Friday, April 30, 2010

Don't Strangle Your Voice

Photo by hozer/StockXchange.com

I like to sing. And yes, I can carry a tune. Given a choice, I prefer to sing in groups. When I stand center stage and perform--and that has happened on a few occasions--I struggle to force the song past my throat. Who cares about remembering the words when you can't breathe?

Singing is impossible when I feel like I am being strangled.

In Inkspired, my critique group, we look for the music in each other's writing. We look for the moment the writer's voice sounds true and clear throughout every sentence, every paragraph. When that happens, we tell the writer that their work is "singing." I've been known to scrawl "Lalalalalala!" across the top of a manuscript or inside a comment box when I feel like a chapter has hit the mark.

As a writer, you've been told to discover your voice--your style, your personality. I'm here to tell you to protect your voice. Just as a singer protects her voice, a writer must learn to protect the voice that shines through his words.

I doubt if Barbra Streisand would ever let someone tell her to sing a song like Jon Bon Jovi. She has her style. He has his style. And neither performer wastes time wanting to be the other person.

If someone comes along--say another writer or an editor--and tries to mess with your writing voice, be confident enough to say, "Thank you for your feedback." And then stay true to who you are as a writer. Don't let anyone strangle your voice.

I'm not saying that you don't ever listen to constructive criticism. If your plot is garbled or your grammar and punctuation is a mess, pay attention.

What I am saying is: Any suggestions that tamper with your style of writing shows that the person doesn't understand your writing voice. This is why it's vital to be involved with a critique group--a place where people know you, know your writing style and will help develop your voice.

1 comment:

MargorieZ said...