How does an author change voices?

I’m delighted to have Wendy Lozano here at Choices. She and I have known each other since we worked on our high school newspaper together – and that’s a long time. After an absence of many years, we reconnected while she carried out a successful career in academia and I worked for the aerospace industry. Coincidentally we are both novel writers now.  Her novel, The Fifth Sun, will be out next week.

Here Wendy shares how she had found her author’s voice after writing in her academic voice during her academic career – similar to my transition from technical writing to creative writing. I find the transition fascinating. I hope you will too.


Changing Voices

by Wendy Lozano

When I wrote my first historical novels in the ‘70s, my name was Wendy Lozano. Writing  seemed really easy to me then. I just fantasized about being in a particular time and place, did some research, and then wrote down my fantasy. I didn’t worry about voice or point of view. They were mine. The only professional editing I ever got were the requests to make the manuscript longer and the sex more explicit.

I had dropped out of college after the first quarter of my freshman year, and returned to finish my undergrad work 13 years later. In the meantime, I had acted off Broadway, played the guitar and sung in coffee houses and bars, demonstrated puppets, moved to Europe, and married someone who became a Spanish pop star. To say that my background was colorful when I returned to the United States and decided to go back to college is an understatement.

I put myself through my undergrad working as a cocktail waitress and bartender. It was while tending bar on a golf course on a Marine Corps station that I wrote my first books. I once told a reporter that I wrote them “between drinks,” not thinking how that would sound.

The Academic Voice

The books helped pay for graduate school, where I studied the social sciences – not English literature. I was disappointed when my first paper received a B instead of the A I expected. There were several whited-out comments from the professor on the pages, which I carefully restored with white-out erase. To my chagrin, he had thoroughly lambasted my writing, saying that it was pop-culture, and not at all what was required in the academy.

So I set about learning the Academic Voice. That meant using declarative sentences, in clear, authoritative phrases that demonstrated my control over the topic at hand. I learned to use “academic hedging” to protect my claims, such as writing “the data suggest” rather than “the data show.” I initially found it strange that the hedging demonstrated my control, but I got pretty good at it.

It wasn’t just style, the vocabulary was different as well. I began to use words and terms like hegemonic, intersectionality, and social construction. I found I had to use different words at school and in the golf course bar. Even the tone of the speaking voice needed to be different. At school, I was expected to speak in a lower register, an authoritative sound that didn’t get me tips from the Marines who played golf. Finally I was able to quit the bar and get a job as a teaching assistant. I gave up fiction writing, as trying to juggle voices was too demanding. My academic life and voice lasted 35 years and is very much still a part of who I am today.

The Author’s Voice

After retiring from the Academy, I returned to my first love – writing. Although I had gone back to my birth name, I decided to use the name I had used on my previous books for a pen name, so that my fiction writing wouldn’t be confused with my academic. I took a partial draft I had started before graduate school and reworked it. It had been so easy before, I expected it to be easy now. I was wrong.

My writing was stiff and authoritative. I was god/goddess looking down describing what my characters did and how they felt. I committed the cardinal sin of telling instead of showing because my point of view was scattered and omnipresent. After all, wasn’t I every character? The agent who had handled my first books had died, and her office was not interested in handling my drafts. That is not a typo – draftS. I sent them two drafts, which they were kind enough to read and critique before refusing.

They did me a huge favor. What I had done fairly naturally, back when publishing was less demanding and competitive, no longer came naturally to me. I bought books on writing and studied them. I subscribed to writers’ magazines and blogs, and joined book groups and discussions. My Kindle account soared with the purchase of novels in my genre, best-selling novels, and books about writers.

I wrote an entirely new draft and sent it off to a content editor. Her detailed comments were like taking a graduate course on writing novels. They were certainly more expensive.  But I think they were worth every penny. My next draft incorporated some of her suggestions and all of her critique.

And by my fifth draft of my third novel, I found my Author’s Voice. That is not to say the finished novel is perfect. But it is much better than the previous two; the characters are more complex, the story more layered, and the point of view is consistent and focused. I finally feel like a writer again, although the Academic in me has a tendency to speak up every now and then. Still, the third book is done and I am happy with it.  As writing is a craft learned on the job. I expect my fourth book will be even better.


About the author

Wendy Lozano is the author of Sweet Abandon, She Who Was King, and the just released The Fifth Sun. Her website,, includes a blog on writing called A Million Monkeys. Her Amazon author page can be found here. She lives in Southern California with her husband, a goldendoodle, and a pond full of koi.


I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I – and maybe learned something from it.

Please let us know.

Thank you, Wendy, for being here today. Congratulations on publishing your novel.





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