Other Posts on our Voice Workshop

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Here are two other bloggers/perspectives from my critique group, who also took the Voice Workshop, and “reported” about it on their blogs:

From Rose Green:  http://rose-green.blogspot.com/2011/03/voice-workshop-part-1.html

From Jaclyn McMahon: http://dramaquill.wordpress.com/author/dramaquill/

Voice Workshop – Post #3 – Exercises

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Continuing with our online critique group’s Voice Workshop. Our workshop teacher, Rose Green, had us do some voice recognition and experimenting exercises. 

Exercise #1, part a: Find a passage in a published book with a good example of voice.

I was terrified of this exercise. Even after reading the assigned articles, what did I know of voice? It’s the very reason I so needed this workshop. I simply couldn’t wrap my brain around what voice was. When I was a kid, if I didn’t know how to spell a word, teachers told me to look it up in the dictionary. I don’t care how big the dictionary, I could never find the word psychology in the “S” section. Finding voice was the same. And then – kapowie – it stuck me. The published author who came to mind has a voice which is the voiciest voice I know: Barbara Parks in her Junie B. Jones series. The passage I chose was from Junie B. Jones is (Almost) a Flower Girl, p. 19.

The next day at recess, I sang the pretty bride song.

I sang it to my bestest friends named Lucille and that Grace.

“HERE COMES THE BRIDE… ALL DRESSED AND WIDE… HER NAME IS CLYDE, AND SHE READS TV GUIDE.”

That Grace looked admiring at me.

“Wow. I never even knew that song had words,” she said.

***** 

Exercise #1, part b: Embland the passage.

What a cool-cool word. I like to roll it around in my mouth. Embland. Embland. What it means is to take out the voice, to make it bland. So here was my attempt:

The next day at recess, I sang the bride song to my friends, Lucille and Grace.

“Here comes the bride. All dressed in white. Her name is Clyde and she reads TV guide.”
Grace smiled and said, “Nice.”

 

What I learned from doing this exercise: 1) I CAN recognize voice; 2) I don’t follow directions very well – I added my own voice with the last word of the emblanding exercise; 3) taking voice out of the passage certainly made the words sound dull; and 4) Dag-nab-it! Why did the emblanded passage have to sound an awfully lot like I write.

*****

Exercise #2  Pick a passage from your own writing and instead of emblanding it, give it more voice.

For everyone in our group, this was much more difficult than doing it with someone else’s writing.  To me, it ended up being more noticing when I told and didn’t show and putting things into my main character’s mind. I found with mine and with some of the others, that it is easiest to do this voice when using dialoge. But friend Jaclyn shot that down with what she did with her own passage. Jaclyn’s changed passage was still in narration, however, in her voicier passage I felt that it read like first person v.s. third.

From Jaclyn’s writing:

ORIGINAL:
Mr. Gormelly, Shasta’s homeroom teacher, was talking to a boy that Shasta did
not know when she entered and made her way to her usual seat.  He gestured toward a
desk at the back of the second row and the boy nodded.  As the students filed into
homeroom, Mr. Gormelly made the announcement.
 
 “Class, settle down and take your seats, please.  We have a new student with us
and I’d like to introduce him before first period begins.”
 
 As Shasta slid in behind her desk, she tried to size up the new boy.  He wasn’t
completely hot but he wasn’t bad, either.  There was something uneasy about him,
though.  Shasta thought it could be the dark look in his eyes; almost like that of a
criminal.  She had to smirk at her own imagination sometimes.
 
RE-VOICED VERSION:
Shasta frowned as she made her way to her usual seat.  Who was that boy talking
to Mr. Gormelly?  She watched the boy glance toward the second row and nod. 
Still fixated on the new boy, Shasta could briefly hear Mr. Gormelly’s voice in the
background, but only caught the words “new student”.
 
Her curiousity still not satisfied, Shasta popped open the flap of her white backpack style
purse and pretended to check out her bangs.  She waited for the boy to sit, so she could get
a better look at his face.  Something about his dark brooding eyes made her think
of the book they’d been reading in English, The Outsiders, and she wondered if
he’d been in a gang in his old school.  Closing the flap on her bag, she tried to settle into
the routine of another boring class, but her imagination continued to remain fixated on
the new kid.

Voice Workshop – Post #2 – What is Voice? (What I Learned From Others)

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The first day of the workshop for our on-line critique group, our workshop leader, Rose Green, gave us several links to articles and blogs. A couple of us “students” also shared a link or two. We read the dozen or so articles, then discussed what we learned. Here are a few of my highlighted insights.

Learned from Margot Finke on Harold Underdown’s site: There are two voices in writing – the author’s voice and character voice. This was brilliant, and finally made some things clear to me. Articles I’d read had to do with one or the other, making me confused as to what this voice was which everyone was talking about. Margot simply informed the reader me that sometimes an agent/editor/author may be speaking about author voice, and sometimes they may be speaking about character voice. Huge lightbulb turned on for me.

Learned from Editor Caroline Meckler, from Tabitha Olsen’s blog: Voice is the expression of the content, consisting of various elements, including diction, detail, imagery, syntax, and tone. This has to do with author voice, previously might be known as style.

Learned from Editor Cheryl Klein: Play with masks. Put on the mask of one of your characters and write in that character’s voice for a while, whether s/he is the MC or not.

Voice Workshop – Introduction

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My on-line critique group has taken a break from our weekly critiquing now and then to do workshops. Since “voice” is big with agents and editors now, and we have been talking about it for the past year or more, this week our critique group is doing a Voice Workshop together, led by our own, Rose Green. Then here, smack-dab in the middle of the week, I got this brilliant idea that next week we each write a post on our blogs on Voice, as sort of a term paper summary from this week.

It will take a while to soak in all the things we’ve been learning, so I may be compartmentalizing into more than one post next week. I always tended to be a rule breaker, even when I was the one making up the rules.

What we hope to discover in our Voice Workshop is:

1) What is Voice?

2) How do you create Voice?

3) What kinds of Voice appeal to you?

See you next week.

Why Write? (part II)

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I feel like standing up and saying, “Hi. My name is Sandy. I’m a writer.”

I haven’t confessed to too many people that I actually have four blogs. I don’t post on them all regularly, but they are four very different blogs on very different subjects. For instance, I also have a humor blog where I write true funny family stories, but also stick in some good old clean jokes now and then. That blog is strictly for sharing the funny. Another blog concerns my husband’s occupation — b.o.r.i.n.g. to most people.

Why four blogs? For compartmentalizing different focuses.

I also have written nonfiction articles, as well as stories cross-genre and cross-age, from PB to adult thrillers. (The last is under a pen name, so as not to confuse my dear children readers.)

When I was a freshman in college, my advisor — a very plump woman threatening the existence of her chair, with narrow eyes which burned into your very soul — asked me what I wanted to be (when I grew up). I got all fluttery and replied, “I just don’t know. I love being outside, but I love working with kids, and I want to help people, and I want to explore places, and –” She slammed her hand to her desk to stop my babbling. I was startled because, after all, she’d asked. She waggled her finger at me and said, “Focus. Decide on one thing and do it.” Then she waved me out of her presence with the back of her hand. I was devastated. But then, I ended up in a profession which did all of the above. I was an elementary school teacher, and a girl scout leader, later becoming a wife and mom and cub scout leader. I really COULD do it all. Ha on her!

Coming back to my wide interest in writing… I feel my former advisor shaking her pudgy finger in my face with a “Focus!” Will I ever learn? Could I focus on just one series and write a bazillion stories with those characters? Not sure it’s in my varied personality. But because of my families adventuresome spirit, I don’t need to do tons of research for what it would be like in many situations. We’ve been there. OH! something I hadn’t thought about because it is far too scattered to focus into one book — a memoir!

March’s 20,000-Word Challenge

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Now you see! With thirty-one days in the month, and no scheduled holidays off from school or work, THIS makes for a much better writing challege month (v.s. November/ NaNoWriMo when it’s not only one day shorter, but has THREE holidays thrown in the mix, plus the holiday weekends often with family buzzing about).

So… simple dimple writing challenge: Write 20,000 by the month’s end. It does not have to be edited. It could simply be Raw Writing (writing without thinking with the editing coming later).

An Evening With Gary Paulsen

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Last night I hd the privilege of attending a library-sponsored “Evening with Gary Paulsen” at the W.K. Kellogg Auditorium in Battle Creek, MI. Known for his Newbery Honor Books, HATCHET, THE WINTER ROOM, AND DOGSONG, at 73-years-old, Gary looks like a cross between Santa Claus and Red Green. Although his hour-long talk was biographical, listening to him was as much fun, and certainly as interesting, as reading a book by him. It isn’t that Gary has led a good and lucky live. Quite the contrary. His real-life adventure demonstrates a fascinating and interesting life of a writer.

Gary grew up in northern Minnesota with both parents drunks. As a kid, he was never a reader. His life changed when he escaped the cold one winter day, by stepping into a library. The librarian asked if he wanted a card. He never had anything with his name on it before, plus, someone took an interest in him.  It took Gary a long time to finish that first book, but when he did, he went back for another, and another. Each book took less time to read. He is the author of over two hundred books. 

At 17, he forged his parents’ signature and joined the army, mostly to get away from his parents. He worked as an engineer on missiles and satellite tracking. In 1963, he was making “two grand” a month, at a time when teachers made two grand a year. He decided one night he wanted to be a writer, got up, turned in his security badge, and quit his job. He wrote a story involving missile guidance systems, forcing the FBI to question him, thinking he was a spy. He was so excited with his first book that he didn’t tell them they misspelled his name for fear they wouldn’t publish it.

He went to Hollywood where he got a job by lying about his writing credentials. He made a penny a letter, which amounted to about $380 per month. He knew he wasn’t a good writer, but there were good writers where he worked. He wrote westerns. Gary approached three of them who agreed to meet with him each week to critique writing, insisting he write a chapter a day during the week, and three chapters over the weekend.

With no money, he left Hollywood, just like he left engineering. He paid $25 per month for a cabin on a Minnesota lake, snaring rabbits for food. He wrote all winter and in spring, he sold two books. He went to New Mexico where he started drinking for the first time in his life, and became “a full-blown alcoholic.” In 1973, he got sober and went back to writing. He signed a 20-book deal with a children’s publisher, but the book club never sent him money for his books. He went from rich to poor, and moved back to Minnesota.

Minnesota passed a law that it was legal to trap animals by dog sled, but not with motorized vehicles. So Gary invested in dogs and a dog sled. This experience changed his life. He didn’t have a lead dog, but he saw a dog lying in the back of a pickup truck, ready to be “put down.” Gary took the dog, fed it two beavers, and the dog, Cookie, survived and because his lead dog. Cookie also saved Gary’s life when he fell through some ice and was sinking in the water like a rock. He grabbed a dangling rope and Cookie pulled him to safety.

Gary heard about the Iditarod in Alaska, and businesses in MN supported him, allowing him to participate. He came in 42nd place on his first race, and was hooked. He wrote the Newbery Honor Book DOGSONG after a young Inuit boy approached him during a race, wanting to see what a dog looked like.

I could only post a few of Gary’s stories here. I could easily have listened to him for hours. Gary Paulsen is a fascinating man with fascinating adventures, and, of course, excellent writing skills.

A Lesson From Song Writing

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If you read and write in only one gender, one piece of advice given by many writing conference speakers is to go listen to someone outside your box (genre). For example, if you write mysteries, you might learn a lot about characterization and relationships from a romance writer. If you are an author, you may learn a lot about visualizing from an illustrator’s session.

I like music. I’ve tried my hand at writing poetry and songs. That said, there is nothing in that category I would dare put up on a blog. Nonetheless, I took the above advice this past week and attended a Song Writing Workshop with Ken Medema. It was during a 3-day Worship Symposium at Calvin College. Most of the hour-long workshops only got 1/2 to a whole page of notes in my journal. The one presented by Ken got a full three pages in my journal. The man is amazingly talented and gifted, and funny to boot. It was fascinating to watch creation at work. I could easily sit in on a year-long course with Ken and every day learn more things about writing. From his hour-long workshop, I shall abbreviate even further.

A few things I learned from Ken about writing:

1) A Writing Exercise — find a song (or story) and write another one in that style (or voice);

2) Pick a theme to go throughout the song (or story);

3) “Tighten the fence” — an illustration meaning why put a fence around your entire yard when only the garden needs it? In other words, focus the theme. If you want the theme to be hope, pull in the fence to whom the hope is for, where the hope comes from, is it hope in the past, present or future, etc.;

4) Choose every single word with care;

5) Choose every phrase with care;

6) Another (poetry/song) writing exercise — practice speaking in pentameter to your friends, or daily writing them yourself, to make “couplets;”

7) Have fun with words.

Simple Writing Rules

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Rule #1: Writing is not simple.

Rule #2: Write; Finish what you write; Revise; Have it critiqued; Revise a few more times; Let it sit.

Rule #3: Read. Read. Read — read EVERYTHING you can get your hands on: books in your field/genre; NF research; books for pleasure; books so out of whack from your own writing genre that it would make your fellow writers blink to see you reading them; etc., etc..

Rule #4: Take another look at your story; Revise again.

Rule #5: Research agents and/or editors; submit it.

Rule #6:  Start writing another story.

Rule #7: Go out and play. (More grown-up authors might rephrase that to “Go out and live.”)

Well?

The Amazingly Creative Darcy Pattison

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A little behind on my email catch-up, but too early for epiphany (January 6), I saw this writing reflective article by author-speaker Darcy Pattison, and absolutely had to share it. In it, she gives writing tips from the song, “We Three Kings.” She also lists other writing tips from other Christmas-y subjects. Amazing, fun, and creative woman!

http://www.darcypattison.com/revision/7-writing-tips-from-the-3-kings/