Friday, March 14, 2014

Finding Your Writer's Voice

Are you confused about the meaning of using your writer's voice? You're not alone. I remember the first time I head the term. It was the early days of my writing world. I'd met a children's book writer just by chance. She agreed to do some back and forth critiquing and before long, she became my mentor. I respect and admire her to this very day. Barb and I were sitting at my kitchen table one afternoon. She had critted a story of mine and was explaining some of her remarks. At one point, she said, There's no doubt that you've found your voice. It comes through clearly in all that you write.

I knew it was a compliment but I really did not understand what she was telling me. I was glad I had it, but the bigger question for me was what was it?I didn't want to admit my ignorance by asking her to define the term. Little by little, I figured it out through reading books on the craft of writing, listening to others at my critique groups and using the brain God gave me. Voice in writing is an abstract and I tend to deal much better with concretes so it did take me awhile. 

A writer's voice is his/her style of writing. It's what is unique to your own writing. It's the way you put words together to form sentences and thoughts. It comes from within you. You can't buy it. You can't sew it together. You can't paint it. Your life experiences create some of it. Your personality creates some of it. You create it unconsciously. 

Have you ever heard someone say that they loved the way a certain author writes? They meant that the author's voice spoke volumes to them. Sometimes writers emulate the voice of an author they like especially well. It happens a lot in the beginning stages of your writing life, I think. Oh, I'd love to write like Maeve Binchy is what your subconscious might tell you, or you might even be well aware that you are striving to sound just like this prolific Irish author. But you are not Maeve Binchy. You're you! And it's your voice that you want to come through to the reader. 

Are there ways to find your writing voice? You'll find plenty of articles on the subject if you google. It would be worthwhile to read several of them. Some do more than define it, they give you tips on how to find it. If you've ever been told that you haven't found your voice yet, it's nothing to worry about. If you let it come naturally, it will happen. 

My suggestion is to be yourself when you write. Don't try to be Ernest Hemingway. Don't try to be John Grisham or Barbara Taylor Bradford or Patricia Cornwell. Don't try to be the woman who teaches a writing course you're taking. Don't try to be the one who leads your critique group. Let your own personality and experiences shine through your writing and you'll have your voice. Once you've got it, never let it go. 

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