Chip MacGregor

November 22, 2013




President of the award-winning literary site, Novel Rocket, Ane Mulligan writes Southern-fried fiction served with a tall, sweet iced tea. While a large, floppy straw hat is her favorite, she’s worn many different ones: hairdresser, legislative affairs director (that’s a fancy name for a lobbyist), business manager, drama director and writer. Her lifetime experience provides a plethora of fodder for her Southern-fried fiction (try saying that three times fast). A three-time Genesis finalist, Ane is a published playwright and columnist. She resides in Suwanee, GA, with her artist husband and two very large dogs, and has just returned from the ACFW conference.

Finding Your Voice

Fiction writers are told to find their voice. Well, what is it, and for that matter, how do you find it?

I mastered the mechanics of good writing by learning and following the guidelines or … stay with me here … the rules. It’s kind of like staying between the lines in a coloring book before taking on a blank sheet of art paper. Then, I began to understand when and how to break those rules to turn my manuscript into a symphony of words.

About that same time, I started a new series, and when I sent my critique partners the first chapter, they told me I’d found my voice. Cool. I didn’t know I’d lost it. I mean, I didn’t have laryngitis or even a sore throat.

Okay, I’m being silly and probably not very funny, so you can stop rolling your eyes. In truth, I’d been working on voice. I read Les Edgerton’s book Finding Your Voice. I highly recommend it if you’re still looking for yours.

In Edgerton’s book, he said go back and look at letters you’d written when you were young or at least before you began to write. There was your voice.

As I thought about that, I remembered how our friends always told me they loved my Christmas letters. Mine were the ones they actually read and looked forward to. If I was late with it I received a few “Where is it?” emails. Instead of a travelogue or a report on the kiddos’ doings, I made up stories about the major events of the past year, poking fun at us and liberally adding embellishments.

I pulled out those past Christmas letters and studied them. I noticed the cadence, the style, and the sound of them. That’s what I wanted in my fiction. I then tried a new game of “Name that Author.”

First, I went to a multi-author blog—it doesn’t work on any other type. (NOTE: This needs to be a blog of authors well known to you.) I chose Girls Write Out. Then, before I looked at the signature or by-line, I tried to guess who wrote it. Between the post and their fiction, I could see the similarity in the “voice.” It was natural and organic to the author. While some may have similarities, especially if they write in the same genre, each author does have a unique voice.

If you’re still developing your writing voice, read … a lot. Don’t copy another writer, but rather study what they do and how they do it. Then look at something you wrote before you started perusing a writing career. Forget the mechanics for a moment. What did the writing sound like? That’s most likely your voice.

Try it for a while and see what happens.

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  • :Donna Marie says:

    This is an excellent way of describing “voice,” Ane. Thank you 🙂

  • GiantsFanSince52 says:

    Thank you for the shout-out of my Voice book, Ane. Just delighted that you found it helpful.

    • chipmacgregor says:

      For those who don’t know, Les Edgerton’s FINDING YOUR VOICE is the BEST book on the topic of adding voice to your writing. You can find it at Amazon or B&

  • Ron Estrada says:

    I keep stumbling onto your great guest posts, Ane. My favorite line to writers I critique is that their work looks like it was written by a writer. What I mean is that they follow the rules to perfect blandness. When I was a kid, Stephen King was my hero. What I remember most about his early works was the phrase “friends and neighbors.” He used it often, and it was enough to establish his voice. I’m still searching for mine, though my partner and agents have told me I already have one. Apparently we can’t see our own. Thanks again, Ane.

  • Anna Labno says:

    Ane, I read this post already somewhere. I can’t look at my old letters unless my voice translates into another language. I’m bilingual, and I admit I love the stories I wrote in another language.Even after fifteen years, I can’t believe I have written them.
    I lost it by not writing in my native langauage after coming to United States. I still have my voice. But I need to polish a lot of rocks before I can turn them into gems.
    (That’s one book I haven’t read yet by Les Edgerton. I might add it to my list.)
    Look inside your journal to find your voice.

  • Janet Tronstad says:

    Ane — In addition to looking closely at someone’s writing who you think ‘hit’s it’ I even went so far in my early days as to try and copy the voice of that author (making up a page or two in their voice). I think it helped to actually feel someone else’s beat. This is a great post as voice almost has to be felt instead of understood.

  • Pamela Meyers says:

    LOL, most of what I wrote just before I began pursuing writing was academic papers. I had to work hard to lose that academic voice when I switched to fiction. I’m just funnin’ with ya. You do make a good point.

    • Ane Mulligan says:

      That would make for a strange voice, Pam. Glad you found your fiction one. I’ve enjoyed your novels. 🙂

  • Linda Yezak says:

    I think “read, a lot” is the best advice there is for authors, regardless of how experienced. I’ve learned more from reading widely than I have from all the how-to manuals that have landed in my library.

    Terrific post, Ane!

  • Michael Ehret says:

    Your voice is fast and humorous, with a heavy dose of empathy and traces of introspection and back-porch wisdom. At least that’s how I “hear” you in my head. Can’t wait to read your book!

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