reading this, I’m figuring you, like me, don’t qualify for writing genius status.
To develop our voice, we need to write – a lot – but I need to express a caution. When I was responsible for hiring in the consulting world I once inhabited, one of the key things I needed to discover was whether a candidate with ten years of experience had ten years of growing experience or ten years doing the same thing they did in year one or two. If you do not take any risks to expand your writing abilities, after a million words you are indeed likely to be a much better writer than when you started. But you’ll be nothing special. Only by taking risks all along your writing journey can you continue to better your writing and find your unique voice.
The act of writing itself is part of our homework. Advice to beginning writers often runs to “write what you know.” Each of us has a unique life experience from which to draw, some of which we had no choice but to experience. The rest of life is up to us. Pick your models from people who do an excellent job doing what you want to do. I appreciate James Lee Burke, whose language reeks of the bayous where his stories are set. Jack Kerley, one of my writing buddies who writes suspense set around Mobile, claims Burke as one of his models. It makes sense; they both are hard-boiled southern writers.
I don’t write mellifluous sentences and combine them into paragraphs that taste and smell like melted butter. I tend toward the Dragnet school of writing. (“Just the facts, ma’am.) Always have. Always will. For me to try to model myself on Burke would be an exercise in futility. Robert B. Parker is more my style.
Finding writers whose style is in the same ballpark as yours is a good first step. The idea isn’t to emulate but understand what makes them so effective. But I don’t need to only read Parker, I need to stretch and read others who write tight, but with more exposition than Parker. I can learn a lot studying John Sandford, for example. And although I write mysteries, I need to read books far afield and learn how others tell their stories.
If I intend to write novels, I need to read novels. If I want to write short stories, I need to read them. Early in my learning process, I should not limit myself to the kind of material I plan to write. I must read both novels and short stories – how else can I know if my story idea is too big for a short story, or too small for a novel.
It is important to read what people are currently writing and getting published. I’m not dismissing reading the classics. If you really want to model yourself after Thomas Hardy you should understand that today’s agents and publishers are unlikely to be interested in helping you become published. Of course, I could be wrong and yours could be the next great voice.
And that brings me to the second observation. In writing our million words we have the opportunity to find out who we are as writers. Yes, I’m sure I could emulate Faulkner and write a sentence that covers a page or more. But I wouldn’t be fooling anyone. It would be an assignment for me, drudgery I would drag myself through and to no purpose. I have absolutely no interest in writing sentences that require an advanced degree and a week to diagram. Similarly, if you’re interested in the sound and texture and flow of words, trying to write an entire novel á la Parker would be torture for you, slicing the heart and soul from your words.
If you want to discover your voice, you must stay true to yourself. If everything about you is cozy, why write noir just because some people sell it. Plenty of people sell cozies. If you can’t stand vampires, why try to jump on a bandwagon in order to fail. Write the book only you can write.
Write it as well as you can. Rewrite and revise as much as you need and then send your darling into the cold cruel world. Just having a unique voice doesn’t guarantee you will write best sellers or literary prize winners. But not having a voice is a darn good way to oblivion.