"Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, 'What! You too? I thought I was the only one.'" ~ C. S. Lewis

Monday, April 26, 2010

Voice

If you are a writer or you frequent writer's, agent's or publisher's blogs, then you have no doubt heard that word over and over and over.

Develop your voice
Keep your voice unique
Make sure your query letter captures your voice

We say
I liked the voice of this novel.

Or

Their blog has such a distinctive voice.

What the hey are we talking about? Sometimes (not all the time by any means, but sometimes) I think the word is thrown around without us really thinking about what we mean by it. Don't know how to compliment that piece of flash fiction? Just say, I liked the voice.
Haven't a clue what that poem actually meant? It had an interesting voice.

You know what I mean.

I asked myself, Self, what on earth is your voice?

(btw, have you noticed that when you repeat "voice" over and over like I just have that it starts to sound REALLY weird. Just saying)

When I was working on my novel, I was sure I had found my voice. *angelic singing* I was sure I was writing something that no one else had ever done and that it would be the greatest novel of the century (okay, so not that last part.)

I finished it. People read it and complimented it. It was WAY too long so I sat down to edit it.

Suddenly it was the most blah thing ever. The characters (well, some of them) were flat and unrealistic and it sounded like every other Christian Historical Romance I had ever read. oogh.

So it hides there in its folder waving at me occasionally.

I started a couple of other projects, but everything was falling flat. I had lost my voice.

That's right, I had writer's laryngitis. (this is in fact a real disease, soon to be named after me)

A year ago I started blogging. Whoo. hoo. Please, spare yourself the trouble and never go back to read some of my first posts (the Lost stuff is pretty decent, but I wrote pretty much the WORST book reviews ever).

So I didn't really do much of anything here. For quite a while. (looking back over it, I pretty much ONLY wrote Lost stuff, which no one read, because I wasn't going to any blog but Nik at Nite. pretty sad - not that I was following her blog, because her blog is awesomesauce, but that I wasn't checking anyone else's out, but expecting other people to find me.)

Then I started poking around to some other bloggers' sites. Wow! There were cool people here! And we had similar interests! And they were funny or serious, but always entertaining. Maybe I should try writing like they did!

(hint. If you are looking for your voice, imitating other people will not be very successful)

However, it will make you write more. So I wrote. And I wrote. And I posted a LOT of garbage. But then I started to write about things I actually cared about. Like my job and the ridiculous people there. And my writing struggles. And more Lost (a little bit). And some of the TV I was watching. And my family.

I visited more blogs. I wrote more garbage. I started to write some not so garbage. People started coming over and reading. Crazy.

Then I started the A-Z challenge AND started ScriptFrenzy on the SAME day. Because I am insane.

So I had to write every day. Except Sundays. That is a lot of days and a lot of blank pages to fill. But I had to write, because I didn't want to fail. I had to come up with something halfway decent to post about Every. Single. Day.

I'll be the first to admit that some of these days are pretty much garbage. Especially toward the middle when my brain started melting.

But something remarkable happened around "S" and around page 50 of my script. (of which I am woefully behind on, but am still holding out hope for a win) my laryngitis seems to have cleared up.

It was also about this time that I got the following two comments within a 24 hour period.
(I hope they don't mind that I'm repeating them here :)

Both commented shortly after I had done a late night comment on their blog.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Rebecca, you are too funny -- although that's bad about the post that hit the twilight zone.


Raquel Byrnes said...

I like your posts...but I love your comments. Very funny.

I read those and thought, "huh. I'm funny?"

I have NEVER considered myself a funny writer. Sarcastic? absolutely. Humorous? perhaps. But not funny. I don't do funny. Every time I try to be funny I'm so not. At. All.

So I asked myself, self, what did you do that made them think you were funny, because you really should try it more often.

I love funny books and it has always made me sad that I can't write funny.

I thought about it and realized that I hadn't overthought things. When I comment on someone's blog I don't agonize over my words. I don't go back and forth to make sure that I haven't repeated myself (at least not much), I don't self-edit to death (much). Mainly I just jot down my reaction or what I'm thinking or whatever random thing popped into my head and hit post. This can be dangerous, but it is also very freeing.

I think that's when it hit me. Your voice is what comes out when you aren't worrying about your voice or about what someone is going to think or about whether it's "right". Your voice has to be authentic.

I had over-edited my voice until it pretty much disappeared. But this month has helped me get past that.

Is every word I write going to be not garbage? No. (umm... yeah, that sentence pretty much was garbage)

Is every post going to be scintillating and attention grabbing? No.

Is my story going to magically write itself? No way on earth.

But my voice is growing stronger with every word I type. My voice will continue to develop and grow as I do, but I'm not as worried about "is this my voice?" anymore. It's my voice because it's me. When I just let myself go and don't think about HOW I'm writing, everything flows much more easily. Editing is still a monster, but at least I'm editing me and not someone I was trying to be.

Have you thought about voice? Do you write your blog in a different voice than you use in your fiction or even in real life? Was there something that helped you to find your voice?

And here's an extra little treat - just a little song by someone who's "voice" I really enjoy (and it's pretty much my favorite song right this minute)

19 comments:

The Alliterative Allomorph said...

LOL
"That's right, I had writer's laryngitis"
Love this. Made me laugh out loud.

I have to say that this has been the most entertaining post I've read all day.

Looks like you found your mojo ;)

So, now, you've made me think, and I have to ask myself, self, do you use the same voice on your blog as you do everyday and in your fiction? I think that answer is gonna have to be yes - but only up to a certain extent. Underneath it all lies, me - me an my mojo ;)

E. Elle said...

I think you hit the nail on the head with what voice really is. I'm so glad you found yours! (And really, it's a fabulous voice. I love hanging out over here.)

I think I found my voice in college, when I had to write a 30+-page paper for my senior capstone project. I'd been so afraid of offending people that I'd lost my voice. I asked my professor how I should censor myself and he said, "don't. Write what you want to write and don't worry about everyone else." I've applied that over and over again and it's helped me develop a real, true, ME voice.

Great post! (Since it's so fabulous, your next one can be trash. ;o) )

Mia said...

Definitely right about the over-use of voice.

I try not to think about mine because, like you said, that's when the problems start a'coming. I've been told I'm "witty" and "funny" before but I never really see it. I'm just me ;~) I think not trying to over analyse your voice is the key.

Oh, and I'm totally this mental in real life :P No pretending whatsoever.

Great post for "v" :~D Happy Monday!!

Falen said...

i think the only way to discover voice is to just write. A lot.
A whole lot.

Talli Roland said...

Great post and so true!

I tried to be very serious, etc, only to realise that my writing works best when it's short and snappy.

Cynthia Reese said...

What a great way to describe voice! And yes, you ARE funny!

KarenG said...

Blogging DOES help writers loosen up and find their voice!! Yay for blogging! It's NOT a waste of time after all!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Great post! I went through major frustrations with my voice until let it be organic to who I am. And it worked. :D (I'm not sure if that made sense, but my kids are begging me to make dinner now--no time to edit it.)

B. Miller said...

This was such a great post, I went back and read it twice. Thank you so much for sharing this. This is EXACTLY why I got into the blog-universe... to read about people like me who are going through the same struggle I am, who have the same passion I do. Thank you for being so honest about yourself on your blog.

Have a fantastic week!

Jemi Fraser said...

Great post! You have a lovely voice - nothing to worry about :)

SonshineMusic i.e. Rebecca T. said...

@TAA: glad to make you laugh. I love when I hit on just the right phrase. Is it egotistical to say I made myself laugh with that one?

@E.Elle: Aw, thanks. That was great advice from your professor.

@Mia: Overthinking = death of voice. For sure. And I would have guessed that you were "mental" in real life. I think we would probably get along well.

@Falen: exactly. LOTs and LOTS.

@Talli: Yup, you've got to find what works for you.

@Cynthia: thanks :) Sometimes I just don't see it, but I'm glad I amuse.

@KarenG: Blogging is SO not a waste of time for me. I've learned so much about myself over the past few months just by blogging! So there! :D

@Stina: Yeah, that made sense. It has to grow out of who we are rather than who other people think we should be or even what we think we should be. If we're a radish we just won't grow very good cucumbers.

@B. Miller: You're very welcome. I am so glad you enjoyed it.

@Jemi: Ooh. Lovely. *smiles broadly* thanks!

Amie McCracken said...

That one sentence made it all...'Your voice has to be authentic.' I used to be like you and tried to understand my voice. And I was just as confused by what voice was. Now I just write, and I feel free.

Lola Sharp said...

I think you are funny.
I really enjoyed this post.
And I agree with Sarah/Falen...you have to write a lot to find your unique voice. It isn't something you should force.

I'm so excited about the contest!

I want an owl in the worst way.

Erin said...

I can totally hear your "voice" when I read your posts, Rebecca. And yes, you are funny! And a talented writer.

I posted a photo of Owly. Next up he might have to venture out into the garden to have an adventure and get some more pictures taken...

Thanks again!

No LOST tonight. I'm a very sad girl.

Dangerous With a Pen said...

Totally agree with you - I have also lost my "voice" since I haven't been writing lately (bad Lindsey). I hate getting out of the swing like that!

Your blog voice is awesome, you crack me up all the time. :) My blog voice and my writing voice are different. My blog voice is very casual and more sarcastic, where my writing voice is more serious... I think sometimes I try to hard to really craft the words. I probably lose my voice by doing that.

Oh, sure. Just remind me how inferior I am.

Sigh.

:)

Dangerous With a Pen said...

Oops, that was "too" hard. Tired teacher brain has nothing left. ;)

Eww, my word ver. is "flemo"

!!!

Patricia Stoltey said...

This is so true -- I occasionally get feedback saying a particular post is funny or a reader laughed out loud -- it always amazes me because if I set out to be funny, it doesn't work.

I even took a class on writing humor to see if I could figure it out...nope. Voice is apparently what happens when you don't try...

Teebore said...

I often struggle with the fact that my "online" voice (fairly light, slightly sarcastic, a tinge of humor laced with overly complicated and made-up words) isn't always appropriate for the kind of fiction I am writing/want to write.

I do my best to reconcile this by staying true to the style of my voice (the voice of my voice?), if not the tone, in my fiction writing, but it can be tricky.

Simon C. Larter said...

How behind am I on my blog reading that I'm only just now discovering this post? (Very, in case you were wondering the answer to that question.)

Love this one, good lady. I agree 100% and then some that voice happens when we're not worrying so much about self-censorship. If it feels like *you* writing and not whomever you've decided recently would be nice to emulate, then you might be on to something.

'Course, I'm still influenced by what I read and love. But at least the influences are filtered through me and my perceptions.

Great post!