In honor of National Novel Writing Month, Kat Brzozowski, an editor at the young adult fiction publisher Swoon Reads, helps us understand what editors want when they say they are looking for strong voice.
Sentence and Paragraph Length
When you’re working on voice, take a close look at the length of your sentences and paragraphs. Varying the lengths can go a long way in developing voice. A narrator who thinks in short, clipped sentences and paragraphs will have a voice that is much different from one who thinks in long, rambling sentences and paragraphs. Practice re-paragraphing your work into shorter and longer paragraphs to see how the voice changes.
Voice in Beginning and End
Voice can and should grow or change over the course of the book depending on the plot and character development. If you want to see if you’ve accomplished this, compare the first page with the last page. If the character sounds exactly the same on both pages, it’s a good sign that you need to dive in to revisions to ensure that the voice changes in the same way the character changes over the course of the book. For example, a character who spent the book battling and overcoming her personal demons would most likely shed the quiet, restrained voice of page one and take on a louder, more confident voice by the final page. Your character should stay true to herself, but make sure that the voice you use aligns with the character’s growth.
This piece was written by Kat Brzozowski of Swoon Reads. Have other questions? Swoon Reads is happy to answer them for you! Check out their writing guide and e-mail them any of your pressing questions on writing, the editorial process, or about publishing in general at firstname.lastname@example.org.