If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

August Interview Schedule
8/7 Rhys Bowen Love and Death Among the Cheetahs
8/14 Heather Gilbert Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass
8/21 Lynn Chandler Willis Tell Me No Secrets
8/28 Cynthia Kuhn The Subject of Malice
8/31 Bernard Schaffer An Unsettled Grave

Saturday Guest Bloggers: 8/3 M. S. Spencer, 8/10 Zaida Alfaro

WWK Satuday Bloggers: 8/24 Kait Carson


Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Shari Randall will be writing again for St. Martin's, perhaps under a pseudonym. We look forward to reading Shari's Ice Cream Shop Mystery series debuting next year. Congratulations, Shari!

Susan Van Kirk's A Death At Tippett Pond was released on June 15th. Read E. B. Davis's interview with Susan.

KM Rockwood's "Frozen Daiquiris" appears in The Best Laid Plans: 21 Stories of Mystery & Suspense, edited by Judy Penz Sheluk. The anthology will be released on June 18th.

Congratulations to Margaret S. Hamilton for being a finalist in the Daphne Du Maurier contest. Margaret competes in the Unpublished/Mainstream mystery/suspense category.

Congratulations to Shari Randall for WINNING the Agatha Award for Best First Novel. Her book, Curses, Boiled Again was published by St. Martin's last year. Read the interview about the book here. Yay, Shari!

Fishy Business anthology authors include KM Rockwood, Debra Goldstein, and James M. Jackson. This volume was edited by Linda Rodriguez.

Please read Margaret S. Hamilton and Debra Goldstein's short stories (don't ask about their modus operandi) in a new anthology, Cooked To Death Vol. IV: Cold Cut Files

Warren Bull's Abraham Lincoln: Seldom Told Stories was released. It is available at: GoRead: https://www.goread.com/book/abraham-lincoln-seldom-told-stories or at Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/ydaklx8p

Grace Topping's mystery, Staging is Murder was released April 30.

James M. Jackson extends the Seamus McCree series with the May 25th publication of #6, False Bottom.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Developing Your Own Voice

Last Week I said that I suspected those people with true voices: (1) did their homework, studying how other people did it and are doing it now; and (2) stayed true to themselves, to their own vision about their craft. This week I’ll talk about how to work on finding your 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 รก 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.

~ Jim

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