Friday, June 3, 2011

Finding Your Voice: With Guest Blogger Abby Gaines

First, tell us a little about yourself:
I was working as a freelance business journalist (great job for a stay-at-home mom) when I decided to try my hand at writing a romance novel. I was willing to invest time and money in learning about the genre, so I figured it wouldn’t take me long to sell my first book. Wrong! It took me nearly six years and six manuscripts to get to The Call. Maybe I’m just a slow learner...
            Luckily, there’s more to my life than writing. My husband and our three kids provide ample distraction from the woes of rejection! I love cooking (and eating), travel and skiing. Oh, and reading. It drives my husband nuts that the kids and I spend “all our money” (his words!) on books. 
            Lastly, I’m a warm weather person. Hey, it’s a fundamental thing: some people love cold weather, others love the heat. When I’m working I move my laptop around the house, following the sun.
How did you find “YOUR VOICE”
I found my voice by writing...and writing...and writing. And to be honest, that voice wasn’t fully formed and uniquely mine in my first manuscript. Most of us start out writing the way we’ve observed others writing – our early work is a hybrid of our own and the writers we’ve enjoyed recently. That’s not a bad thing, it’s part of the process of developing your own voice, figuring out how to write your story in a way that’s naturally yours.
I was lucky to have critique partners who could tell me what they liked about my writing – the light, quirky tone and the family subplots. That gave me something to focus on in developing my voice (AKA writing more stories) – though, having said that, it was mostly a subconscious process rather than a conscious one.
Once I was able to identify my voice better (but not perfectly, it’s still a challenge when I’m trying something different), I was able to see why parts of my manuscript felt flat or just didn’t fit. Sometimes I can fix that. A couple of times, I’ve concluded that a new project just doesn’t have my voice speaking out of it. While it’s probably true that you can write (or rewrite) any story in your voice, I haven’t had the expertise to transform that story, and I’ve had to let it go.
If you could describe your writing in one word, what would it be?
Warmhearted. And because one word is never enough for a writer, I’ll add that my books have a light tone and often a quirky setup, but there’s also lots of underlying emotion.
What advice would you give a writer still searching for their “VOICE”?  
1.      Ask people you trust, who are fans of your writing, what they like about your writing and your stories. If you’ve entered contests and had judges who loved your entry, use their comments for this, too. Don’t ask anyone who doesn’t love your work—they’re not qualified to answer!
2.      By all means read articles and do workshops on voice if that works for you. Barbara Samuel teaches a voice workshop and has a worksheet on her website that’s intended to help you figure out your voice. This kind of thing doesn’t work for me (just as character interviews don’t work for me), but I know other writers who’ve found this approach useful.
3.      Think of some books that you love, not the great classics of all time, but recent books that make you think “I wish I’d written that”. Then think about the qualities you love in that author’s writing and the kinds of stories she/he writes, and consider where your style and your stories are different. Once you can describe someone else’s voice, you’re in a better position to describe your own.
4.      Read your own work and highlight the scenes, paragraphs and sentences you love best, the ones that jump off the page and make you dance around the room singing, “I’m brilliant!” (I’ve never done that, I least, no one’s ever seen me do it). Think about what makes those scenes, paragraphs and sentences work.
The good news is, everyone has a voice. Like an opera singer, you need to train it and develop it before your work will shine, but you can be sure it’s in there. Good luck!

Bio: Abby Gaines has sold 21 books to Harlequin, across the NASCAR and Superromance series and, more recently Love Inspired Historical. Her new book, out this month, is Her Best Friend’s Wedding (Superromance). To read an excerpt visit


  1. Very nice .. I look forward to finding your book !

  2. This is a great interview! I love your advice about only asking people who love your work. It's so true that if someone doesn't like your writing, their feedback won't be helpful. I love quirky with underlying emotion :-)