We had Theodora Goss lecture on "Finding Your Voice(s)".
It's the classic "it's not what you say, but how you say it."
A big part of voice is how you use the tools available to you as a writer. How you use punctuation. How you mix longer sentences with shorter. Which words you choose to use.
He cut down the tree vs He felled the ancient oak.
Both passages say pretty much the same, but in two very different ways.
The foremost thing I brought with me from the lecture was this: Sentences need to multi-task. You can increase the density by writing a paragraph and then asking of each sentence if it's doing at least two things. This is not necessarily two actions, maybe it's one action that also propels the character forward towards his goal. Or it's a piece of dialogue that both reveals something about the relationship between the two characters.
I will also bring this quote (and many others) from Theodora with me:
This is week three. You are used to being tortured.
She is a graduate of Odyssey and knows what we're going through.
After lunch we did in-class critiques with Theodora. My story "The Sagas Will Have the Truth of it" was up.
I wrote the text as an experiment, on several levels. First off, I wanted to write epic science fiction, which I've never really done. I also wanted to write it from an alien's point of view, which is a huge risk, since I am of the conviction that things a character knows should never be explained clearly in the text. It can be inferred from what is happening and what is said, but not spelled out. This means that things that are part of an alien's everyday life should not be explained if the alien is the point of view character.
I was scalded for this, naturally. I had expected nothing else. Many people thought I got lost to much in my setting and my story elements, which I always tend to do, but more so here than ever I would say. Many also said it was a very interesting setting. Most, including those that liked it, had their strangeness budget severely exceeded by my story.
Then along comes Theodora Goss. She believed I should send it to what might be the world's premier SF magazine. Yes, it was flawed, she said, but the concept was so unique that she felt it needed to be sent out after I had it revised and polished. She also thought it could be reworked into a novel, which was cool to hear. Quite the ego boost right there, I can tell you.
The rest of the day passed in a sort of blur. I didn't do any of the critiques, since I was too worked up. The whole class had pizza dinner, with Theodora attending. So we got another hour, hour and a half of Q&A with her about all things about being a writer. Very interesting.
That night, I started working on my Vikings and werewolves story.