Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Your Writer's Voice: Let Your Thoughts Shine

The first time I offered my writing for critique, noted author and speaker Mary Buckham surprised me by telling me I had a strong “voice.”  A year later during a meeting with two newspaper editors, they mentioned the same thing, saying, “You have a distinctive voice.”
"Voice" is the vehicle by which a writer expresses his aliveness, hooks his readers, and keeps them listening. - Author & Critic A. Alvarez 
I didn’t understand their comments, but was delighted to hear professionals say “I had it,” whatever “it” was.  Never one to ignore a mystery, I determined to find out exactly what it meant to write with a strong voice

I discovered a writer’s voice means that one has his/her own style.  They string words together in a unique way and create sentences that connect with readers.  But I still wondered what my writer’s voice sounded like.  Didn't I just sound like boring, old me – stay-at-home Mary Jane - as I used to call myself.  What could my authentic writer's voice possibly be?
The only "trick" to developing your writer's voice and style is to relax and let it flow... - Online Writer Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen
Then I remembered that many years ago (in the 80s) I realized I thought and wrote much like Erma Bombeck.  Sometimes I wouldn’t be able to remember whether a thought was my own or if I had read it in one of her columns.  (Raising three boys gave me lots of fodder.)  So, I quit reading her writing.  I truly enjoyed her columns and books, but never again allowed myself to share the world through her eyes. 

Today I understand why I took this drastic step.  Without understanding why at the time, I intuitively recognized my writer’s voice closely resembled hers.  

We both loved to share our view of the world through a bit of an irreverent lens.  Every time others told me, “That sounds like something Erma Bombeck would write,” I questioned my own creativity, until I finally ended the dilemma by erasing her from my mind. 

That retrieved information helped me figure it out.  I’m kind of a humorist at heart, I guess; and I like to share my world with others.  I was always the first one up when we had “Show & Tell” at school, wouldn’t you know. 

I have a little bit of a wicked side to me (angel vs. devil…but the angel always wins) and I like to take the road less traveled.  My favorite things to do are to work in my garden, ride my shiny red Harley, Ruby Jane, and play with my grandkids.  I love organization and dependability, but also the chaos of creativity.   

Your writer's voice can't be learned.  It has to be freed. - Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen
And that’s who you get when I write: a baby boomer who loves the wind in her hair and lilacs; a seeker who believes there's truth behind the idea of astral travel and the power of crystals; a collector of ephemera, baby dolls and rocks; and a woman who would rather make turkey feather and pine cone collages with her grandkids than attend a cocktail party.  That’s my writer’s voice.

What is your writer's voice?  Have you had trouble finding your voice as a writer?

For more information on developing and understanding your writer's voice: 

Online Source: What is Writer's Voice?  The Key to Writing a Good Story

Online writer Laura Pawlik-Kienlen shares her refreshing outlook on developing your writer's voice.
Don't write to impress fellow scribes.  Write to connect with your readers.  Your writer's voice builds a better bridge to your readers.  It's your fingerprint, it's your individual writing style, and it gives your writing soul.
  • Learn the difference between good writing and voice.
  • Stop comparing yourself to other writers and their voices.
  • Make envy work for you.
  • Picture one specific reader and write to him or her.
The Writer’s Voice by A. Alvarez
Reflections on writing from a master
For a writer, voice is the problem that never lets you go. For a reader, voice is a profound mystery. What is it? How does it develop and why should it even matter? How does the reader hear and respond to an authentic voice, and what happens when the cult of personality threatens to subvert it? These are some of the slippery questions The Writer's Voice addresses with confidence and clarity.

Aspiring young writers often confuse voice with stylishness, but the voice that matters has the whole weight of a life, however young, behind it.

Finding Your Writer’s Voice: A Guide to Creative Fiction
by Thaisa Frank & Dorothy Wall
An illuminating guide to finding one's most powerful writing tool, Finding Your Writer's Voice helps writers learn to hear the voices that are uniquely their own. Their guide mixes creative inspiration with practical advice about craft.

The Sound on the Page: Style & Voice in Writing – Ben Yagoda
In writing, style matters. Our favorite writers often entertain, move, and inspire us less by what they say than by how they say it. In this book acclaimed author, teacher, and critic Ben Yagoda offers practical and incisive help for writers on developing and discovering their own style and voice. This wonderfully rich and readable book features interviews with more than 40 of our most important authors discussing their literary style,


Nancy Owens Barnes said...

Nice post Mary Jane. It is so true that finding and understanding one's voice takes time. It sometimes begins by emulating the writing of other writers we love to read, then eventually, the influence of our own personality takes over and boils down our writing style, tone, and word usage into what becomes our own true, distinctive voice. Fun photos.

Jennifer Rova said...

Thanks for the information. I struggle with 'voice.' I write for myself but could not describe my 'voice' very well. (Do I have to be able to describe it?) In many of my writings, I can tell you I wrote "in my voice." Other times, I wonder who wrote that even though I know it was my writing. As Nancy said, the learning curve on 'voice' is high. I know my writing is better when I read my writing and know that it "sounds like me."

Mary Jane Honegger said...

Thanks for the comments! No, I don't think it's necessary for a writer to define their voice, Jennifer. I just wanted to share that the comments by Mary and the editors bewildered me. In figuring out my voice I discovered having a distinctive writer's voice means you are confidant enough (or crazy enough)to share who you truly are with your readers. When you allow your light to shine - that's when your words connect.

elizabethbrinton said...

Erma Bombeck said that housework, if done properly, can kill you.
This is a certain truth that I live by.
I can see why you received the great compliment regarding your "voice." They were right and I would agree completely.