Tuesday, September 5, 2017

An Acquisition Editor Shares 3 Quick Tips for Creating a Strong Voice

by Kat Brzozowski @KatBrzozowsk 

When our team is looking through the manuscripts on Swoon Reads for the next books we’re going to publish, we each have a specific thing to which we’re drawn. Some of us are attracted to characters. Other people look for strong worldbuilding. For other people, the manuscript must have great dialogue. For me, voice is my #1 requirement when I’m looking to fall in love with a manuscript. But how do you create voice?

These three tips will help you jump-start your voice!

1. Consider paragraph length: Admit it - you’ve maybe never thought about how long your paragraphs are. That’s ok! Paragraphing can feel like a necessary part of formatting your pages. But paragraphing is also a clever way to get your character’s voice down on the page. Does your character think in long, meandering paragraphs or short, snappy paragraphs? If you feel like your character’s voice isn’t coming through as strongly as you’d like, try re-paragraphing! It may seem like a small thing, but it can make a big difference in how your character comes across.

2. Choose your words carefully: As a writer, you’re always making a choice about words you use, even if you’re not always thinking about that choice. When it comes to voice, changing even the occasional word can make a big difference in the voice of your character. For example, a character who calls a big party a “bash” is different from a character who calls it a “blowout”, and both are different than a character who call it “the biggest darn party of the whole year”. Using specific words for your character is a great way to establish a strong and distinctive sense of voice.

3.Make every POV sound different: Multiple POVs are popular in YA novels, and we know why! It’s great to hear the story from two or more characters, and it’s fun to tackle various voices. However, if you’re tackling multiple POVs, make sure that each one has a distinct voice. Not sure if you’re acing this? Remove the names from two different POV chapters and ask a beta reader to identify which one comes from which character. If they’re stumped, it’s time to dive back in and make each voice sound as distinct and unique as the characters themselves.

Now go out there and create characters with great voices! If you’re looking for more editorial advice, visit our blog at https://swoonreads.com/blog/. It’s packed with posts about every aspect of writing, plus behind-the-scenes access to the world of publishing.


Kat Brzozowski is an editor at Swoon Reads and Feiwel & Friends. She has edited a wide range of young adult fiction, including Anna-Marie McLemore's When the Moon was Ours, which received a Stonewall Honor and was longlisted for a National Book Award, and new Fear Street books in R.L. Stine’s bestselling series, which has sold over eighty million copies worldwide. Kat is drawn to young adult fiction across a wide range of genres, especially contemporary, realistic YA with a strong hook; dark, contemporary fiction, mysteries, suspense and thrillers; and sci-fi and fantasy that’s mostly rooted in this world. She is especially interested in YA novels with crossover appeal and diverse characters. 


  1. Those are great tips!
    At the two conferences I attended this year, most agents kept emphasizing the importance of of voice without getting into details.
    This is very helpful advice.
    Thank you, Kat!

  2. Great points! I find shorter paragraphs and more white space on the first page tends to draw me in faster.

  3. Thanks for the helpful reminders. Most of my paragraphs are short--five sentences or less. The dialogue is fairly concise, with my characters taking over the vernacular. Still, during rewriting, I often change words if the meaning is unclear or the character's intention is not well expressed. All of these things add up to "voice" and set one author apart from another.