Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Raise your voice

I’ve mentioned that a writer’s ‘voice’ was likely to be a recurring theme here. We’re constantly told it’s voice that matters, yet it can be the most fragile tool in our repertoire. Well-intentioned meddling can so easily blunt that sharp, shiny edge.

Voice is as distinctive as your personality. As teenagers most of us learned the difficult lesson that not everyone was going to like us; sometimes, people simply don’t connect. The same is true of voice, but this can be a message writers just don’t hear.

When critique partners, contest judges, agents or editors criticise your voice it can be devastating and for many writers there’s a temptation to change things. This attempt to please others is natural, but misguided.

Voice is personal. Voice is you. And you will never please everyone.

Do you like all the same movies, books and food as your friends? No. You will have some likes and dislikes in common or you probably wouldn’t be friends, but you can have a difference of opinion and still be friends. Good friends. You can have a writing voice that some people don’t like and still be a terrific writer.

And, much as your personality develops and changes over time, so will your voice. Again, a natural phenomenon, but this is usually a good thing. As you learn better craft, your voice will mature and your writing will gain more polish.

Just as you know in your heart when you are true to yourself, you know when you are true to your voice. Ultimately, writers write stories they like to read, and if you like your writing, so will other people. Just not everyone.

You know your voice. Use it.


Kirsty C said...

Here, here.
Pass the hot chocolate.

Kiki said...

I couldn't agree with you more. If an author has really found her voice, it shines through, no matter what they write.

One of the main dangers in taking on too many contests is that it polishes out your voice, makes you less unique, more bland.

I don't read most books primarily for their story, but their voice.