March Madness 2: Making a Noise

The brown and grey Song Sparrow isn’t very big. The Cornell University’s Ornithology site describes song sparrows as medium-sized but bulky, and says they are one of the most familiar sparrows in North America. If I sit quietly down by our marsh on a summer day, I’ll sometimes hear their chip-and-trill song from somewhere in the bushes, but I never get to see them.

Song Sparrow, Pacific Northwest form (Melospiza melodia)
Song Sparrow, Pacific Northwest form (Melospiza melodia)

This little guy is the only one that ever comes out of hiding, and he reappears every year during late winter, travelling with a flock of Dark-eyed Juncos. He’s a ground forager but visits our deck to snack on seeds spilled from the feeder by other more messy eaters. I’m assuming it’s the same one every year, since I’m told they can live ten years or more, but of course I can’t know for sure.

I’m not a great birdwatcher, but I’m learning to identify the birds that frequent our property, most by sight but some by their song. Each species emits a specific sound. You can hear the Song Sparrow’s here, if you desire.

SongSparrow2It’s surprising what you can learn from birds. Today I’m reminded of how important it is to have a distinctive voice. For this Song Sparrow, hearing him and knowing he’s around means I’ll be sure to toss out a few handfuls of his favourite seeds.

For those of us who are writers, our voice, according to Wikipedia, is “a combination of idiotypical usage of syntax, diction, punctuation, character development, dialogue, etc., within a given body of text (or across several works).” A lot of words, but what exactly does it mean for us?

Donald Maass, in his book, WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL (if you haven’t read it, you should), says:
“What the heck is “voice”? By this, do editors mean “style”? I do not think so. By voice, I think they mean not only a unique way of putting words together, but a unique sensibility, a distinctive way of looking at the world, an outlook that enriches an author’s oeuvre. They want to read an author who is like no other. An original. A standout. A voice.”

So, fellow Wipsters (or March Madnessers… I kinda like that term of Shari‘s), as we launch into this second week of pursuing our goals, I’d like to suggest we give some thought to what makes our work stand out. Whether blogging, writing stories or illustrating, have you put any effort into developing a unique voice? Do you think it’s important, or just a literary accoutrement? And if you’re a reader, do you prefer certain books because of the author’s voice, or are you more attracted to the theme or story?


Before  moving on, I’d like to give away another prize from our huge prize arsenal! Today’s winner is…

Trudi Trueit!

Congratulations, Trudi! Stop by our goal-setting post, and choose your prize from those still listed. Then email Denise at d(at)denisejaden(dot)com with your choice and we’ll get it out to you as soon as possible.

And if you didn’t win, there are still LOTS of great prizes to be won, so keep checking in each day. Tomorrow’s check-in location is at Angelina Hanson’s blog:

 ~ ~ ~


Published by Carol

A freelance writer of fiction and non-fiction living on the West Coast of Canada.

31 thoughts on “March Madness 2: Making a Noise

  1. I definitely think voice is important. I can pick up a book with the coolest premise or world building, etc., but if the voice is flat or unrealistic, I’ll never be able to get into the story.

  2. Sometimes for me, “voice” is a confusing term. Some feel it’s the author’s voice or the main character’s voice, but I wonder if it’s not a mixture of the two, resulting in a captivating combination. I wrote a short story for a publication last summer. I’ll admit I had trouble getting in touch with the main character. The more I tried nailing my character’s voice, the more I mutilated the story. I blamed it on the POV I chose, but in truth, it was because I failed to capture the essence of not only the main character, but the story as well. There was no voice. The end result, rejection.

    It happens. As writers, we move on. We try again.

    Voice is vital. It’s the crucial element of a story in which the author is able to hook a reader and leave them breathless, desiring more. It’s the essence. The flickering flame of a candle mesmerizing onlookers. If there is no voice, or it falls flat, the story just sort of meanders down the path. But when voice is strong, it pushes the story (and reader) forward.

    Currently, I’m putting forth every ounce of effort into the voice of the manuscript I’m revising. It helps to know my agent loved “the voice” when she read over the first chapter. She told me it came through right away. I scoured over the first chapter I sent her, and have tried to carry that very essence through the rest of the manuscript. I know the voice, that unique element editors are hunting, will be what makes or breaks this project. I’m making it top priority.

    Sorry to carry on, but Carol, your post really resonated with me today! Thank you. Wishing you all the best for week 2 of March Madness. 🙂

    1. Voice was one of my earliest dilemmas when I started writing fiction. I didn’t really know what it was and I overwrote in an effort to create it. I would revise the life right out of the story! I still struggle to keep it authentic while giving each character their own distinctiveness.

  3. I am all about voice when I’m reading. The best plot-idea in the world won’t hold my interest if I’m not feeling the voice (Example: Much to my husband’s chagrin, I have never finished a Michael Crichton novel, even though his sci-fi plots can be brilliant and creepy — the voice just doesn’t do it for me).

    Writing-wise, as I’m reaching the end of this first-draft, the voice is finally solidifying into one I’m happy with. It’s a lot snarkier than I thought it would be, and I might end up toning that down in revisions, but having hit the sweet-spot is making it a lot more fun to write these final chapters.

    Thanks for hosting today Carol! And happy writing to all you weekend warriors!

  4. Cringe-inducing as it is, reading my writing aloud into a recording device of some sort (smart phone works well) and playing it back, helps me.

    I don’t always do it (that cringey thing), but I should.

    It helps to hear the beats, the flow, the “musicality” or lack thereof.


    1. I know that ‘cringey’ feeling, Katherine, but you’re right about the need to hear how the text sounds. Even reading aloud to myself helps, although I have to close myself into my office when I do it. My computer will read the text back to me, and sometimes hearing the words spoken mechanically, without any emotion, will emphasize a lack of flow.

    2. Katherine,

      I’m having net issues and I’m sending this from my phone, otherwise I’d send you the direct link. Look up Readers Aloud on Facebook. It’s a WIP exchange where volunteers will read your work out and create audio files so you can hear the story read by someone else. I plan on giving it a try when my work is polished.



  5. Voice is probably the most important thing to me while writing or choosing my reading. I can follow an unlikable character for three hundred pages, as long as I enjoy their voice. I can even read a book without a plot…as long as it has a strong, engaging voice.

    This may not be true for everybody, but voice is a strong reason why I believe in fast-drafting. Once I have a good idea of who my characters are, if I race ahead and try to get the first draft words down quickly, I find that by not thinking too hard about it, their natural voices emerge. Sometimes that’s all I have after a fast first draft, but having a good solid voice is usually enough to propel me forward through revisions to fix everything else.

    I’m really pleased with my progress the last few days. I’m almost done with one revision, and nearly ready to start outlining another story. I’m teaching another workshop today, so not sure how progress will be,, but I will at least get through a chapter…

    Thanks, Carol! Great post!

    1. I probably over-think it, trying too hard to establish a voice before I know my characters or the tone of the story. Writing by the seat of my pants means I’m often writing blindly through the first draft but I like your idea of not worrying so much about it and letting “their natural voices emerge” the first time. Good tip! You ought to write a book on tips for writing fast fiction, LOL!

  6. Voice is very important. It’s the voice of the novel that seduces me. It’s like I tell others, it doesn’t matter if the premise of a novel is one that NY says is ‘over’, if the voice is there? I’ll follow that author anywhere. Hence my love of some recent vamp YAs.

    In my own writing, I’ve had cases where some have suggested ‘edits’ that in fact take away my voice. The writing feels jarring and just not me. It’s like my husband told me yesterday, after I admitted I’ve been feeling like my writing is more a hobby and not a career. I feel like I should be further along in my career or as Mr. Wonderful on Shark Tank tells people: “If you don’t make real money after 3 years? It’s a hobby.” Husband told me that I should forget what the market and Ny is telling me should be written but rather just write my story. I agree. As a matter of fact my current project has been turning more into either a New Adult book or just regular fiction. I’ve been finding that limiting my voice to just ‘YA’ per say might be holding me back. Well, see!

    1. I think the hard-to-hear advice from the pros, that it takes several books before we begin to get it right, is spot on. It’s through experience that we begin to discover our voice and our niche. You can’t go wrong writing from your heart. You just have to keep at it. 🙂

      1. Yes. Most successful authors I know have more than a few books under their belts before they got that ‘one’. Even Ellen Hopkins told me she wrote a number of other books before CRANK. And the same with a number of other authors.

  7. Ah, voice. So important and so subjective. I had one manuscript about which several agents said, “Spot on middle grade voice” and another agent said, “But I don’t think you’re really nailing a middle grade voice.” And yes, it definitely matters to me as a reader. Okay, I’m off to finish my revision today!!

    1. Sometimes I think what an agent means is, “It doesn’t speak to me”, which tells us we need to continue the search for the right agent. But yes, sometimes there’s a lot of contradictory feedback. Happy writing on that revision. 🙂

  8. Voice is muy importante to me. Both in reading and in my writing. I have, what I think anyway, a great story about why I decided (again) to be a writer. It’s too long here, but perhaps when I’m not mad about March, I’ll blog about it. Summing it up, it was two authors whose books I read. One, an outlandishly sappy love story that pulled me in, even though the writing was not edited well. And the other, a story that would not have appealed to me, because it was horror, that I couldn’t put down because the voice was so amazingly gripping.

    And as for my goals, I hit 20,000+ words my first week. And to congratulate myself, I seem to have no motivation today. The sun is shining, my kids are all playing (which means it’s quiet and the perfect time to write), and I want to start working on my garden. (I will grow something other than weeds this year, so help me!)
    C’mon, let’s get this done.

    1. Wow, 20,000+ words is amazing, Stacy! I’m not even going to admit to my total in the face of yours, but congratulations! Now I’d say you deserve a day to replenish yourself. Go for the garden. You don’t want to hit burnout in week #2. 😉

  9. Voice. I think it enhances a good story. Sometimes I won’t like a voice and I’ll stop reading. When it’s done well, it’s like an instrument that has been tuned to perfect pitch–it sings! Now I’ve got a lot of catching up to do today and a blog post to write for tomorrow. Ta ta for now!

    1. I like that analogy, Angelina… “an instrument that has been tuned to perfect pitch” is a great comparison. I hope someday to achieve an effortless voice, but right now I’m still having to work at it. Thanks for hosting tomorrow. Hope you have a great weekend.

  10. For me, anything that lives in my head and my virtual ears has a voice. If I can really hear that character/narrator or feel as if I’m living in her skin, I’m hooked.

    Finally finished a freelance job and hope to hit some wipmadness this week! Rock on Wipsters!

    1. Congrats on getting one job finished! That has to feel great. I hope week #2 is equally profitable for you. Go, go, Ghost Girl! (Sorry… I just had to say that. It sounds so good!) 😉

  11. I’ve done the read-through of the entire manuscript and I’ve got a LOT of work ahead of me, more than I realized. There are some gaps that I’m appalled that I let in, but better I find them, and fix them, than send it out to beta-readers or editors or agents like that! I’ve made lots of notes on what I want to correct, or edit or expand on, as well as outlining the parts that I was still missing, and what I want to happen. Or, if I have no idea what should happen in the scene, a nice “FIGURE IT OUT!!!” let’s me know this.

    Glad to see everyone is making some progress! Yay for the weekends!

    1. It’s amazing what we miss while working nose-to-the-page for so long, and what we discover later. I have no doubt you’ll soon get it whipped into shape with some concentrated revising.

  12. 1600 words so far, hoping to hit 2000 before the eyes cross! Thanks to my writing group and my Write or Die app! 😉


    1. That’s a very respectable number, Kat. I gather the Write or Die app can be very motivating. Do you have it set for a gentle reminder, the annoying noise, or the self-erasing text option if you don’t keep typing? I think it would give me a panic attack! LOL!

  13. As a reader, voice often means the difference between reading the next and closing the book. I try to apply that to my stories. Some days I’m confident I am, other days, I’m not so sure. Ah, the life of a writer.

    1. There are so many things I try to accomplish when I’m writing, but I’m often at a loss to know if I’ve succeeded or not. I suppose we aren’t the best judges of our own writing.

  14. I love learning from birds – and thanks for the link to those songs, Carol. Blessings as you feverishly write this month!

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