Friday, February 26, 2010

The Value of Voice

"Be yourself; everyone else is already taken."
~ author Oscar Wilde

Just back from the My Book Therapy Deep Thinkers Retreat, which took place in Melbourne, Florida last weekend.
I'm still trying to process all the wonderful writing insights shared by bestselling authors Susan May Warren and Rachel Hauck, while unpacking, doing laundry and generally getting back to normal life.
Whatever that is.
One of the last things Susan and Rachel talked about was a writer's voice. Those are my actual notes scribbled in red in the photo. I'm addicted to fine line Sharpies right now, but that is so beside the point! I've found myself returning to this page in the Deep Thinkers Retreat workbook. It's about adding color or word painting.
One statement Rachel made has replayed in my head this past week: "The foundation to every novelist is their voice."
I agree with her--and I also think that every writer--whether you write fiction or non-fiction--has a voice. I also think it is imperative for a writer to discover her voice. Rachel suggested one way to do that was to ask God, "What is my voice?"
Being in a critique group also hones your voice. It's vital that your crit partners understand and respect your voice--that they not squelch it.
I'll be honest here: I once trampled all over Scoti's voice. She writes with passion and emotion, what I sometimes call an "opera" voice. I mean that as a compliment. Scoti's voice is full and rich.
In the early years of our group, I critiqued an article Scoti wrote--and in the process I stripped her voice right out of it. Someone else, who knew Scoti better than I did, commented on my mistake.
And I realized she was right--and I was oh, so wrong.
I apologized and determined to respect Scoti's voice.
As Susan said, "Voice equals personality on the page."
Discovering your voice and then polishing your voice so that it adds depth to your writing takes time. You have to know yourself as a writer--and it helps if you are connected with other trusted writers who know you too.

Here's one way I know I'm writing in my voice: When someone reads something I wrote and says, "It sounds just like you were talking to me--just like we were sitting together in your kitchen," that's when I know my writing is reflecting my personality.

What about you? How have you developed your writer's voice? When do you recognize it?


Anonymous said...

yes. I'm learning to recognize and appreciate my voice. Words come easier when I write from that place. I'm learning that my voice may not connect with everyone- but that is why God uses the whole body of Christ in communicating his gospel...

Each his own part- each her own voice.

Patricia said...

I appreciate this, Beth. I once mentioned to Mary DeMuth that I love to edit but worry that my editing will be a reflection of my voice and not the voice of the author. That is when a critique group is invaluable.

Recognizing our own voices as authors is a process that comes from writing and writing and writing, don't you think?

I see a lot of young writers copying the voices of others they admire. I have been guilty of the same. It is a compliment to those they emulate, but there is much more joy for us a writers when we have the confidence and freedom to be ourselves. LOVE that quote.

Beth K. Vogt said...

Patricia, I think all writers start out as copycats. What's that quote? Imitation is the highest form of flattery or something ...
But, at some point, we need to break free from the lure of another writer's abilities and discover our own.

And, like Tracey said, not everyone will appreciate my voice or your voice. You've got to accept that. Be okay with that. And stop wasting time wishing you were singing someone else's song.

Teri Dawn Smith said...

I think I didn't start to tap into my voice until I pushed all thoughts of "what will my friends and in-laws think about this" out of my mind. I just had to write for the Audience of One.

I loved the comment you mention from Susie that voice is personality on page. That's the best explanation I've ever heard.

Evangeline Denmark said...

I think it's interesting that sometimes others recognize your voice before you do. Once you realize what comes naturally in your writing, you can start to hone in on your voice and develop it more. Basically, you're just becoming more YOU!