Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Speaking in tongues

What happens when you lose confidence in your writing? When you get some negative feedback from a competition judge or a critique partner, does that mean you didn’t get it right or they just didn’t get it?

Does this mean you need to change something? But what about all the people who liked it?

It seems writers are always waiting for the sledgehammer. Five positive comments are neutralised by the one person who doesn’t like your heroine, or who thinks you use too many adjectives. Five? Even the fifty-five people who liked it can be undermined by the one who didn’t – particularly if that one person is adamant.

I think I've said it here before that I believe voice comes from inside. I think voice essentially is the muse. Usually, once you've been writing for a little while, you are already half-expecting it when someone tells you your scene-setting still needs work, or one of the character's motivations doesn't make sense, because you already have a feeling there's something wrong.

If you lose confidence and try to write what you think other people want, you lose your voice. The story may not be terrible, but it probably won’t be very good, either. It certainly won’t be wonderful.

Repeat this after me:

I will listen to my voice. I will write in my own voice. When I receive negative feedback I will allow my voice to be heard, because this is what tells me which things I need to change and which I need to fight for.

I will listen to my voice. I will...


Cassie P said...

Thanks for that blog AJ. I completely relate.

Erica said...

So you're saying that 'voice' is defined (partly) as that confidence you get when you've gathered enough technical skill and experience to be able to recognise when it's okay to break the 'rules'?

Interesting. Maybe so. Never thought of it that way before.

You did lose me at 'voice essentially is the muse', though ;)

AJ Macpherson said...

Hey Cassie, thanks for visiting.

Erica, interesting as always. I'll expand on the idea of voice as muse in an upcoming post.