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VOICE: The Secret Power of Great Writing Paperback – October 14, 2015
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Instead of reading about writing, I wrote. And wrote. I finished my first novel. I wrote some more. At conferences and workshops I heard writers and editors talking about this one holy grail that everybody sought: a VOICE that "sang", a voice that stood out in the slush pile, a "fresh" voice, a "unique" voice. So I took workshops on "finding your voice". It was all very kumbaya and mystical. IT DIDN'T HELP.
It's painful to be told there's something lacking that would make your writing stand out and be noticed if it were there. And it's maddening that nobody seemed to be able to tell me what it was or how to develop it.
I've taken classes with James Scott Bell at writing conferences. I've purchased his books. He's an excellent teacher and has a way of explaining things that is logical and clear. But I admit... when I first heard that he was writing on the topic of "voice" I thought, "What could he possibly have to say that would help? Nobody can define that thing. Nobody seems to know what it is."
As cliche as it is, I tip my hat to Bell. I give him a deep Chinese bow, full of respect and honor. (Okay, that's my writer melodrama coming out, sorry!) Not only does Bell break the concept of "voice" into its component parts, he offers exercises that will help us develop it in our writing and includes scores of examples so we can SEE voice in action and analyze it. Not only that, but I've read his recent thriller release, Romeo's Rules (A Mike Romeo Thriller), and Bell himself has applied these principles to good effect. In writing Mike Romeo, Bell has captured that hard-boiled, wry-humor voice that I most enjoy for heroes in that genre. So the man practices what he preaches.
All around, if you want to develop (or strengthen) that elusive quality of "voice" in your writing, this book is a must-read.
Why? Why is it so hard to explain something that all good writing must exhibit? How the heck are writers supposed to develop voice when we can’t even get a straight answer on what it is? I’ve always been frustrated by this ambiguity. For years, I resigned myself to thinking voice is like your shadow—you can never really put your finger on it, so you just have to develop all the other aspects of your craft until one day, voilà! You turn around and suddenly your writing has great voice, which shines as clear as day for readers and editors, although you yourself can never quite grasp the outline of it.
VOICE: The Secret Power of Great Writing tears down the veil and explains in concise, clear language what voice is and how every writer can cultivate it. I’m so glad Bell wrote this book, because a quality that every good writer is expected to develop should be attainable with study and hard work. It should not be a cryptic status bestowed by a secret society on the honored— but never enlightened—writer. If you’re tired of the mystery and ambiguity surrounding voice, pick up this book. You’ll get a no-nonsense definition (wow!), examples, practical tips, and exercises to help you transform your prose from blah to brilliant.