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Thread: Finding a Voice

  1. #11
    J.R. MacLean - Pride in one's work is part of 'things as they are'. Every writer needs a certain level of 'cheerful self-appreciation', as Asimov put it, or that first typescript would never be submitted. I do not believe it is wrong to defend what I believe, and rarely are others who do not agree with me hesitant to defend what they believe.

    The first post was written, rather hurridly, in a minor fit of pique over the statement that since I am not a regular fiction writer I have no business commenting on a piece of fiction. I had thought that as a regular reader of fiction I would be entitled to hold and to express my opinion about a piece, but that apparently is not so. That is why I say I will abstain from further comment about anything posted under Fiction. Let those who make their living writing fiction be the ones to comment.

    While I want to go back and pick up where I left off years ago and try writing some fiction again, at my age I have to realise that I'll probably not live long enough to master that particular craft.

    That does not mean I want to abstain from discussing the ideas that have been raised here. There are basic concepts that apply to all writig, and in my mind the first is the ability to write without affectation, to write in one's own natural voice. Go back and read the first Harry Potter. That's the natural voice of J.K. Rowlig. The story is told directly, plainly, simply. That's part of its power, part of its appeal. It's a child's story with adult themes in the background. That's why a ten-year-old can read it and appreaciate it, and so can his grandfather.

    So yes I am full of 'cheerful self-appreciation'. Otherwise, as I hit that three-score years and ten mark, I'd be sitting in a corner somewhere asking someone to bring me another cup of warm milk. As it is I'm off to do some research down in the Cayo District this afternoon.

    I've not forgotten Keats and 'negative capability'. We can talk about that when I get home tomorrow.

    subtlesoda - The original post was written hurridly, as I say, after I'd been told that since I don't make my living writing fiction I shouldn't critique fiction. My response is a bit over the top. Sorry.

    I don't know what you mean by name drop, unless you mean the reference to Dan Brown. That name had already been brought up by someone else in the discussion.

    What promising bud of a post? I'm afraid I don't follow.

    The rest of what you say is essentially what I've been saying all along and no one seems to notice. When you say 'You want a writer to find their OWN voice, not yours' that is exactly right.

    Workshops can be good or bad. The ones I have led have been for the specific purpose of training media house staff how to write news stories. That's a fairly narrow field with two sub-domains, broadcast and newspaper. Such workshops are needed because most journalism courses do not properly teach the differences between the two; how a well written story for newspaper sounds like crap on the radio. The goal of the workshop is to turn out competent reporters and editors for the newsroom, and the easiest way to achieve that is to start with absolute beginners who have nothing to unlearn.

    Whether that kind of workshop provides a foundation for other kinds of writing, I don't know. I've never followed up on that, but only on the students' ability to hold a job as a news writer once the workshop is ended. That's easy to track, since most of the workshops are sponsored by media houses.

    I've heard too many horror stories about writers' groups. It seems there's always a pecking order established early on and pity the poor soul at the bottom of the line.

    Ox - See above.
    El día ha sido bueno. La noche será larga.

  2. #12
    Honoured/Sadly Missed The Backward OX's Avatar
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    garza -I think I may have misunderstood what you meant by writing in one's natural voice. And Sam apparently got it wrong too, in the other thread. For some Antipodean reason that defies logic I equated your remarks with dialogue.

    On that subject of being too old to learn, I am perhaps beginning reluctantly to agree with you. I am four years older. All I've learnt so far is to eschew adverbs.


    Edit: Which in turn may mean I'm wasting my time here.

  3. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by garza View Post
    The first post was written, rather hurridly, in a minor fit of pique over the statement that since I am not a regular fiction writer I have no business commenting on a piece of fiction. I had thought that as a regular reader of fiction I would be entitled to hold and to express my opinion about a piece, but that apparently is not so. That is why I say I will abstain from further comment about anything posted under Fiction. Let those who make their living writing fiction be the ones to comment. .
    Whoever said that is a dick.

    Pay no attention anyone who holds such an opinion, there is nothing more valuable to a writer than the opinion of a reader.

  4. #14
    As a boy, I read. I fell in love with every book imaginable from the Bible to Jack London to Kafka to a National Geographic. I am reader. As such, I believe that my opinion, though it is often my flawed concept, is more supported by who I am. Perhaps my flawed concepts are more valuable than those who wonder mystically at the name of Faulkner or Hemingway. Ultimately, readers are the bedrock of literature. Without them, wouldn't writers be up to nothing, resolved merely to be a minor niche engrossed in its own products of creation?

    Garza - I've found that readers make the best critiquers, or at least, writers who are the best readers. Readers give an honest insight on how a piece draws them. I do wish that you wouldn't hesitate to continue providing ones in fiction with that unique perspective. Besides, isn't fiction reality just of another sort?

    A writers voice is much like the growth of a person. For some, being in a group environment will encourage self-identity, yet for others, it will stifle the creativity that makes them unique. A voice can have a great potential but if its defining characteristics aren't identified and honed, then it will die in usual and average. When someone informs me that this/that writer has a great voice, I always ask what makes it so.

    A mature voice is always about characteristics, experience, training, and skill. Being great at one isn't going to make a great voice but it sure makes it easier.
    The Writing Process: write, rewrite, edit, rewrite, edit, edit, rewrite, throw in trash. Then write second to last final draft.
    - S.B. Inc

  5. #15
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    While a style/voice is important for a writer, of utmost importance even, that is absolutely no reason for a writer not to want/need to improve their work otherwise.

    I may as well use myself as an example. I came barging into this very forum with little experience, but, (according to many), a very distinct "voice" in all my work. I was fortunate enough to gain the attention of some of the best writers on here at the time, and their words of advice have played a big part in my very fast progression as a writer.

    While I could always come blaring in with a strong voice, I didn't have a grasp on elegance in turns of phrase (perhaps I still don't). But they helped me harness the concept of storytelling, of toning the voice up and down when necessary, of hooking a reader until the end. All the things I feel I've picked up since then, I largely learnt from critiques I received.

    So I think the point is that while we should applaud a new writer with a strong voice, if they've found their way here it might be time to help them learn to use that voice.
    "I can write better than anybody who can write faster, and I can write faster than anybody who can write better." - A. J. Liebling

  6. #16
    Prodigy - You say that 'Readers give an honest insight on how a piece draws them', and that was my idea and the basis of my critiques of fiction pieces, strictly as a reader, until Sam W said 'you like to talk authoritatively about fiction when you've never written anything in that style' (which isn't quite true, but that's beside the point) and that's why I say I'll not offer any more critiques in Fiction, which, in turn, going by the guideline that says the the person who wants to be critiqued should offer critiques, closes my mouth altogether as far as either offering a piece for comment or commenting on what another has written.

    Probably not much loss either way. With only one published novel and a couple of dozen published short stories to my credit, and that almost 50 years ago, I can see Sam's point that I don't have enough experience to offer meaningful comments on fiction. Let's let it go at that, and let the ones who make their living writing fiction be the ones to comment on fiction.
    El día ha sido bueno. La noche será larga.

  7. #17
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    I don't believe that's what Sam meant, garza. In that thread critique was being offered in absolutes, which it shouldn't be. Your advice as a reader would always be welcome so long as other critiquers are free and welcome to disagree with you, which is certainly not how things came across in there. At the end of the day it's the writer who decides whether or not to take it on. Sometimes when critiquing work it's wise to remind the writer of that; that you're just expressing an opinion that could be taken or left.

    By all means continue to critique fiction around here, but all critiquers should keep in mind that their opinions are open to interpretation and disagreement. If that doesn't sit well then they shouldn't bother.
    "I can write better than anybody who can write faster, and I can write faster than anybody who can write better." - A. J. Liebling

  8. #18
    Like a Fox - I went back through the thread up to my last post. The first response to CandyRot's piece was my statement that 'You have the gift', and I'll stand by that. Then there was a response from Ilasir Maroa, my response to that, which said..

    Ilasir Maroa - With all due respect, as Ox would say, I do not agree with your suggestions for changing the opening. That's exactly what drew me in. It's natural. It's the way a person talks, And yes, I know that's no excuse for using it in fiction, but the way it is presently constructed makes me believe I'm listening to a real person talking.

    Very few people can sit down and write a simple statement like that. As soon as they start, most people want to 'write like a writer' and their natural ability to tell a story or describe how they feel gets buried under the lumber of forced composition. The worst offenders, of course, are the wannabe writers who deliberately discard any natural ability they have.

    CandyRot (Where in the name of all that's sacred...) has a natural ability. There's a bit of roughness around the edges that will smooth away with time, but any deliberate attempt at a fix will only make it worse. Best thing is to accept it as it is, a delightful short piece that lets us see inside someone's private world.


    ...a response born out of practical experience. Ilasir Maroa suggested, correctly, that the discussion should be moved here. The discussion had gone off topic and was about writing and philosophies of writing rather than about the original post.

    Then a bit later came the statement that '...Garza (sic), ...you like to talk authoritatively about fiction when you've never written anything in that style. It comes across pretentious...' That goes beyond taking issue with my comments.

    I thought I was just offering my opinion, with which Ilasir Maroa did not agree.

    A major problem is my continued refusal to accept the artificial line of demarcation drawn between what makes good writing in fiction and what makes good writing in non-fiction. I believe I can make a case for the continuum that holds both Dan Brown's Digital Fortress and the UNDP 2001 Human Development Report titled Making New Technologies Work for Human Development.

    Another problem is my love of argument, which originated in the long, wide ranging family discussions about politics, economics, government policy, agricultural development, and a dozen other topics around the family dinner table when I was a child. Disagreement was encouraged, and there was no such thing as 'off topic'. An argument over Truman and the bomb could turn into a heated discussion of the Marshall Plan and end with an analysis of why Milton Evans would probably be the next mayor of Gulfport, with never a break in the fabric, always a smooth blending of one topic into another.

    I yet fail to see how my initial comments and even my part in the back-and-forth that followed that response are any more attempts at speaking 'authoritatively' than the opinions offered by others, except that I'm seen as 'just' a non-fiction writer, an essayist, an article contributor, a journalist, and not a 'real writer'. Real writers, after all, write fiction.

    I can, listening carefully, just hear the 'ting-ting' of my grandfather tapping his empty glass, a sign that the speaker has overstayed his welcome on the floor, and must yield to to someone else...
    El día ha sido bueno. La noche será larga.

  9. #19
    Honoured/Sadly Missed The Backward OX's Avatar
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    The thing is, Garza sic, that LaFox’s posts generally need to be run through an interpreter, to find out what she really means. In the middle of her post there’s a statement expressed in the negative, and with those I will always take issue. They say nothing.

  10. #20
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    Oh they do not generally need that, you just wilfully misunderstand me. Haha.
    Also I'm trying to be diplomatic and say my piece. The two don't go hand in hand easily.


    Garza - All I can say is, let's move forward, shall we? Dragging he-said/she-said's into new threads is a bit boring and childish.
    There were threads in the past where you very much made fiction out to be the lesser skill, or "hobby", and I believe that has stuck in people's memories.
    If we just didn't compare the two we might all be a lot better off. We're all writers, after all.
    Last edited by Like a Fox; August 8th, 2010 at 05:42 AM. Reason: Haha, I hope Ox doesn't catch that mistake...
    "I can write better than anybody who can write faster, and I can write faster than anybody who can write better." - A. J. Liebling

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