Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Voice in Writing

As a writer, how do you find your voice? If you’re working on your third, fourth, fifth manuscript, look back at that very first one. What do you think of it now? Do you still have the same voice? Has it evolved? Do you feel like you’ve “found” your voice?

How did you find it and when did you lose it? Did you find it by hearing voices in your head? Did it come to you in a dream?

Now, remember, I’m talking about your voice, as the writer. Not the protagonist’s voice. Your voice.

The arrangement of the words in sentences. The cadence. The words you use. The length of the sentences, the paragraphs. What the readers hear when they’re not reading the words or thoughts of your characters. The overall voice of your book. The author’s voice. Keep in mind, that voice is not static. It can evolve. It can change from book to book. But some authors maintain their voice. You can pick up their eleventh book and know it’s them.

Chances are you may have developed yours without even thinking about it. And you may have gotten it from other writers. Writers, I believe, read differently than non-writers. We’re not always reading just for plot. There are times when a sentence catches our eye. Stops us. We re-read it; ponder its structure, the way it talks to us. We think, that’s beautiful or I never would have thought of putting it that way or wow, that is such a unique metaphor. Sometimes we may even make note of it by highlighting or adding it to a list we’re keeping of examples of great writing.

Although we may never go back to read that list, it affects us. Not that we copy that person’s words, but we absorb what we consider “good” writing. Good writers are readers. And we learn by reading. And, over time, we develop our own voice, a lot of it based on what we consider wonderful writing.

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