Sunday, February 7, 2016

Getting the Voice (age) Right

When writing for younger readers, feedback from beta readers, agents and editors may include comments such as these:

“The voice reads too young for the MC age.”

“The voice sounds too adult.”

“The voice sometimes sounds too young.”

“The voice weaves between the appropriate age and that of an adult.”

“While the voice is spot-on for the age, I didn’t care for it.”

“Whatever else you change, do not revise the voice. It’s terrific.”

“The voice is stilted and unnatural.”

“The voice has a natural flow that kids will relate to.”

One of my novels got all of the above before it was published. Yup, since I have only one published to date, it’s not a mystery which book it is.


What to do? When personal feedback shows no consistency and is even directly contradictory, I think of it as honest, well intentioned, but subjective. There is nothing I have to do, because if I were to take it to heart I would get an incoherent stew as I attempt to revise.


Here is when feedback makes me spring to action:

*When it instantly resonates

**When it repeats from different readers

Getting the voice to hit the right note of authenticity for the age is a challenge those who write for their own age do not have to worry about. Getting feedback from younger readers is also good, but keep in mind— each is still an individual.

 We who write for children must keep the reader’s age in front of us always.


  1. I think I default to teen speak when I write. ;) I had a tough time writing for adults, but I'm glad I did and think in the end it's going to be one of my best books.

  2. Voice for YA can be especially difficult since their slang is constantly changing. :D

    1. Both you and Kelly^ know and do YA well :)

  3. Replies
    1. Thank you, Tina, for helping get the voice right.

  4. I think MG voice can be especially tricky, because kids really do run the gamut from precociously mature to completely childlike. So it becomes a matter of taste for the reader, and a matter of connecting with the character, which can be as subjective as connecting with a flesh and blood person - sometimes personalities just clash :)

  5. I used to write for children, and in fact those stories were my first publishing credits. But that was many years ago and now my writing voice has changed, geared to adults. If I tried writing for kids or YA, pretty sure it would ring false and old-fashioned.

  6. One of my pet peeves is hearing the adult author's voice when reading middle grade. It's so hard to keep the voice consistent, but when it feels right it really is as if that character is speaking directly to you.

  7. All of the above? I would've been confused, too. What gets me into a story is definitely the voice. But like Lily says, the MG voice(s) can be tricky.