When I started on the journey of thinking maybe, just maybe I could fulfill my childhood dream of becoming a writer, one constant theme I saw running through all the blogs, chat forums and critique groups was: What is your voice? Do you have a voice?
Just checking to make sure you were all still with me. Happy birthday Adam Levine!!
Of course I’m not talking about a singing competition, but in a way, it is similar. Every time we listen to a judge on one of these talent shows, or even when we hear someone on the radio, we recognize them by their distinctive “sound”, aka, their voice. No one wants to listen to a duplicate of their favorite singer. There is only one Mick Jagger, one Tina Turner and I’m hoping only one Justin Beiber.
The same can be said for writing. You can’t write a novel in the hopes that your book will sound like Grace Burrowes, Anna Campbell, Renee Bernard or Suzanne Enoch. They are in possession of their own voice, their own unique style. When I pick up a book by one of them, I know I can expect evocative imagery, strong emotion and characters that will remain with me long after I have finished reading the story. It’s what drives us as readers to continue buying their books.
No one should try and copy someone’s else’s voice; it won’t sound natural; the beauty of language is the ease with which we we speak and read it. If you have to model yourself upon someone else visions and ideas, what are you creating?
I didn’t know anything about voice when I started tapping away at my fist attempt. I did know how I wanted to sound. I have my style and it works for me. When i first joined an on-line critiquing group (not any that I am involved with now), I had one person tell me I had the perfect voice for my style of writing. Then i received a very nasty critique from someone who literally eviscerated me on line. It was shocking to say the least. Another member actually posted and told me not to mind, that this author does it all the time and is only trying to help.
The critique was not only my use of terminology (which to this day I disagree with, knowing the you address a duke as “Your Grace,” not “My Lord,”) but in the whole negative attitude towards my style of writing because it wasn’t highly formal and stylized. The critiquer’s defender stated that the author believed that when you write in the Regency period, you must write in the Austen style. As my ‘voice’ is less formal, she told me I would be a failure and never sell my book.
I took it to heart for a while and stopped. I never went back on that board to critique or have my work critiqued. I looked and found another group with whom I finally felt comfortable enough to put my work out. And I finished and sent out my queries.
I got critiqued, and had my work torn apart, and I was happy for it. Because it wasn’t about my style or my voice or the way I wrote. It was for the form and substance of writing. I was told by more than one person I have a voice for the period. I finally believed that I was creating something that was mine.
What I have learned is that what works for one person won’t necessarily work for you. There are Historical romance writers who use humor in their books. There are those who don’t. There are some who write so beautifully that I am in envy of their ability to use the English language the way they do. But it hasn’t ever once driven me to emulate them.
So writers, fire up your own creative juices and tell me, how did you recognize your own voice? What is your style? If you feel like it, post a snippet of your work that best shows your unique voice.
Me? I’m still waiting for Adam Levine’s call…Hey I’m a Jewish mother, I can make him chicken soup.