07-21-18 Patricia Sargeant

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Preserving your Voice

Hi everyone! I am YA author B A Binns , writer of contemporary and realistic fiction for teens. My tagline tells you what I am about - Stories of Real Boys Growing Into Real Men - and the people who love them. 

This is my second post on that super-elusive quality called Voice. The first post (which you can find at VOICE: It's All About You) came back in March, fittingly occurring as I was beginning the first of what ended up being three different rounds of revisions for my debut middle grade novel, Courage. I craft stories for kids. I am not one of those prolific writers who can curn out multiple books every year.  My first YA novel was published by Westside Books in 2010. Courage, which will be released in 2018 from Harper Collins, is only my fourth published novel. In between I have written several short stories and have two stories in progress.  Like a chisel wielding stone artisan, I work slowly, clawing out a finished product one chip at a time. At least my chosen media is slightly more forgiving than rock. When I mess up, I get to delete and rewrite with a keyboard.

For me, crafting a novel means doing that over and over again. The roughest part for me is figuring out how to perform major revisions without loosing my initial vision, my Voice.

Voice is hard to describe, but it’s something you just know when you hear it. Think of music. Christmas approaches (I know, I can barely believe how much of this year has gone myself).  Various artists will be releasing their versions of the old standards. Same old words, same old story, but different people find different artists compelling, singing standards that stand out because of the arrangement; the Voice.

I ponder this because I came face to face with the issue over the last few months while doing final revisions for Courage. As I said in another prior post, Revision and Editing are not the same things. Revision can involve making major changes to improve the story and reading experience. Those changes can encompass everything. Everything except dismantling the novel's basic core and theme. That has to remain to keep the voice intact.

At its core, Courage is about brotherly love and is a retelling of the Prodigal Son parable told from the point of view of the good brother who now fears the older brother he once loved and revered. I typed The End on this story in 2015. It was acquired by Harper Collins in 2016. Revisions began earlier this year for the 2018 release. Let me say that my editor is a wonderful woman. She’s interesting, loves books, and has near infinite patience. She also saw parts of the story she really wanted changed. I had to both listen to her, and remain true to the theme that moved me.

However, over the years, my own voice had changed. The 2016 elections played a large part in that, along with many of the issues plaguing people of color in America, including children of color. As I did the revisions, I realized there was no way that could not leech into my story. I was amazed to find how the personalities of several characters changed as I plowed through the revisions. But the innermost story of redemption remained strong.

As I said in my prior post on Voice, an author’s voice is the sum of their life experiences. That is the thing editors and agents prize more than they do the author’s plot. Lots has happened to me, my life and my world in the last two years. When called on by my editor to rework the ending, my updated Voice licked it’s lips and took control.

Our writer’s voice constantly evolves. That sometimes has us looking back on our body of work done years earlier and being astounded. We evolve, change, come up with things that are different because we ourselves evolve. Remember that when dealing with critique partners, beta readers, and editors. I’ve heard of writers revising to please them until their once vibrant and lively story turns voiceless. No editor or agent I know is interested in a story without a compelling, leap off the page and suck readers in, Voice.  It is Voice that makes writers. As someone said, there are only so many plots in the world. What makes a story original, what makes it yours instead of someone else’s, is how Your Voice tells Your Story.

On a related note: a number of editors, agents and award-winning authors are giving away critiques as a way to help the new a new organization, KIDLITNATION.com. Kidlitnation will use the funds to help #ownvoices. be heard. Today, August 9, is the final day of the raffle, if you are interested, take a look at the array of talent you can bid on at http://kidlitnation.com/home/own-your-voice/fundraising/. This is a chance to get feedback from industry experts on your Voice and your manuscript.


Sarah Raplee said...

Wonderful post, B.A. You are such a great teacher! Thank you for sharing your knowledge, and for introducing us to KidLitNation.

Judith Ashley said...

Excellent post on "Voice" and the importance of remaining true to our own voice. It isn't always easy but it is necessary. KidLitNation looks a great organization!

Gay Lynn Cronin said...

Thank you, B.A.. You always have insightful comments. I will keep your suggestions in mind as I try and enhance my writer's voice.