As much advice exists about how to write as about how to vote. TMI? Sometimes it makes me long for a cabin near Walden Pond, a quill pen and a stack of foolscap. (Not really sure what that is but I love the word!) In my experience the best approach is to just write – and then go back and right your writing. Edit.
There’s so much to be aware of when you edit what you’ve written. From the macro view voice, style and tone are all critical. Explanations of those elements vary but we all know they each impact our writing. Some definition is required to make the concepts applicable; for me, style and voice are like fraternal twins – really close but not exactly the same.
As an editor I’m dialed into the author’s voice after the first three paragraphs of a manuscript. As a reader I know within the first three pages if I like an author’s voice – just like we all know what music we like. Voice is a reflection of the author’s mind and personality and like minds and personality, it develops and matures with age. Depending on the writer’s level of skill and experience I can hear a strong voice, or a well-emulated voice or a developing voice. If I hear a voice that’s not distinct and consistent the writer and I work toward finding her natural rhythm for word choice, phrasing, even punctuation – her voice.
Voice shifts from 3rd person narrative to dialog and differs between characters. Look carefully at the voice of each character. Does the language suit the character? A pierced and tattooed good time girl speaks differently than a buttoned up college professor. An author’s style often changes from story to story, but the voice is always there. I think voice comes from the gut and it grows and develops and gets better with use. Style is more a conscious effort and is changeable from book to book depending on what the story needs.
Tone is less ephemeral. It’s the mood. Every plot has an overall tone and under that umbrella each scene has a tone appropriate to the action; dialog reflects tone. Tone is what moves the emotions of the story. When you read over your 1000 words per day listen to be sure the tone is always appropriate. A cozy mystery has a murder, of course, but the tone is off if it is described in the tone of a gritty noir.
The body lay crumpled at the foot of the staircase. Pepper drew a sharp breath. There was so much blood.
Sgt. Pepper stared critically at the broken and bloodied body. The fall down the staircase alone was fatal; the twenty or so bloody gashes were overkill.
If, at the end of the writing day, you listen with a critical ear you’ll hear your voice, feel the style, sense the moods and know if each is clear and appropriate. If not, then this is the time to right what you write.
With a BA in Anthropology and English I pursued a career in advertising and writing and segued into developmental editing. It was a great choice for me. I love the process of creating and am privileged to be part of that process for so many great voices — voices both seasoned and new.
I’ve worked on nearly 400 books over 20 years, books by noted authors published by New York houses including Penguin, Kensington, Pentacle and Zebra as well as with Indie bestsellers and Amazon dynamos. From Air Force manuals and marketing materials to memoirs, thrillers, sci fi and romance, my services range from copyediting to developmental coaching.
Having worked in advertising and marketing, I am always cognizant of the marketplace in which the author’s work will be seen. I coach for content and style with that knowledge in mind in order to maximize sales and/or educational potential. My objective is to help the author’s material stand out from an ever more crowded and competitive field.
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