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The more I teach, the more I learn. You know that thing called voice in our writing, which is often so elusive and hard to define? I did define it, here, and I still like that definition. As I continue to teach writing students, I continue to see examples of voice or lack thereof. Voice is partly talent, partly language competence, partly the unique way we sound when our writing is flowing, and most of all it puts the author-ity in our writing. When it's there, it's there; when it's not, it's not; and I believe now, more than I once did, that if you have other skills and craft but don't have voice, your story won't work. If voice can be taught at all, I think it's taught indirectly. By that I mean the teacher can point out examples of voice, write essays on voice (as Larry Brooks does for 12 pages in Story Engineering), and discuss voice, but then the student has to take it from there. She can learn about voice, find her voice, and develop her voice. It takes reading, it takes writing, and it takes time.
I think my teaching so far has taught me this: Voice is first. (I didn't always believe this.) If you don't yet have your voice, you are not ready to query or submit. Only books with voice have a chance. It's not the most comfortable thing in the world to realize that this elusive voice element, that can seem so difficult, is for openers.
But once you have voice, it's the story that matters. This was what I'd always thought; it's the story that matters! Once the voice has gained you admittance into real consideration by an agent, editor, or reader, it's the story, story, story that has to deliver.
Any thoughts? Or do I think this way mostly because I write for those people who want to know what happens -- MG-ers? :)