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Question
I have often heard people speak about the 'writer's voice.' What exactly is it and how can I find my own?  

Answer
First let me say that voice applies to two potential ways of writing. You can use your own voice when you write a book or article, or you can narrate through a character’s voice, and the two voices often are quite different.

As far as finding your own voice, a quick answer came from a client of mine recently. When he talks, he has a quick sense of humor and uplifting spirit. He said to me, “I spent ten years looking for a voice, and then I discovered it was mine.”

Entire books have been written on voice, but in truth my client summed up the subject of author’s voice nicely. If you have a naturally pleasant way of conversing and you use correct grammar, all you have to do is let that style of speaking pour into your writing, and you’ll find your voice has been there all along. To hear voice at work in the writing of others, read anything by William Price Fox, Bill Bryson, or Pat Conroy.

To get an idea of how voice is used when a story is told through the voice of a character rather than in the voice of the author, read Catcher in the Rye or Sophie’s Choice.

Narrative voice is vital in contemporary literature. I often hear agents say they are looking for a fresh voice, which is another way of saying they are tired of reading manuscripts that are derivative of whatever is selling at the time. Don’t try to be another John Grisham, Stephen King, or Dean Koontz. Be yourself, and you’ll have a fresh voice.

The best way to find your own voice is to relax and write as if you were writing to your best friend. On the second or third draft you’ll want to address what we call “schoolgirl writing” by substituting dashes, exclamation marks, and parentheses with correct punctuation, but otherwise, you’ll find that you’re writing in your authentic voice. In your authentic voice you won’t stretch for words you wouldn’t say in conversation, and you won’t push to write long metaphors and similes that detract from your message. Relax; your voice is already with you!  

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Bobbie Christmas

Expertise

Book Doctor Bobbie Christmas owns Zebra Communications, a book-editing firm in metro Atlanta. She not only edits books, she also helps writers power up their prose to increase their chances of success. She is the author of Write In Style (Union Square Publishing), a creative-writing guide that won three awards.

Experience

Bobbie has spent more than 40 years in the publishing and communications industry and has run Zebra Communications, a book-editing company, since 1992. The editor of many publications and periodicals, she has worked with book publishers and trade magazine publishers as well as working in marketing communications and corporate communications.

Organizations
Past president, Georgia Writers Association; past vice president, South Carolina Writers Workshop; charter/lifelong member, Florida Writers Association; Southeastern Writers Association; Atlanta Writers Club; Society for the Preservation of English Language and Literature (SPELL); International Guild of Professional Consultants

Publications
Write in Style (Union Square Publishing), A Cup of Comfort (Adams Media Corporation), A Cup of Comfort for Friends (Adams Media), A Cup of Comfort for Mothers and Sons (Adams Media), Haunted Engounters (Atriad Press), Remembering Woolworth's (St. Martin's Press), First-Time Home Buyer magazine, HomeBusiness Journal, Apparel Industry Magazine, Edge Magazine, Atlanta Jewish Times, Time Travel Australia, American Writers Review, Points North, That's Entertainment, Atlanta Parent, Agnes Scott Alumnae Magazine, etc.

Education/Credentials
Journalism: University of South Carolina plus four decades of working in publishing, marketing, communications, advertising, newspaper and magazine production, book publishing, etc.

Awards and Honors
First Place, nonfiction, Georgia Writers Annual Contest, 2005; First Place, education, Royal Palm Literary Award, 2004; Best in Division, Georgia Author of the Year Awards, 2005; Finalist, Best Books 2005, USA BookNews Third Place, nonfiction, Georgia Writers, 1999; Nominated for Georgia Author of the Year, 1998; plus many other awards

Past/Present Clients
Capital Books, Sourcebooks, Olin Frederick, The Writer's Machine, Russell Dean & Company, Outskirts Press, and hundreds of writers.

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