Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Critique Suggestion: Don't Mess with Voice

My weekly critique group meets on Tuesdays at the Rendezvous Cafe and Wine Bar on Main Street in O'Fallon, MO. We are a mixed bag of writers including novelists, short story writers, memoirists, essayists, journalists, columnists, and what have I missed? Poets--actually we don't critique poetry, but we have critiqued song lyrics.

Everyone in our group brings something to the table--one even occasionally brings his guitar. Some are strong on plot, others on characterization, grammar, structure, etc. While we use our individual strengths to try to make suggestions to improve each other's works, one thing we stress is: Don't mess with voice. Most, but not all, heed this suggestion.

A few weeks ago one writer suggested another's work wouldn't sound as good if someone else read it. Interesting observation. So the following week we asked writers to have someone else read their work. We discovered that although some of the rough spots were highlighted when another writer read someone else's work, writers with distinct and strong voices still shined through, warts and all, no matter who read.

While we're on the topic of voice, this morning I read an excellent post on literary agent Nathan Bransford's blog on "How to Craft a Great Voice." His post brought out some great points. If you get a chance, check it out.

I believe a writer's voice is a unique gift, akin to grace; it's something we are blessed with and a gift we should cherish. What are your thoughts? What do you think about Voice? Let your voices be heard.


10 comments:

  1. It's great that your group doesn't crit voice - some groups end up doing that, and it can suck the life right out of a piece.

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  2. It's true, a writer's voice (as well as the unique voice of his characters) can be beaten to death by an otherwise good critique group. We need to be careful about that.

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  3. I think you're right. You shouldn't really mess with voice, that's what makes you unique from all the other writers.

    I will go check out that link.

    CD

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  4. Hi Madeline,
    What you've written is true. It's not always easy to leave voice alone when giving critique. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.
    Donna

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  5. Hi Clarissa,
    Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I will check out your blog as well.
    Donna

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  6. If I'm with someone who has an accent, it starts to filter into my speech. When I'm reading a good book, I find that some of that writer's writing style/voice creeps into my work. H'mmmm. This is probably not a good thing.

    Pat
    www.critteralley.blogspot.com

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  7. Voice is vital. It's hard to walk away from a book with voice even if it's not my usual style :)

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  8. Interesting! And ditto the above!

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  9. We have to remember that critique does not mean criticize. I submitted and was published in an anthology, and they edited so much that all of the stories had the same 'voice' or tone. That was disheartening.

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