Dear Author: Deciding on a Voice

POSTED ON Dec 15, 2011

Joel Friedlander

Written by Joel Friedlander

Home > Blog > Writing > Dear Author: Deciding on a Voice

by David Carr

David Carr is a book editor from the San Francisco Bay Area here in California. His last article for TheBookDesigner was A Book Editor Speaks: The Challenge of the First Chapters. Today he turns to the letters freelance editors send in response to writers’ queries for a lesson on “voice.”

Joel asked me to write about “Finding your own voice.” I’ll get to that, but here’s a piece about what “voice” means.

  • “Thank you for your interest in my editorial support. Please send a sample chapter. After my perusal, we can schedule your free 20 minute consultation, after which you can decide how to proceed.”
  • “With more than twenty-five years working in the field of publishing as a freelance editor and acquisitions consultant for Volcano Press, it is a pleasure to offer my considered opinion about your manuscript. Please submit the first and the most challenging chapters, double spaced Times New Roman, for evaluation of your potential as my client. Include remittance of $250, which will be refunded within 30 days if I feel your work is beyond resuscitation. Any submissions which do not meet specifications listed here will be summarily trashed.”
  • “I’m an editor, see. So I know how to get it right. OK, you want help? Then listen up, ears perked so I know I’m not wasting my breath, gottit?”
  • “I really appreciate your willingness to submit your heart-felt labor for my humble advice on how to improve your manuscript. With twenty-five years experience, I am very aware of the sensitivity of the author-editor relationship. I want you to feel that you can say anything to me about the quality of my work, as well as express your concerns about the ease of communication between us. I am here to serve my clients by bringing their subtlest concepts to polished perfection.”
  • “I’m the wrong editor for your genre.”
  • “Thanks for trusting me with your writing. I can see the value of your idea, and I have a number of suggestions for how to clarify the issues and the structure. I can also make some stylistic suggestions that will improve readability for your specific audience. I’m happy to point you in the right direction and support you in moving forward through the process. I can suggest a colleague who may be available to undertake the full editing process, if you feel that will support you most fruitfully.”
  • “The last writer who mistook himself for an author got a DUI after reading my evaluation. If you still want to move forward, pop a check in the mail and my assistant will put you in the scheduling queue.”

The Point

Some of these turn you off, some invite you forward, some are intended to insult. They demonstrate how different “voices” convey the relationship the writer wants to establish with the reader. Each has its own mood and intention.

Before you begin writing, besides knowing your content, consider what voice will carry it most effectively. Different voices can attract different audiences, so it is important to consider the people you want to reach with your message.

In fiction, giving different voices to different characters is an efficient and intriguing way to convey their relationship, and inform the reader about the psychological structure and socioeconomic background of the characters—without describing details of clothing, setting, etc.

The readers will draw on their own life experiences to understand what the characters are bringing to their adventure. When you read, don’t you want to be drawn into the story personally? That’s one tool for achieving it.

Until next time, delight in the process.

David-Carr-editorDavid Colin Carr ( has been editing fiction and non-fiction since 1988 with writers as far flung as China and Thailand, as well as with doctoral students in the Bay Area and New York. He works collaboratively with clients to activate their passion and vision – with clarity, coherence, and in their distinctive voice. David is dedicated to projects that value, expand, and connect our human hearts – offering his own heart, counseling experience, and creativity to bring forth the brilliance of both the writing and the collaborative relationship. He is associate editor with Volcano Press.

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Joel Friedlander

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