Monday, April 15, 2013

Super-Agent Chip MacGregor on the Nitty-Gritty of "Voice"

You may or may not be familiar with Chip MacGregor, but he's been in the business a long time. He's worked as an author, an editor, and an agent. He was named Publisher's Marketplace Deal-Maker of the year in 2009. He's the owner and magic behind MacGregor Literary, and he looks awesome in a kilt (or, so I've been told).

Chip blogged before it was cool for agents to blog and his website has a wealth of information for new and novice writers. But the moments I love best are when Chip answers questions about writing itself. He's got such a broad understanding and experience of writing - from both the creative and business perspectives - that you know he "gets it".

Chip was gracious enough to allow me to reblog some of his recent notes on "voice". Since I figured most of you probably haven't run across it before, here we go:

Q. What is “voice” in writing?
A. Voice is the personality of the author, expressed through words on the page. When you write, your word choices, your phrasing and structure, your thinking and themes — they all help establish your personality as a writer. So the way I write is different from the way someone else writes — my personality comes through, and shows how I’m different and unique as a writer. (An example: Stephen King and William Faulkner both like long sentences, psychological implications, semicolons, and the use of the word “and” in their works… but nobody ever picked up a Stephen King novel and mistook it for a William Faulkner novel. Though they share some characteristics, each writer has his own personality, and that comes through on the page.) Of course, not every writing voice is good — just as not every singing voice is good. A great writer has a voice that is appealing and interesting.

Q. How does a writer know when he has established a strong voice in his work?

A. It takes time and effort. I’ve always thought a writer recognizes his or her own voice over time, so the more you write, the better you hear yourself in your words. My experience is that, as I write more and more, my personality becomes clear on the page. When we talk, your words don’t sound like mine. Your stories don’t sound like mine. Your personality is unique, and getting that to be clearly expressed on the page will help you define your voice. (So, for example, when I tell my story of being in the air on Sept 11, the way I tell the story of that day will be different from the way YOU might tell it.) The writers we love best express themselves through their own voices, and we love hearing those voices because they are individual, and, in the words of Carolyn Sloan, “they teach us to be ourselves by supplying us with an example of genuine emotion…” Great voice in writing is a unique and courageous act. And I don’t think it can be created — I believe it rises up from the soul of the writer.

If you want more from Chip, check out his blog at His agency caters mainly to inspirational writers, but Chip has worked for, and continues to sell to the Big Six and other mainstream publishers. If you want to know more about the man himself, check out his bio here:

1 comment:

  1. I've been following Chip MacGregor for some time now, and even participated in his recent teleseminar. He is a treasure trove of information for writers! Great post, Aimee! :)