The Mysterious Author ‘Voice’ with Ally Broadfield (and Win a GC)

Today, please help me welcome author Ally Broadfield to Preternatura.  Ally has stopped by today to talk about finding and nurturing one’s “voice” in writing.  Her first book, Just a Kiss, is coming from Entangled Publishing in December 2013. Not sure what “voice” is? It’s one of those writing terms but an important one. If you have a favorite author because you like the way he or she phrases things, or creates vivid characters, or puts “personality” into her writing, that’s what we call voice. Whether I’m writing as Suzanne or Susannah, I have a style of writing in short, incomplete sentences, and my characters tend to have a self-deprecating humor. That’s voice!
Ally Broadfield lives in Texas and is convinced her house is shrinking, possibly because she shares it with three kids, five dogs, two cats, a rabbit, and several reptiles. Oh, and her husband. She likes to curse in Russian and spends most of her spare time letting dogs in and out of the house and shuttling kids around. She writes historical romance and middle grade/young adult fantasy.  You can find Ally on her website, Facebook, and Twitter (though she makes no claims of using any of them properly).
And now, let’s hear from Ally…
Nurturing Your Writer’s Voice
 by Ally Broadfield 

The very first comment I received on my writing was from a critique partner who said I had a great voice. I didn’t really know what that meant at the time, but I immediately did some research and found out. Even while I struggled with setting aside that first, hopelessly tangled manuscript, the positive comments I received about my voice were what kept me writing.

Your voice is the thing that differentiates you from other writers. It is uniquely you and no one else can duplicate it. It consists of your hopes, your fears, your dreams, your beliefs, your writing style, your life experiences, the books you’ve read, the movies you’ve watched, your elementary school English teachers, and every other thing in your life that has come together to make you who you are. It is the cadence, the rhythm, the flow of your writing.

I’ve heard others liken voice to a musical instrument, with each instrument making its own sound. Though I agree with the musical analogy, I prefer to liken voice to different types of music. The instruments come together as a group to determine the genre of music and the components of each unique song. Classical music, pop music, jazz, rap—they all utilize a combination of instruments to define their sound. No two songs are exactly alike because even if they use the same instruments, the notes are strung together differently or the words are sung differently. How many different versions of The Star-Spangled Banner have you heard?  For the same reasons, no two stories are exactly alike because we each use our own combination of elements in our writing and our words are written differently. Imagine the results if Edgar Allan Poe and Jane Austen had been asked to write the same story.

So how can you nurture your voice? Here are some suggestions:

Shake Things Up

If you’re not happy with your voice or you want to strengthen it, try something new. Write flash fiction, a short story, a novella, a novel—whatever length is different from what you’ve been writing. Or try a new genre. Write in verse. You just might discover that you’ve been trying to write the wrong thing all along, or you might find a new way to write what you love.

Allow Yourself the Freedom to Experiment

Forget the rules. Forget how that bestselling writer sounds. Be you. Experiment. Break the rules. Write an entire scene of backstory. Use an adverb in every sentence. Write from a second person point of view. Try something unexpected and see where it leads you.

Write Quickly and Don’t Allow Yourself to Edit

Write as quickly as you can, and don’t go back to edit until you’ve finished the first draft. The first time I tried this, I was a failure. I tried to do NaNoWriMo and I wrote less than 20,000 words because I couldn’t turn off my inner editor. But by using a timer and participating in writing sprints on Twitter, I managed to write more than 50,000 words the second time I tried it. Being able to write the first draft of a novel in a month is great, but what I found fascinating is that when I write that quickly my subconscious takes over. When I went back and read that manuscript a few months later, I didn’t remember writing several of the scenes. It was almost as if someone else had written the book. Yet, I did recognize my voice shining through.

Draw From Your Own Experiences

I write historical romance set in Regency England and Imperial Russia. Clearly, I haven’t experienced those environments, but I do know what it’s like to have someone try to make me feel inferior, be the subject of gossip and speculation, and have someone I trusted betray me. Reach back into your junior high or high school years and remember how it felt the first time you fell in love, the first time your experienced the death of someone close to you, the first time you were snubbed by the popular crowd. Chances are, you have untapped insight into whatever your characters are going through. Use all of your experiences, both good and bad, to make your writing authentic and uniquely yours.

Edit with Your Voice in Mind

I work as a freelance proofreader, and I’ve read many manuscripts, some of which have been so stripped down by someone who was trying to follow the rules that all the life has been edited out of them. Always read your work aloud while editing. Listen to your words; the rhythm, cadence, and flow of the sentences and paragraphs. Too many adverbs can be a problem, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have any. Sometimes you need an extra beat in a sentence and a well-chosen adverb works well. When used sparingly, adverbs can also help differentiate between characters and help give them each their own unique voice. Use of a “to be” verb does not automatically make a sentence passive. If you write in the past tense, you’re going to have to use “was” sometimes (but not with an –ing verb and not when you could use a stronger verb in its place).

There are limitless tools available to help make your voice distinctive. Add rhetorical devices, or utilize punctuation to show how your character is unique. You can use an ellipsis to show slow speech, or dashes to show fast speech. The way you punctuate will affect the overall cadence and rhythm of your story.
Thanks, Ally!

How about you? Who’s an author whose voice you enjoy? Are there particular things she does that win you over?

Leave a comment to be entered for your chance to win a $5 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card (your choice). 

36 thoughts on “The Mysterious Author ‘Voice’ with Ally Broadfield (and Win a GC)

  1. An author’s voice to me is so complex because it is the synthesis of the characters, plot and action that makes a book appealing to me. My favorites include Suzanne Johnson( both versions!), Nalini Singh, Jim Butcher, JR Ward, Laurell K Hamilton, Jayne Ann Krentz, Linnea Sinclair, Christine Feehan, Lora Leigh, Monette Michaels. Boy, my list could go on a long time!

  2. I really like Patrick Rothfuss’s voice. He can take fantasy tropes (such as writing about stew) and make them seem fascinating and an integral part of the story. His use of the unreliable narrator is also extremely well-done!

  3. Two voices immediately come to mind, JD Robb and Dakota Cassidy. I do believe Nora Roberts could write the back of a cereal box and I’d recognize it. And DC’s snarky humor is so recognizable, she often has me spewing my drink if reading and drinking at the same time.

  4. Hi, Lisa. I completely agree about Nora Roberts. I’ve also heard great things about Dakota Cassidy. I’m going to move her up on my TBR list. Thanks for stopping in and leaving a comment.

  5. Congrats Ally on the new release! I love Patricia Briggs and Ilona Andrews b/c they make you feel like you’re there in their world effortlessly 🙂

  6. I think it’s hard to choose, so I will go with the first notable book for me was Jane Eyre when I was fourteen.
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  7. Thanks so much, Erin! A huge part of voice is the ability to pull a reader into the world the story takes place in, and you’re right that Patricia Briggs and Ilona Andrews are both masters.

  8. there are a number (think that’s part of what make’s them become “must buy & read”) some for me include Elizabeth Hoyt, Joanna Bourne, Hannah Howell, Jennifer Ashley, Laurann Dohner, Shelly Laurenston & Dana Marie Bell

  9. What an interesting post! It is fascinating to learn how an author develops her writing voice. Some of my favorites are Sherrilyn Kenyon, Jim Butcher, J.R. Ward, and Suzanne Johnson of course!

  10. I really enjoy Jennifer Estep, as well as Cherie Priest and Eloisa James. They all have such a great way with words, it’s hard to describe, but I know it when I see it. 😀

  11. Hi, BookLady! I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Your favorites are my favorites, aside from Jim Butcher, who I’m adding to my TBR list. Thanks for stopping by, and for giving me a new author to check out.

  12. Hey, Barbara! Eloisa James is one of my favorites. She has such a way with words – maybe because she’s a Shakespeare professor. I know exactly what you mean about knowing it when you see it. Thanks for stopping by!

  13. I have a few, but I don’t really know what speaks to me through them. I just know that I cannot put them down.

    1. Gena Showalter
    2. Patricia Briggs
    3. Jennifer Ashley
    4. Darynda Jones
    5. Kristan Higgins

  14. I’ve learned to sample every book before I buy (unless I already know and love the author) because I’m so influenced by voice. In UF, I adore Ilona Andrews’ writing style. Suzanne also definitely has a very distinctive voice. In romance, Jill Shalvis, Jennifer Crusie, and Ruthie Knox all have very distinctive styles that I like.

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