Ever wonder what you’re doing in this business of writing? Wish you’d taken up something easier, like mountain climbing or bungee jumping or studying Russian? I know I do. Almost daily.
But, on the other hand, I wouldn’t change a minute of the years I’ve spent in this crazy writing life. Nor would I trade any one of the friends I’ve made who are just as crazy as I am for sticking to it all this time.
We all do precisely what we want to do. We find a way if we truly want to write.
Are you writing to make lots of money? Or, to be famous and appear on Oprah? Or do you simply want to write the best darn books and stories you can so other people will enjoy reading your words?
Accomplish the last first, and maybe the first two will follow, but even if they don’t, you’ve done something most people never do. Achieved self-satisfaction in a job well done.
Many talents go into creating a darn good book. Some are easier to learn than others. One thing’s for sure. We are either creative or we’re not. No one can teach us that. But we can learn to hone our craft. Probably one of the most difficult facets of writing is recognizing when we’ve found our voice.
Writers are like singers, they have distinct voices. The problem is finding and developing that voice. Like singers we have to practice, study our craft, find our passion, before we can begin to develop that voice.
Do you know why poets often make the best writers of prose? Because they, like singers, have developed a voice. Learn to sing to your readers, capture and awe them and don’t turn them loose until you’re finished with your «song.»
No one can teach you a writing voice, but you can learn how to search for it and recognize when you’ve found it, and having found it, you can strengthen it.
Your writer’s voice begins in your heart, your mind, your soul. It comes from your perceptions of the world around you, and those perceptions come from the lullabies your mother sang, the stories your father told, the way your family expressed love, joy, hate and anger. It comes from your own likes and dislikes, what you are passionate about. From all this you can develop a unique voice.
Let’s say you’ve created solid multi-dimensional and emotional characters, you’ve written the best book or story or article you can possibly write. It’s all there: fresh settings, crisp dialogue, a sense of place, conflict, a thematic focus, good pacing. The story is original and well plotted, with sub plots and interesting twists and turns. Surprises and foreshadowing that go hand in hand.
You’ve developed a rhythm, set a tone. Scenes and sequels present the reader with excitement and a time to relax and ponder what’s happened and what may happen. You’ve studied and practiced viewpoint until you have it down cold.
You’ve all read the master, Dwight Swain’s Techniques of the Selling Writer, of course, and so you know when and how to drop a corpse through the roof.
So why doesn’t someone buy your work? Why do you continue to get rejections? Or – even worse, you broke through the barriers, found a publisher and then your book just languished on the shelf. So why aren’t your creations selling the way they should?
More than likely it’s that you haven’t developed a voice of your own. A unique voice. You do not yet speak with an entrancing tongue. You have not yet learned what makes your story and the way you tell it absolutely breathtaking, unique to you alone.
Perhaps I can help you solve your dilemma. Before you begin to work on your own voice read and attempt to recognize voice in other writers’ works. Some are popular because they tell exciting stories. They aren’t even particularly good writers. But those with the greatest following are those with a distinct voice that involves the reader in great stories. Read until you can recognize the voice of those writers who move you.
To begin developing your own voice, first consider what you are writing about. Is it truly what you want to write, what you were meant to write? When you sit down to write, do you experience an unbridled passion?
If you can answer yes to those questions, then you probably are well on your way to developing your voice.
If the answer is no to these questions, if you dread making your way to that place where you write, have to force yourself to do so, or if you are confused and aren’t sure about your voice, here are some things you can do.
A. Rewrite passages from other books the way you would write them. Turn loose, don’t be afraid to be innovative, write down things you might never write ordinarily. As they say today, go to the edge. Be bold. Write the things you’ve always wanted to write, but never had the courage. Do this a lot for practice.
B. Read something you have written into a tape recorder, then go somewhere quiet away from your work space, sit in the dark and with your eyes closed and your mind open listen only to the sound of your voice. Oh, I know, isn’t it terrible? But get over your aversion and listen for the rhythm, the song your words sing.
Pay attention to inflections in your reading voice until you get a feel for the passage. Then listen again and try to think where you might change the pace, the tone, the rhythm, use a stronger verb or drop an adjective or adverb.
This is not editing, but rather adjusting the song, if you will. Exercising your writer’s diaphragm.
C. Now, rather than reading the passage, turn on your recorder again, and this time pretend you’re telling your story to an audience around a campfire. Let go and be inventive. Speak in your voice. Don’t look at what you’ve written. Include some dialogue where it might help, right off the top of your head. Create verbally. Now, listen to the tape and write down your story the way you told it, rather than the way you first wrote it. Do this a lot and you will develop a voice unique only to you. You will then write with an entrancing tongue.