Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Voice


As writers we hear a lot about Voice. And when we're first starting out, we angst about our authorial voice. How can I find my voice? Will I know it when I see it? It's one of those nebulous things like pace or brand that scares the daylights out of a new author because we're told we need to master it and be able to identify it, but it eludes us. There's no checklist for voice. No steps to take to master it.
So what is a writer to do?
The simple answer? Write.

That's it. Just write.
You can't help but find your voice when you write. You have a unique story to tell in your own way. Voice is comprised of vocabulary, reading influences, genre you're writing in, syntax, emotion, lots of things you can't quantify but that melded together make your voice yours alone.
I didn't realize I had a writing voice until about my fifth novel. (all unpublished so far) I think before that, I was writing to emulate authors I admired. I was doing a novel in a paint-by-number style. Even after my fifth novel, I didn't realize I had an author voice until my critique partner, Georgiana, pointed it out to me. I had entered a blind-judged writing contest on a blog where she happened to be a judge. (She didn't know I'd entered the contest, and I didn't know she was a judge.) And when she got to my entry she knew it was my writing. Even though the story was a humorous personal experience story and not anything like the historical romances I write, she could pick out right away that the article sounded like me.
Since then, I've sent a couple of my early works to Georgiana and she's sent them back saying, "This doesn't sound like you. Not the you I've come to know."
Because I'll be resurrecting two of my early works, I've decided I can't just polish them up. I'm going to need to rewrite them from scratch, because they need to be written in my voice. My new, emerging, getting stronger the more I use it voice.
So, have you found your voice yet? What are you doing to develop it? Are you writing? Are you reading good fiction, in your genre and out of it? Has anyone ever told you they recognize your writing voice?
BLOG TOUR UPDATE:
Nov. 17th It’s guest blog day! The topic of discussion today over at Cindy Wilson’s blog http://cindyrwilson.blogspot.com/ is about overcoming obstacles in the writing journey. And at JamieD’s place http://thevarietypages.blogspot.com/ you can read the first chapter of The Bartered Bride.

21 comments:

  1. I love how you explain voice, Erica. I'm always interested to read and hear what other authors/writers have to say about voice. I've heard some say "you either have a good, interesting, unique voice, or you don't." I like how you explain that it takes practice and experience. We should be writing and reading to find our voice. I've had some people say they like my voice, but I know that I need a lot more practice to make sure everything I write sounds like, well, me. Great post. This is one of my favorite topics to read about.

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  2. Great post!
    Like Heather, I enjoyed how you explained voice.

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  3. That's right--I can pick you out of a line up ;) I'm excited to read your earlier works in your Erica Vetsch voice!

    As for me...hmmm...I can pick my voice out of a line up too, but that's to be expected. LOL!

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  4. That's a great way to explain voice. I love that you mention writing paint by number style. I was just thinking about that yesterday and how I like to follow the rules and write as expected. But this NaNo manuscript is really allowing me to break out of my box and try to capture my voice in a new way.

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  5. This is truly one of the most thrilling parts of the writing journey for me b/c it works in collaboration with who God is wanting me to be and who He's made me in the Spirit.

    I have an idea blossoming for novel #4 that might stray from my voice and I'm trying to meld the concept with a way to still exude...me.

    Great post and great interview over at Cindy's blog.

    ~ Wendy

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  6. I think I've found my voice, but it still cracks once in a while. LOL

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  7. I think one of the best things for me as a developing writer was I had NO idea what all I was doing wrong, and I didn't know for a few years. Because I just focused on writing, I developed my voice without being bogged down by rules. It's SO easy to get yourself trapped by all the rules when you're just starting.

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  8. I've been thinking a lot about voice lately. I've decided that voice, for me, isn't something comes easily. Maybe that sounds like an oxymoron. Maybe that's a contradiction, because isn't voice supposed to just flow naturally? I'm thinking mine doesn't. My first drafts are usually horrid because they lack my voice. During revision, I choose my words and phrases very carefully, and this ends up being my voice. I'm not sure if this is weird or not.

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  9. I face the same issue when I look at my first novel. I found my voice halfway through it, and so I have to go back and "fix" the first part!

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  10. Wow, that's cool, Erica. Interesting that you've chosen to rewrite your earlier story. Will you go by a detailed outline for each scene then?

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  11. Heather, I think voice is something that emerges as you become more comfortable. I, for one, enjoy your voice, which I think shines through on your blog posts. :)

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  12. MeganRebekah, thanks for stopping by today. I'm glad the post helped. Like Heather, I have heard some people say 'you either have it or you don't' but I think you have it, you just don't know it, when it comes to writer's voice. :)

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  13. G! I can pick out your voice too, and I LOVE it! I can't wait to do edits on FFL, which are languishing in my inbox until NaNo is over.

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  14. Cindy, I think you've hit on something there. One of the secrets, I think, to finding your voice, is to let go of the inhibitions and just feel the rain on your skin. :) Sorry, I digress into song lyrics...But with NaNo, there's not time to fuss with writing rules and the whole paint-by-number method. You really have to spill it all out there, and that usually leads to some truth you didn't know you harbored.

    Those truths are all part of your author voice, and one of the reasons why when you finish NaNo you think you have an utter disaster of a messy manuscript on your hands, but when you go back to read it later, you realize there are some really shiny parts you didn't realize you could write.

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  15. Wendy, how exciting to be on the cusp of something new!

    Totally just my opinion, but I think even stretching yourself to write out of the box, you will find that your writer-voice goes with you. And changing the genre you're writing in can sometimes clarify your voice by making you stretch.

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  16. Jessica, I busted out laughing!

    My son is in the throes of the voice change, and it drives him bonkers sometimes.

    I kind of think that's the same way it has been with me, learning to write, having my voice crack and go all over the place and not seeming to have much control over it, and then one day, it was just there the way it should be. :)

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  17. Stephanie, I think you've hit on something there. I think a lot of writers, early in their writing careers, write from a place of great joy and their voice shines through.

    Then, they start learning the craft, applying the rules, and trying to 'write to order' and their voice somehow gets suffocated under all their new knowledge.

    It's only when they become comfortable with who they are and what they write once more, and they weild their new crafty-tools with more skill, that their voice, now polished and shiny, emerges once more better and stronger than it was before.

    Again totally just my opinion based on my own experience. :)

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  18. Rosslyn, isn't it cool that you can recognize your voice and see where you've strayed from it? You found yours early on. I must be a slower learner. :D

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  19. Eileen, the stories not only need rewritten from a craft standpoint, but they also need to be cut down to fit the publisher's guidelines, so I will be working from a barebones outline of the story and starting from the ground up. I'll have the characters, the setting, and the basic plot, but everything is subject to change. Scenes will be cut, combined, rewritten, characters melded together to do more than one job, and the whole idea snugged up into a tidier bundle. :)

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  20. Katie, I don't think that is an oxymoron. My first drafts are yukky, but the part of my voice that comes out in the first draft is more on the plot side than the character side, and as I edit and rework, my voice comes into play. Word choice, paragraph structure, dialogue and attributions, action beats. The way I arrange those elements are all part of my voice. If you and I took the same icky page of a first draft and edited it, it would come out different because our voices are different.

    Sometimes I think an author's voice is his own view from the top of the hill. You and I might be on the top of a mountain, and if we stood back to back and described what we saw, it would be similar in some respects and completely different in others, because our views from the top of the same mountain would be different.

    I don't know if that makes any sense at all...it did in my head...in my voice. :D

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  21. Totally made sense! Love how you explain it. Voice is something I grapple with constantly!

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