Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Where's my voice?

Home with Madi today because she's got a nasty cold - but otherwise fine - so taking the moment to blog. BUT, I had to opt out of the blog simmering on my head.  Consisted mostly of ranting and complaining and whining about stuff I've already complained about before.  

And I didn't feel like going there. So I checked out, whipped up some homemade blueberry pancakes (made the mix from scratch, 'cause that's how we roll around here), doused them in maple syrup, demolished my new diet in about thirty minutes, but came out a lot sweeter in the end.

And hit someone's else blog that really highlights what I believe is my greatest hurdle as a writer, what I believe separates the men from the boys, also determines what I'll read and what I won't.

And that's voice. 

This is especially pertinent when it comes to my short stories.  Technically, I believe they're adequate.  Products of sound writing. 

Yeah.

Right. 

And how many folks want to read adequate stories, anyway? I know I don't.  That's why I very rarely - no offense intended - read work from folks near my level.  I'm an adequate writer.  I know some decent rules, can craft adequate sentences and paragraphs and maybe even a "technically sound"  story.

But I'm struggling for my voice.  And I'm not gonna get that by reading work that's adequate like my own. I'm only going to get it - IF I get it at all - by reading work with VOICE.  Voices of ALL KINDS.   Also, I've turned down a few solicitations lately - which aren't guarantees but at least more-open-than-usual-doors - because even if I'm not sure what my voice is going to be, I knew those submission calls held NO interest for me at all, and I'm guessing just weren't my "voice".  Of course, maybe if I knew what my voice was, I still could've written stories for them in my voice, but seeing as how I'm still struggling with it....

Hiram Grange came closest to my own personal voice.  But, I still feel like that was a "cheat" somehow.  Because Hiram wasn't my character.  Yes, the story was mine but the character wasn't, and it seemed much easier to fill in a pre-determined character with my own take (maybe this will be a good future for me.  Media tie-ins, anyone?  At this point, I'd kill to write a Supernatural novel.  Just sayin).

Anyway.  Voice.  What the heck is it? Here's a good definition from Chuck Wendig's blog, which I just read: 

The writer’s voice is the thing that marks the work as a creation of that writer and that writer only. You read a thing and you say, “This could not have been written by anybody else.” That is voice. 

Wow.  

That's not intimidating at all.

Here's another good tidbit.  A big reason why I've really scaled back my reviews, and something I wish - even though everyone has their own preferences - reviewers and blurbers would be more honest about:  

That being said, bad writing is bad writing. 

So how do you get voice?  This advice is probably the best ever, one of the things I think could potentially be hurt the most by the new "self-publish everything digitally as quick as I can" craze: 

1. Voice is a component of practice and maturity.
2. You cannot artificially and prematurely discover your voice. 
3. Writers must cultivate patience (or perhaps patience’s rude and grumpy cousin, stubbornness).  

You’ll get there. Your voice will come.  

And here's something I'm constantly worried about doing myself, especially given my new loves of Norman Patridge and Charlie Grant: 

You can try to trick your voice into appearing early, try to overwrite or use purple prose or engage in stylistic flourishes that plum don’t belong. 

Honestly, that last part worries me most.

However, THIS is what I hope is happening now: 

Eventually we stop miming the style of others, but along the way we still break off parts of other authors and graft them to our own styles. Some parts must be kept. No harm in that — we shouldn’t be upset with our influences. Why turn away from those who got us here? Those whose voices mattered most? As long as their voice does not take over our own, we’re good. It’s okay if we are in part the culmination of other voices. Like I said before: the art is in the arrangement.   

This part, I need more of in my writing: 

Your voice is also who you are. How you bleed and spit and scream on the page. You are your voice. Your voice is you.

Anyway.  That's where I am, now.  Trying to develop my voice.  And there's only one sure way to do that: keep reading and keep writing.

Luckily, my two favorite things to do....