Thursday, May 31, 2007

Voice and Editing

I entered a short story in Glimmer Train's annual short story contest. No, I didn't win. But that's a good thing. Why? Because when I looked at the story again, I realized it could have been much better.
When my dad read it awhile ago, he said that he felt something was missing, but wasn't quite sure what that "something" was. I didn't, either. But when I opened the file last night, I wanted to find that "something" because this story needs to go out into the world.

After reading through it, I searched for the elusive "something." And then, it hit me. I had edited out my voice. What I read on the page wasn't me. It was my attempt to be literary and high-browed and, well, just not myself. I don't write like that. Of course, there's nothing wrong with writing that way, but my voice doesn't subscribe to it.

I began to see the story with fresh eyes and found several places where I could put my voice back "in." And it's making such a difference that I can't believe I didn't see it the first time around.

It's entirely possible to edit too much. And that's exactly what I did. It's a lesson well-learned, especially since I'm still editing my second novel. Voice is such an elusive thing that when you finally discover your own, you've got to make sure and keep it in there because that's what makes your writing yours.


  1. Great post! This is one of my fears as I revise the novel yet again. Thanks for the reminder!

  2. Oh I agree. Very easy to rip that individuality out!! Another good advice post :)

  3. You're absolutely correct! I was just speaking with an editor at Da Capo about this and she's finding writers are editing too much. How clever of you to identify it; I wish I had your ability to step out and have some real perspective.


  4. It's such a delicate balance, between getting your writing to a publishable stage while maintaining your voice. Good work on finding that balance :)

  5. Devon Ellington1:37 PM

    Yes, your personal voice layered with the character voices are what makes your piece unique.

  6. Great post, Melissa. Sometimes we can do too much editing on our work. It's also subjective with the reader; some readers like a lot of the other's voice. Others don't. Personally, I enjoy reading the author's voice, since that's what makes the story unique.

  7. It is easy to edit out voice. My voice is always the parts that don't necessarily lock and lock with grammatic or sentence structure perfection.


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