Thursday, September 28, 2017

Finding Your Voice in the Literary Industry Cacophony

When I first started devoting serious time to becoming (my romantic notion of) a writer, my biggest worry was that I had no voice.

Yeah, you read that right.

I'd read something online about Finding Your Voice and I worried I needed to develop my voice. It's actually kind of silly if you think about it, because just about everybody is born with a voice. You don't question it or think about it. You just speak and words come out in your own unique voice. Sure, you have to coo or babble when you're a baby (not to mention all that bawling). You have to listen to your parents and siblings speak, and you mimic them to some extent. But in the end, the only way to develop your voice is to practice speaking.

Writing is the same way, but I didn't know that. I thought I needed a special guide to teach me how to be myself.  This stems from a fear that's haunted me my whole life, and I'm probably not alone.

Is being myself good enough?

It turns out that the only way NOT to have a personal writing voice is to try too hard to be like somebody else. Don't do that.

Finding my voice in an all-women's choir
that performed in the Salt Lake City Tabernacle!! Woot!
While the guide I linked above has good ideas, like reading a lot of different books or practicing writing like your favorite authors, or writing to prompts--all this is effectively the baby listening to conversation before she tries to make words on her own, and then awkwardly copying words like "No" and "Don't" and "Stop that" (this might just be my babies).

Writing in someone else's style is fine, but don't try to be Meg Cabot. Yes, she is awesome. Yes, she is witty. Be awesome and witty in your own way.

How do I propose you do that?


For writers, blogging is like a warm bubble bath. It's the fun and relaxation of writing without the cold shower of pass-or-fail judgment. Especially when you're first starting out. For a long time, I had 33 followers on my personal writing blog, and only about 8 hits a day from different viewers. Reaching more people is awesome, but starting small is good, too. I got into my own writing groove whenever I blogged, and even though I never turned my internal editor off (is that even possible??), I did allow myself some indulgences you simply can't do in printed fiction...

:) SQUEE!! LOL. ;) ROFL b/c That is made of awesome. OMGoodness! :p

...and the result in my novels has been palpable: I actually have a personality. Letting my hair down on my blog has freed up that personality more than copying Shakespeare or Mark Twain ever could. Not that I SQUEE in my books (though a character might at some point). They are definitely different formats, unless you're writing one of those MG books in chat format, which I think has been done to death, people.

The greatest key to finding your writing voice is to be yourself. 

Let that snark, incurable optimism, or witty cynicism seep into your novel. That's what people will relate to. Learn from others, try out new ways of expressing your themes and your characters. But don't bend over backward trying to achieve the oh-so-marketable and ever-elusive VOICE agents are always talking about. When they say that, they're really saying THAT BOOK connected with them on a personal level. Across the publishing universe, voice is as subjective as romantic chemistry. You can't fake it.

Be yourself, let your voice shine through the printed page, and trust that someone, somewhere will like you.

Originally published on Operation Awesome in December, 2010.