Monday, February 1, 2010

Voice: Not a Song, but Your Heart on the Page

I've been haphazardly plowing through my MAASS book, WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL as I work on my huge revision. I tend to revise in pieces: write a little, read a little about craft, ruminate a lot, read through my pages in advance, generate ideas (occasionally brilliant, often not) and write some more.

Some of my writing/blogging friends like Martha and Gwen have a more scheduled way of blogging about their writing and craft work and prompts (read the daily squirrel or prompt). I do not. I blog the way I write and I write the way I think. Basically, I am a bipolar writer/or left to right brain to left again writer. I cross the lateral a lot.

I can be logical and organized, making my neat little Scrivener scene cards, or I can be a musical mess of a jumble of hand written index cards flying around the house. I've got charts, graphs, hard copies, soft copies and a bundle of in-between stuff as I work.

Reading through the Maass book this week, I generated a lot of cool ideas or thoughts about my current WIP in Revision and I also revisited the core of my writing: voice.

What is voice? Is it style? Is it a unique way of writing that sets you apart? Is it tone? What is the elusive quality of "voice" that people are talking about when they talk about a writer's voice? I think Maass covers it very well in his book:

... voice is a natural attribute. You can no more control it than you can control the color of your eyes--nor would you want to. Plenty of breakout authors have a distinctive voice.

To set your voice free, set your words free. Set your characters free. Most important, set your heart free. It is from the unknowing shadows of your subconscious that your stories will find their drive and from which they will draw their meaning. No one can loan you or teach you that. Your voice is your self in the story.


Eloisa James said the same thing in a very eloquent way during her Keynote Luncheon speech during the 2009 RWA National Conference. Pour your soul onto the pages. Pour your heart into your writing. Mine your feelings.

You have a story to tell. It's YOUR story. Whether you write romance, gothic literature, vampire YA novels or mysteries, YOU HAVE A STORY.

How we approach writing the story might very well reveal our writing voices. Just as no two writers approach their writing the same way, no two writers have the same writing voice. They can't. They're different people.

Yes. Read other amazing authors' books. But be sure to remember that as much as you may admire their work, only YOU can write a book with YOUR voice in it.


M.V.Freeman said...

You are going to think I am nuts, but this post made me misty-eyed.
There is such great truth.

For a long time, I wrote what I thought people would I am writing for me...and its just as hard (I have to unlearn and re-learn).

But its true..voice. You can sense it as soon as you pick up a book you read...or start that story that has been in your head.

Thank you Christine, this blog has really touched me.

Ellen B said...

Brilliant post, Christine. I love the title :D

Every writer should tattoo that on the inside of their eyelids so they can read it every time they blink.

Christine said...

Mary: Awe, wow, I'm glad this hit the mark for you. I struggle with voice--because I am bipolar: it's either funny or deep. How do I marry those two distinct sides? I believe I can, and I will.

I love your voice. It's emerging as you grow as a writer. Another way to hone voice is to journal or blog. I call the blog my "journal."

Christine said...

Hi Ellen: Thanks! I love the idea of tattooing the inside of our eyelids with the title. I think the important thing to take away from all of this is to keep writing, to mine your own heart and to figure out your own unique process of writing. Sure there are dozens of books about the topic, but there is only ONE you!

I hope to read about Rosie one day when you get this one published!

KarenG said...

Voice is so important. I'll put down a book if I don't like the voice.

And I gave you an award today, Christine. Come by my blog and get it!

Gwen Hernandez said...

Great post, C. The notion of voice can be so confusing.

I love both sides of your personality!

Christine said...

KarenG: I'll pop by and check out the gift as soon as I get home! Woohoo. I love presents. And I tend to drop down books pretty quickly these days if I don't connect with the writer's voice.

Christine said...

Hi Gwen: Yes, I am a diverse mixture. With me, you get two for the price of one ;)

I think another way to hone our voices is to do what you said in your blog: WRITE.

Uh, speaking of that... I better get started on my current WIP in revision.