Month: January 2013
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A story is actually a two-fold thing. It needs to be written, of course, but it then needs to be read or heard to make it concrete. That means that there is actually a relationship between the writer and the reader. So in my mind, unless a story is shared, the writer of that story isn’t a true writer.
I know it’s a scary thing to share your writing but until you do you can’t improve your craft. This is why submitting your work to magazines, journals and writing competitions is very important to any writing career.
Have a think about your work. If you were to submit a piece for publication, wouldn’t you work harder on it to make it the best it can be? This means reworking and polishing it. That has to be good for your craft, doesn’t it? This makes you look at your work more professionally.
Then there’s the act of submitting it. This means that you own up to being a writer (or artist because this also applies to all art mediums) and you put yourself out into the world. This is hard for many who are either introverted or unsure about their ability. But you won’t know unless you put your work up for sharing. You will face rejection of course but that will help you improve even more. Rejection is a HUGE part of being an artist of any kind. Learn to grow a thick skin.
It’s a catch-22 really, this whole publishing caper. In order to get published you need to have a known name. Submitting your work to places like page seventeen, [untitled], Going Down Swinging, 21D, Sleepers Almanac, is a way for you to get your foot in the door. This is one of the ways to begin your writing career. Enter as many writing competitions, like our [untitled] short story competition, as you can. You may just be lucky enough to win (yes, there is a certain amount of luck involved in competitions) and get published.
That first time that you have your story published, with your name next to it is one of the highlights of any writing career, not to mention that it looks good on your CV and will go a long way to helping you get published a second time.
January 22, 2013
So what is ‘voice’ in writing?
Google it and you’ll find any number of definitions.
This is what Wikipedia has to say:
The writer’s voice is the individual writing style of an author, a combination of idiotypical usage of syntax, diction, punctuation, character development, dialogue, etc., within a given body of text (or across several works).1
From Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent:
So what is it? To me, your writer’s voice is the expression of YOU on the page. It’s that simple—and that complicated. Your voice is all about honesty. It’s the unfettered, non-derivative, unique conglomeration of your thoughts, feelings, passions, dreams, beliefs, fears and attitudes, coming through in every word you write.
Voice is all about your originality and having the courage to express it.2
From The Kill Zone:
In a similar manner, when it comes to defining the writer’s voice, it can be the combination of the author’s attitude, personality and character; the writer’s style that conveys the story. It’s called the writer’s voice. Voice is the persona of the story as interpreted by the reader.3
It’s all correct. And there’s any number of variations on the definition.
Recently, I’ve had discussions with authors who’ve said to me their voice changes depending on what story their writing. I don’t buy that.
For me, (the definition of) voice can be diluted further.
When I’m reading a story, I hear the narration in my head. It’s not my actual voice I hear. Or my standard inner monologue of thoughts. It’s something distinctive to that author. That author might diversify in what they’re writing – go from satire to contemporary drama to historical romance to erotica to sci-fi – but their voice always shines through, a sine wave that is unique to them, just as bands and artists have distinctive sounds.
Turn on the radio, for example, and even if you don’t recognise the song, you can usually identify it either by the sound of the vocals and/or the music. Even when artists try something difficult – e.g. go from rock to something jazzier – the sound is still them at heart.
Think about the song ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. Listen to the vocal range displayed there by Freddie Mercury and the other members of Queen. But it’s all still Queen, regardless how many highs and lows they hit, how often the song varies from ballad to melody to rock.
Voice is something that I really look for in a story.
Sometimes, when I’m reading, I feel like the author has tried to aggrandise their prose, as if (they feel) that will make them sound impressive. When I was young, I used to try something similar, consulting the Thesaurus for alternatives that might astound the reader and show them how smart I was. Others I read might try to be shocking, as if (they believe) their temerity will titillate and/or awe me. There are any number of ways writing can be untrue to its author.
This doesn’t mean that voice has to be simple. It just has to be you.
It can take a long time to discover your voice. I think it took me twenty years. Usually it comes through lots of writing, lots of experimentations, lots of trial and even more error.
But as you write, think about how you tell your story. Think about how you would tell it, if somebody asked you to speak it to them. Would you dress it up or just be straightforward, be true to yourself as a person?
One final way to think about it: if we both went to the bank and the bank was robbed, we would both relay the experience differently, because we’re unique and our minds, the way we interpret and process events, differs. Even if we tried telling this story a variety of different ways (e.g. humourously, dramatically, experimentally, satirically) or in different styles (e.g. chronologically, in flashback, disjointedly, backwards) our voice would still be the spine of our narrative.
Ultimately, voice is about being true to yourself, regardless of what we write.
1. Writer’s Voice – Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Writer%27s_voice. Accessed 20 January 2013.
2. Rachelle Gardner – http://www.rachellegardner.com/2010/07/what-is-writers-voice/. Accessed 20 January 2013.
3. The Kill Zone – http://killzoneauthors.blogspot.com.au/2012/09/what-is-writers-voice.html#.UPtBCmd5eSo. Accessed 20 January 2013.
January 15, 2013
By simply living we are creating our own story. Much of it will be boring to recount when we come to the end of it but there will also be thoughts, feelings, things learned and interesting events that are worth leaving behind. So how can we work out what to tell and what to leave out?
I don’t know about you but I’m not really interested in what you had for breakfast or the fact that you are drinking a coffee at a local cafe as so many people might post on Facebook. But others might be. That’s the thing. It’s all subjective. That whole one man’s trash is another man’s treasure thing.
That means that you shouldn’t tell a story that you think other people will enjoy. You should tell a story that you enjoy because there’s bound to be another person who also likes it. The clue is to make the way you tell it interesting. The devil is in the details (apologies for cliche). So to be a good storyteller, you need to give it a good angle. You need to have your eyes open to the world and suck up every ounce of information. Just be observant. Go people watching. Go smell roses. Write down anything that spikes your interest. See shapes in the clouds.
January 6, 2013
Just a quick one tonight on the latest from our esteemed poetry editor, Ashley Capes.
The latest poetry collection from Ashley, called Between Giants, is currently available from Ginninderra Press. Ashley’s poetry is always a delight – check out the collection on the publisher’s website here, and say hi to Ash at his blog here if you feel so inclined (he’s just put up a review of Between Giants by Mark William Jackson, which you can zip straight to here if you’re interested).
Remember, I want to hear if there’s anything going on that might have slipped under my radar!
Beau Hillier | Editor, pageseventeen