The author’s voice

Brunhild_(Postkarte),_G._Bussiere,_1897All authors have a voice, although many can’t sing. I have 8 good notes and I’m not afraid to use them in singing the odd song now and again. Tad Williams can sing, and has the cd to prove it.

But what do I really mean when I speak of an author’s voice?

We become attached to certain authors because when we read their works, we hear their “voice.” We hear them speaking to us.

Each author writes with a certain style, or in other words, the words he or she habitually uses that makes his or her writing unique. “Voice” conveys the author’s attitude, personality, and character.

You have all heard me say that having a manuscript properly edited before publishing it is crucial for the indie author’s credibility. You may ask, “what is this process, and how do I retain my voice, and control of my work when someone else is intent on hijacking it?”

First of all, a good editor will never try to hijack your work. Writers intentionally use symbolism and thematic consistency. We sometimes intentionally repeat certain words for emphasis. These things are significant to us, and a good editor will recognize that.

So what does an editor look for in a manuscript?

Indies are looking for an editor who “helps a writer develop a book from idea or outline or initial draft. Makes sure the book will meet the needs of the publisher and its readers. Will work with the author through any number of drafts. Often works with writers of non-fiction. Guides the writer in topics to be covered in or omitted from the book.” quoted from the Editors Blog.

In other words indies want a structural editor.  What will this editor do for them?

The professional freelance editor will read your manuscript, looking for the rough spots and inconsistencies that work their way into every final draft. They will suggest you correct certain grammatical errors and habits that interfere with the flow of your work, and give you an idea of how those corrections could be made. They will also point out things that are unnecessary background–info-dumps that have slipped through, and suggest you remove them.

Also a structural editor may suggest that a section be moved to a different, more appropriate place in the manuscript. This editor will devote a month or more of their time to your manuscript. This is a hefty commitment on their part, and is one that is not lightly made.

Raymond chandler quote split infinitivesA good editor will not try to take over your manuscript and erase your voice.

You, as the author, have the final say on your manuscript–it is after all your intellectual property. If you don’t want to change something you feel is intrinsic to what you are trying to express, you don’t have to.

Sometimes editors don’t see the forest for the trees–and a good conversation with the author will straighten those areas out. If your editor does not respond to your emails, or indicate in some way that they have heard your concerns, you should not work with them.  

The best part of being an indie is having the control of your work. A good relationship with your editor is crucial to turning out a good product.


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7 responses to “The author’s voice

  1. Wonderful post, and I think of all things writerly developing a voice is the most important and the most important.


  2. I meant to say: the most DIFFICULT and the most important! Argh, having a tough time with the voice today.


  3. In my ancient MFA program my peer author wannabes and I would seem to take delight in rewriting each other’s stories as they would have written them, rather than trying to see the author’s vision and work to enhance that. I’ve distrusted editors ever since.
    In teaching college writers how to do peer review, so many of them immediately start looking for errors rather than reading through the paper to see what the author is saying. Again, editing cannot begin until the whole story is known. Often what I write in the beginning may seem insignificant to an editor just starting the story but that information comes back later and proves to be very significant.
    And for my third magic trick, I have a deep-seated sense of obligation to my inner Ru to produce a flaw-free manuscript, if only because as an English teacher I believe I should. That is not to say I manage to produce a flaw-free manuscript, but it’s darn close.
    I think either an author has a good relationship with an editor across many works (“long-time editor”) and so it is a team project each time, or the author essentially works alone and benefits from beta readers to catch problems. Or there is the cave with the bonfires flickering against the walls.


  4. I couldn’t agree more with everything you’ve written (apart from the 8 notes, heh heh). I think that’s why we work so well together and why I’m so proud that you’re editing Heart Search: Betrayal for me!!