Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Getting Comfortable in My Own Voice

Last week I talked about being deliberate with our writing.

The words we choose, the length of our sentences, even the pacing of our scenes can all be traced back to voice. It's important to get comfortable in our voice, to know it, because if we write how other writers tell us to write and don't know our voice yet, we can lose it.

It's important to learn from other writers, to gain knowledge and new writing skills, but in the end, we're responsible for using these things to strengthen our own voice, and not to carbon copy another's voice.

Have you ever felt like you'd lost your voice, or are you still finding it? Are you comfortable in your voice?

37 comments:

Anita said...

Excellent post, Jessie! In my prior critique group, my partners were often trying to change my voice instead of helping me hone the actual craft of writing. They didn't like the literary quality to it.

But I was blessed because I'd written two books before I ever started looking for a crit group. For me, that worked best, because my voice was very strong by that point so their criticisms didn't damage anything but my faith in them as partners.

Now I have critters (like YOU) who GET my voice and won't touch it, but help me dissect and perfect my stories with an editor's eye. :)

Jessica Nelson said...

Yay!!! And you know I ADORE your voice. :-)
Good for you for having the wisdom to see the difference between a good critique and voice slashing. It's hard sometimes to tell, you know? (not that they were doing it on purpose. didn't mean to imply that)

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I didn't realize I had a voice until I changed it for a book I was writing. When it came to querying, I only received rejections. My CPs told me I needed to go back to the voice they loved (which apparently came out later in the new book). It was only then did I discover what my real voice was.

Jessica R. Patch said...

It took me about three manuscripts to figure out my voice and style. When I've tried to veer away from that at some cp's requests, it doesn't flow right. I gotta be me! :)

Patti said...

I feel like sometimes I lose my voice after I've had my work critiqued. But really that is a perfect time to figure out what you really want to say.

Jessica Nelson said...

Stina, sounds like you had some wise CPs. ;-)

Jessica, yep, that's the truth!

Patti, good point. Crits can be a huge help in refining your voice.

Laila Knight said...

Jessica,

I know my voice and have no trouble using it in a manuscript, but my greatest challenge is making it appear noticable in a query. I've read tons of letters where writers make it seem so easy. Any advice?

Thanks

Jessica Nelson said...

Laila, for a query, I don't know how to make your voice shine. Some do it better than others. I think having an awesome blurb goes far though. If you can get the blurb to hook the agent/editor's attention, then you'll do great. :-) Also, make sure the blurb matches your genre and book in tone.
If you need an extra set of eyes, I'd be happy to take a look (I'm not an expert though, so it would just be opinion)
Anyway, if you learn anything new about voice in queries, pass the info on to me. :-) I could use the help too!

Sarah Forgrave said...

I think I'm finally finding my voice, and the more I write, the more it comes out.

It seems to waver the most after I've just read a great book by another author. Without thinking, my voice starts to sound like them. That's the beauty of edits, though, because then I can go back and catch it. :)

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Every time I say--yes! this is me.--an agent or some other person says, "It needs more voice". LOL. :-)

Jeanette Levellie said...

Am I allowed to have two voices? I have a serious, let-me-pray-for-you-and-encourage-you voice, and a zing in your eye humrous voice. I believe both are valid, and different parts of my personality.

Wendy Paine Miller said...

It's my favorite thing about writing--the freedom of rolling around in my voice...like a dog in fish. HA.

Exactly! (Hey, the dog likes it.)
~ Wendy

Jessica Nelson said...

Shannon, oh no! LOL I'm sorry. But you know, I do think voice ebbs and flows in our work.

Sarah, that same thing happens to me. :-)

Jessica Nelson said...

Jeanette, I don't see why not! :-)

Wendy, haahahaaa, that is so true. Love the image!

Terri Tiffany said...

I think I have finally found mine about a year ago. But I do feel there are times too , when it is being critiqued that it disappears.

Stephanie Faris said...

A few times, I have. But I've found that if I write every day and stay "in" my current story, it comes naturally. It's when I get away from writing for a while that I start to doubt myself.

Diane said...

Seems that I am still fine tuning mine. Blogging is definitely helping with that too. Hope you're having a great week! :O)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Jess -

I don't even think about it. I just write.

The tough part is capturing someone else's voice (as on the church blog - my pastor). It's too easy to slip into my own voice.

Blessings,
Susan :)

MaryC said...

Interesting topic and comments, Jessica. Like several have mentioned, voice can easily be squelched at the hands of an inept critique partner. I had a published author friend in a critique group years ago and we both dropped out because the other members didn't seem able to critique without trying to mold our voices to theirs.
I guess that proves just how valuable a good critique partner is (and how difficult it can be to be one).

Linda Glaz said...

I do think that sometimes we edit our own voices right out of our work. Errgh, such a fine line!

Tana Adams said...

Overall voice is my biggest concern when I write. I tend to have a strong voice that resonates novel to novel. Not sure if that's a good thing!

Angie Muresan said...

I am finally comfortable in my voice, Jessica. Sometimes it is so very hard because I am such a people pleaser.

Rachna Chhabria said...

Hi Jessica...thanks for your comment on my blog. As for the voice, I am trying to find it. So far its been lovely journey of discovery trying to find my unique voice.

Jessica Nelson said...

Terri, yeah, that can happen. But now you know, right? :-)

Great point, Stephanie!

Diane, I think mine is still being fine-tuned too.

Jessica Nelson said...

Susan, that is so very true. Excellent observation and a good reminder!

Hi Mary, yeah, you make a good point. It's easy to tell if my voice might be getting squished, but am I squishing anyone else's? I'm sure I have, but I try not to.

Hey Linda, yeah, I think it's a fine line too.

Jessica Nelson said...

Tana, if each story can stand on its own and is strong in its own right, then I think it's a great thing!

Oooh, Angie, I get that totally. *hugs*

Rachna, what a great attitude! You're right; this should be a lovely journey and it's important we enjoy it. :-)

Linda Kage said...

Very well said. we can't get a our voice from anyone but ourselves.

I hate it when I'm on a roll with a certain voice going on and then have to stop writing abruptly. When I come back, that special little muse for that specific voice is all gone. Grr.

Heather Sunseri said...

I feel like I'm still getting completely comfortable with my own voice. I believe I've found it several times, and I'm starting to recognize when I've stepped out of it. Voice is one of those writing elements that I think we can only find by writing A LOT!

Cheryl Linn Martin said...

Ahh . . . I love my voice. That's what keeps me at this difficult, difficult, rarely rewarded task!!

Jessica Nelson said...

Hey Cheryl, you have a great one!

Good for you Heather, and I def. agree with that supposition.

Linda, yeah, I don't like getting interrupted either. Blech.

Keli Gwyn said...

I found my voice during the rewrite of a story last year, or more accurately, it found me. I'm delighted with it, but there was an element to it that surprised me, which was cool.

Nancy said...

I agree that I do have a voice. I use it on my blog and in my stories when I start. It is very easy to get it edited out or crituqued to where you don't recognize it anymore.

Michelle Teacress said...

Hi there. I'm a new follower.
I'm still finding my voice. It's a bit challenging to catch on to some of these seemingly vague literary concepts.
Have a great weekend. :)

Glynis said...

I read an article about the length of sentences. I changed my ms to suit the description in said article. BIG mistake. I lost my voice, the flow for me disappeared and I changed it all back again.

Interesting post, thanks Jessica.

Jenrozz Dagang said...

Nice post Jessica. This made me realize when It comes to the post I have in my blog. (http://photographyandword.blogspot.com/)

Jessica Nelson said...

Keli, surprises are always cool. *grin*

Nancy, that's awesome you know yours though. :-)

Hi Michelle! Thanks so much for stopping by, and yes, it is challenging. Voice is vague and yet...it's not. I guess it just can't be summed up, you know? Not like math which is very concrete and explainable. Best wishes with your writing!

Jessica Nelson said...

Hey Glynis, wow, kudos to you for all the work you put into your manuscript! That's dedication and it will take you far.

Thanks for popping by, Jenrozz.