Friday, June 19, 2009

Friday--The Writers' Porch--Find Your Own Voice

Find Your Own Voice (Part 1)

As a writer one of the most difficult things to accomplish is finding your own voice. Beginning writers muddle around with tone and phrasing, many times copycatting another writer that they admire. They mimic words, phrasing, and structure that they read and attempt to sound just like ________________________________. (Fill in the blank with a famous author.)

I certainly went through this phase. Honestly, I still struggle with it. Just today I was reading Little Bee by Chris Cleave and thought “Ooooh, I love this writing. Hmmmm, I must study it more.” Well, first of all, Chris Cleave is a man, Englishman, raised in Africa and married to a French woman. I doubt that my muse is going to sound like his at all . . . sigh.

I admit going through my Beth Moore craze and wanting to write with passion and wit. My first book, I used the phrase, “Beloved," blah, blah, blah. My editor said, “Are you kidding me? No way are we using the term, “Beloved” when talking to the reader.” He was right. I would have sounded ridiculous since I am not Beth Moore . . . sigh. Then there was the Anne Lamott phase, but how can you write like Ms. Lamott without intentional vulgarity . . . sigh again. My dreams of writing like Philip Yancey deteriorated after I realized that I do not have his intellect or the time to write a treatise on why bad things happen in a world that a sovereign God controls—big sigh. I think you see my history as a writer.

But remember, writers write. And if you are going to discover your own voice you must write, write and write. Eventually words that are yours begin to appear on the screen, and they sound like you. Now, after many years of writing, I am told frequently that whenever one of my devotions come up on Encouragement for Today (Proverbs 31 Ministries) someone begins to read it and recognizes me as the author--before they see my name. I am beginning to find my own voice.

In addition, as I write, edit, and revise I am much more adept at detecting when I am writing in an artificial tone. It’s as if a loud clang goes off in my head and then I think, “Who wrote those words?”

Let me close today with this final thought on finding your own voice in writing. I do not believe that we are locked into one emotional voice of writing. I can write in a dead serious tone, but I can also write droll little pieces that make people laugh. But “my voice” still comes through.

Next Friday, we will chat about another way of finding your voice in writing which includes deciding what genre and type of material you desire to write. Until then, I have a little assignment for you. Browse through your own writing and see if you detect any authors that you have consciously or subconsciously copycatted. Try to rewrite these manuscripts from your personality and writer’s voice.


DOakley said...

Great advice, Susanne!

I'm in the process of completely re-writing a book I started writing 20 years. I realized that my writing voice had changed (as did the fashions I had my characters where, and the technology I needed for my book) since I started writing it and completed it.

My 15-year-old voice was very different from the *ahem* 30-something voice. It was very hard to reconcile them.

Time to go back to the beginning.


Backfence said...

Good blog Susanne. I didn't realize I had a "voice" of my own until I lost it. My husband (usually my most devoted fan - wise man that he is) was reading the latest installment of my WIP and I noticed a distinct furrowing of his brow that did not bode well for my ego. When I asked what was wrong, he shook his head and said, "This doesn't sound like you at all."

I re-read it and, sure enough, it wasn't me. It was a rather poor imitation of the writing style of the author whose book I'd been reading at the time - a chicklit book (not usually my thing; mine is more historical fiction).

What I learned from that was to be careful what I read while I'm in the process of writing. And it was the first time I recognized that I did have a clear and distinct "voice" of my own.

Thanks for the reminder.

Carol B