Finding Your Voice by Les Edgerton

Edgerton

Voice is something writers and readers love to talk about. Many editors say that voice is everything, but when you ask them to define it, they shrug and say, “I know it when I see it.” These same people often insist that voice can’t be developed: a writer either has it or she doesn’t. Edgerton knows this is a lie. FINDING YOUR VOICE shows a writer how to develop her unique voice, mostly by regaining her original style, diction, and word choice.

The trick is to get out of your own way. We all write with a head full of well-meaning advice from teachers, parents, editors, and the ghosts of famous writers. Edgerton provides exercises to kick them all out, because trying to please everyone will result in bland, beige writing. The examples in FINDING YOUR VOICE show how some writers turn stiff and heavy the moment they become the least bit unsure of their writing. The writers think that formal language and big words make them sound like they know their stuff, but it often has the opposite effect. Edgerton isn’t saying that you can get away with ungrammatical, sloppy writing. But you can write well while also writing like yourself.

Once a writer regains her true, authentic voice, Edgerton tackles the four elements of voice: tone, vocabulary, imagery, and rhythm. Every chapter of FINDING YOUR VOICE has exercises to make sure you’re staying in your voice. Edgerton cautions writers to be especially careful while editing. It’s too easy to edit your voice right out of your work.

FINDING YOUR VOICE ends with a disclaimer. How-to books are great, but nobody is the final authority, not even Edgerton himself. The major part of an authentic voice is trusting your own instincts. Learn from other writers, Edgerton says, but have the confidence to let your true voice come through.

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rating: 5 stars

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pie slices: 8 slices craft

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This book is best for: intermediate to advanced writers

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I recommend this book.

4 thoughts on “Finding Your Voice by Les Edgerton

  1. There’s an older how to book – Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg. Sounds similar.

    • Writing Down the Bones is another good one. However, I think Edgerton’s book has a slight edge, because he is very down-to-Earth and practical. (I’m a huge fan of practical.) Goldberg’s is more autobiographical and also more theory rather than practice. Following Edgerton’s advice gets writers to the page quickly and easily, so I like it a lot!

  2. The best training I’ve had in voice was from a class offered by The Writer’s Studio, based out of NYC. Each exercise started with reading a work that employed a particular element, and then we were to try and emulate that element in our assignment. Your review of Edgerton’s book made me think perhaps he uses a similar approach.

    Oh, yes! The danger of editing out what made the work sing in your voice in the first place! This is a real peril for newer writers, I think. The best antidote I found was to have an honest mentor who wouldn’t hesitate to tell you that you’d ruined the story with your changes. Mine was “Irish JohnJohn. He was an older and much more experienced writer, and we both joined the Zoetrope online writing forum on the same day. John and I never met in person, but he took a lot of time and effort in mentoring me and, since his passing, I still miss his guidance. Whenever I write, I always take care to remember his advice to trust myself to know what is working, and to ignore the pull of the rabble calling for the ten-thousand changes that would make my work less authentic. He was a cool guy.

    Thanks for letting me walk down memory lane on your comment section here!

    -aniko

    • I agree, editing is tricky. I’ve seen many manuscripts go from “promising” to “bland” because of over-editing. Yet another reason to pay attention to voice.

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