Thursday, April 14, 2011

Finding Your Voice in a Noisy World

(Notes adapted from my presentation at our April 8th Writer's Unite Meeting at The Studio Factor by Glynis M. Belec)

What do we mean when we say a writer has a distinct voice? What does it mean to have a voice when you write?

You already have a voice. It's beautiful, it's unique and it is distinctly yours. If someone reads your book or article or poetry, or hears your song, and recognizes who wrote it, often it is because of your distinct voice.

Because you already have your own voice, your task is to bring it to the forefront and be who you are.

Enjoying someone’s style and being inspired by the voice of another writer is a good thing, but we should never try to copy. It just doesn’t work.

I like Erma Bombeck – I read her work a lot and I found that my most comfortable style was similar to hers. I call her voice - comfortable and inviting.
 I also like E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web - I call his writing gentle, descriptive writing.
 I call Robert Munsch’s – dramatic, loud writing.
There  are so many different voices in writing. Remember we spoke about Louis L’Amour - the western writer? Think how his voice is vastly different than Stephen King's.
Emily Post, if you remember, has more old style, refined writing.
Remember Ann Voskamp’s new book – 1000 Gifts? She is a vulnerable and generous writer. Her voice implores the reader to share her pain and her purpose.

Style and voice are important when writing. They both help define you as a writer and they set you apart from other authors.
Beginning writers don’t necessarily have a  defined voice when first starting out.

Here are some ideas and suggestions for discovering the difference between Voice and Style and ways to find your Voice and define your Style:

-         Write for a while – hard work and self-discovery – in my case lots of prayer, too! God what do you want me to do with my writing?

-         Voice is born from a lot of words and a lot of work – rejection, refining, rewriting = reward!

       “The voice is the cadence and lyricism with which you narrate and write dialogue, particularly when it comes to speaking through the eyes of a particular character.”

-          voice is the word choice and method of speaking and thinking as demonstrated by characters

-         style is when you are talking about the way in which he writes his books
-         Style is watching your use of adjectives and doing a few flashy things with alliteration.

-         Style without voice is hollow
-         Voice is style, plus theme, plus personal observations, plus passion, plus belief, plus desire

-         For example, do you write in short, concise paragraphs or long, wordy sentences?

-         Do you use multiple viewpoints in creative writing or just one? A writer's style can be characterized by something as seemingly insignificant as punctuation or as obvious as point of view, but each writer's voice is unique.

-         “Voice is bleeding onto the page, and it can be a powerful, frightening, naked experience…”

- Voice = what the reader hears
- Style = what the reader sees
-         both style and voice come naturally to some creative writers
-         other times, it has to be developed

Publishers are always looking for fresh voices and styles that speak to the reader and set the book apart
What do we think about when we think of Agatha Christie for example? Jane Goodall? The Junie B. Jones series? Veggie Tales? Amelia Bedelia? O Henry? 

Nowadays we not only need to sell our books we need to sell ourselves as writers – doesn’t mean selling our soul to the devil or compromising. Rather it means you are selling your unique perspective on life, your own beliefs, fears, hopes and dreams, your memories of childhood tribulation and triumphs and adult achievements and failures . . . your universe

This all comes out in your voice
Anybody can sit down and write a story or a book
-         Just means applying derriere to chair and typing out three or four or ten pages a day until the thing is done
-         not every book is saleable
-          not every saleable book will find an audience
-         not every book that finds an audience will be able to bring the readers back for more of what you are saying or selling.
-         You do that by offering readers something they can't get anywhere else
-         What is that?   YOU!
-         When you develop your voice you are putting yourself on the page
-         How Do We Develop Our Voice?
A) Read!
-         You cannot be a successful writer if you don't read.
-         All writers read, and all good writers read a lot.
-         Read fiction, nonfiction, read in the genre you love, read outside of it.
-         Read WAY outside of it. (I have trouble here)
-         The more you read, the more you will acquire instinct about what works for you,
-         and an equally compelling instinct for what doesn't
-         discover how stories are put together
-         get a feel for how good novels are paced and plotted and how bad ones fall apart
-         start developing a hunger to write specific stories, because you'll come across areas where nobody is writing the kind of books you want to read.
B.   Write everything.
-         Try your hand at non-fiction
-          Write romantic scenes
-         Put together a western character and run him through a fight scenario
-         Try fantasy
-         try SF
-          try romance
-         write a sonnet, and some haiku, and a few limericks.
-         Remember the first rule of writing: Nothing you write is wasted.
-         you will have learned from the experience even though it isn’t sent out or used anywhere
-          You might produce your first saleable work completely outside of your previous area of specialization.
C)   Play games
-         Make endless lists or get hold of a book or online that has story starters and play around with them.
-         Change the endings of some of your favourite books
-         Use a ‘what if’ component
-         Story webs or target writing
-         Scrabble game
-         When you're first looking for your voice, you need to experiment a little
-         Some of what you write might not be too good.
-         Some of it will shock you with how good you really are and how well you can write
-          But the only way you'll get any of the good stuff is if you allow yourself to put whatever comes into your head down on the page without worrying about marketing your work right away
-         Some people need to have the internal editor switched on (I know I do)
-    Others will find they like to free write and edit later
-         Write from passion
-         If you don't care about the things you're writing about, you will never discover your true voice
-         Your voice does not exist when you're trying to write a book in a genre you don’t like
-         Quick money won’t happen here
-         Voice doesn’t happen or exist in the thin and cheap places of your heart or the shallow end of your soul
-         Voice lives in the deep waters and the dark places of your soul,
-         will only venture out when you make sure you've given it space to move and room to breathe
-         complacency is your worst enemy
-         plodding along without thinking or challenging yourself
-    Think about things that you have read and why they moved you, touched you, made you laugh, made you cry - changed your life
-         You are probably thinking about the voice of the writer  
- Now it's your turn...go find your voice!

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