First of all I want to say while, yes, the saying goes, ‘the road to hell is paved with good intentions’, my intentions for this blog have been thwarted in the last week with both time and technology. I had every intention to post this last Friday (my new preferred day for posts), but everything seemed to be working against me– including my internet. Then I was gone all weekend to visit family where internet was not available. Yes, there are still such places! Anyway, here we are on Tuesday of a new week already! Better late than never, I suppose.
Today I want to talk about something that I thought of often as I began writing years ago. And just to be clear what I mean by ‘Writer’s Voice’, is the unique, sui generis that is the cadence of your individual writing.
For a long time, when I was a brand new writer, I thought my ‘Voice’ was as natural as breathing. There was no need to put effort into honing something both innate and ineffably all mine. I was also something of a self-described purist in my immature thinking, in that, I thought to edit my words past a certain point would be to kill that Voice altogether. Now that I’m over myself ;), I can see that we all have a journey as writers to find that elusive Voice.
Yes, there is something to the idea that our Voice is a part of us, somewhat natural. But I do believe that there is something we can do to make sure our Voice becomes the best it can be. There are layers of muck– errant thoughts, bad grammar, imprecise prose, etc.– that need to be peeled back to reveal the clearest, most genuine Voice we have.
Here are some things that have helped me to find who I am and want to be as a writer, as well as trained my Voice to cooperate with what I want to convey with my writing.
The first seems counterintuitive: Read… a lot! Read many different authors, new, classic, long-winded, concise. Read from many different genres. Step out of your comfort zone. If you don’t have the fortune you’d love to spend on filling your house with books (like me), then get a library card and download books on your Kindle or other e-reader. It’s great! You can experience so many authors’ works without the commitment and money of buying the books first. Now, if you love the book, pass on the love and buy it!
You might say, “But I don’t want to sound like other authors. I want to sound like me.” Hang in there. You will. What you’re doing while reading a spectrum of other authors’ work is tuning your own inner Voice. When you read these books, study them, learn what you felt worked, didn’t work, what you liked, didn’t like. Soon it will become evident the things that you would like to incorporate in your own writing and strain out the things you don’t. Learn from the masters of their craft!
Maybe you love the fast paced, short chapters of James Patterson. Maybe you love the brevity of Earnest Hemingway. Perhaps you like the dry, subtle humor of Jane Austen or the quirky wit and characters of J. K. Rowlings. The suspense of Peretti, or the elegant prose of L. M. Montgomery. Whatever it is, studying the greats and even writers you don’t necessarily care for, will make you a better writer and help you find your own Voice.
The next thing you can do sounds just the opposite– so intuitive, that I can almost hear you say, “Duh!”
Write… a lot! But I don’t just mean write what you know. Write everything. Write poetry. Write articles and non-fiction. Write in a journal that only you will read. Write short stories, write in a blog (keep up with it better than me too!), and yes, write that novel. Write what comes natural to you, write what you have to research, write what scares you. Only by writing everything you can get your hands on, can you truly develop your skill. And when you develop your writing, you will peel back those layers of dirt and grime, whatever is hindering you, to reveal the beauty of your true Voice beneath.
I know for me the enemy is time, time, time! So I totally get that it’s hard to fit it all in. But I promise you that doing these things will only help you become the writer you want to be. Even if you start with 15 minutes a day for reading, and maybe 10 minutes of writing on something other than your WIP (or whatever works for you), you will learn so much about yourself as a writer, improve your craft, and start finding that Voice.
The thing to remember, of course, is that I’m talking about your definitive Voice as an author. This is the guts, the meat, the soul– whatever you want to call it, threaded through each piece you write. I do realize that the tone of each story you write may be different. And your story, as it’s told through the eyes of different characters most certainly should be different. That’s more of what you’d call the narrative voice of your story. K. M. Weiland wrote a great article on this topic. Go check it out.
Anyway, write on people!
Blessings to all,
Mollie Joy Rushmeyer
Does anyone else have advice on how to find that Writer’s Voice? As always, I would love to hear what you’re working on! Feel free to comment below!
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