How to Discover & Harness Your Writing Voice
So I totally missed last week's post AND I AM SO SORRY, MY DEAR DRAGONS. Unexpected company, a multiple-hour-long SAT practice test, attempts at Camp NaNoWriMo, and just life in general kind of laughed at me and poked me with a stick.*
So today we're going to be talking about writing voice.*
*Oopsies for missing that, last week! Again, I'm terribly sorry! 🙁
I have a confession to make: I don't like Jane Austen's books. Don't get me wrong; I love the era and the romance and the drama and all the pretty books and dresses and such. Having thrived upon BBC's Emma, Pride & Prejudice, and Death Comes to Pemberley -- as well as the 1990s Emma Thompson version of Sense & Sensibility -- for the past few years, I cracked open Emma last December, expecting all the fun and sweetness of the miniseries. In truth, I hated it. (*runs screaming and hides behind stack of Rick Riordan books* *dislodges Austenites' arrow from ribcage*
*dies a slow, painful, miserable death*)
Thus, I set Emma aside and picked up Pride & Prejudice, a much preferred tale... I thought it was better than Emma, but I still slugged through it, hating every moment.*
*It was a class assignment to choose a pre-1900s, non-US novel, in case you're wondering why I kept reading. (*coughs and casually attempts to dodge another Austenite arrow*)
Though I enjoyed Austen's plots and characters, her writing style was not for me. The rich, witty writing was too fudge-like: it was good at first, but as time passed and I digested more of it, my senses rebelled.
Last summer, I won a copy of Ivy Rose's The Old River Road, and I started reading immediately. Ivy's beautiful writing style, adorable characters, and sweet plot line drew me in from the first page. By the end of the novel, it had earned both a place in my heart and a spot on my favorites' shelf.*
*Haven't read The Old River Road? GO READ IT NOW. Here's the link to the kindle edition, and here's the link to the paperback. NOW GO BUY IT. YOU HAVE NO EXCUSE NOT TO.
Ivy and Austen's books became either favorites or non-favorites based solely on the author's voice. Your voice can drive your novel to be a win for your readers.*
*Of course, not every story is going to be for every reader, and a certain writing style may not just fit a certain type of reader. Like Jane Austen. Lots of people adore her novels, but her books just aren't my favs.
I first learned about writing voice early last year. My reaction was basically a weird screaming goat thing because whaaat? You have to worry about whether or not your writing = your voice ALONGSIDE your plot, characters, setting, and theme?
A few months later, in August 2016, I had a crazy dream, which soon transformed into an idea for a sci-fi novel/novella.* Upon awakening from this dream-with-no-apparent-source, a few first lines came to mind over the course of the day. Elated by the concept that, hey!, these sentences were actually decent, I proudly shared them with my parents. From all appearances, I'd unveiled a small window with a blurry view of my writing voice.
*This idea is now my problem-child, but that's beside the point.
Looking back on my first few lines, they weren't great (and will probably undergo a thousand-and-one eons of construction before I ever let them risk seeing the light of day, again). Since then, I've learned more about my voice, and I've found that -- thank God -- there's a lot more of your voice to be discovered than what first appears on the surface. Here are a few practices that have helped -- and continue to help -- me learn more about my writing voice:
1. READ THE BOOKS YOU WANT TO READ
You want to read the books you want to read with good reason. Go ahead. Read them. Take chances with the stories you're not as interested in, too. The more you read, the more you learn.
2. KEEP YOUR STORIES TO YOURSELF
I'm not saying to never let people read your books. But during the first draft or two, it's extremely important to write with your door closed. I love my family and value their input, but I think being so eager to share my sci-fi story helped it to lose its stability and become one of my least favorite book-babies.
Waiting to share your story with the world (or even just a few friends, family members, or beta readers) allows the creativity to flow when you need it most. In other words...
3. WRITE WITH NO LIMITS
Don't think about how your story will be published and an international bestseller, someday. 😉
Write. Just write. (Easier said than done, though, am I right?) Let your creativity fly as free as Maleficent.*
*SPOILER for the 2014 movie (in white, in case you haven't seen it, yet 😉): Just don't let your true love steal it. 😐
4. STUDY AUTHORS WHOSE VOICES YOU LOVE
Got a favorite author? Ask them questions, if you can. Is there anything different they do that you can work into your routine?
If you can't ask them questions, don't be afraid to open your notebook and jot down a few paragraphs of their book. Feel their writing style -- how their sentences are structured, how they introduce the characters or the setting. For a few moments, let their story be yours. Just don't plagiarize. 😉
5. WRITE... A LOT
Got a few moments at the end of a busy day? Take that time to write. Like reading, the more you write, the more you learn.
I hope you found this post as helpful to read as I found to write it!
Do you have a particular way of learning more about your voice? Anything you'd care to share?
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recovered from Pixabay.