Monday, January 19, 2009

Hiding In Plain Sight

Everyone has strengths and weaknesses in their writing. My greatest strength, by far, is Plot. My brain is good at planning, organizing, and strategy. I can visualize how Point E will be affected if Point A changes. I’ve always been this way.

My greatest weakness, however, is Voice. Always has been. I was the invisible kid in school. I spoke only when spoken to, using as few words as possible, then I’d melt back into the shadows. This made me a great observer, and I think I understand people really well because of it. But it really hurt me in the Voice department, and I’ve spent the past seven or eight years trying to find it.

Well, I've done it. I’ve *just* found my Voice. Now that I’ve found it, I understand much more about my writing world. And, to be perfectly honest, it’s both less and more complicated than I ever thought possible.

So, how did I find my Voice? Well, I read a lot of books (a LOT) in my age-range and genre, I did research, I read agent and editor blogs posts on the subject, I practiced writing a zillion different ways...I could go on, but I’d be here all day. Basically, I was determined to either find it or die tryin’. : )

Anyway, I think agent Rachelle Gardner and editor Caroline Meckler tell us all we need to know about what Voice is and where it comes from. The real trouble is finding it.

Ironically, this is where things got less complicated for me. I discovered that my Voice was there, within me, staring me in the face the whole time. I just didn’t recognize it. It had been hiding in all the things I think about but never say. My mind is a very busy place, but I only share about ten percent of what goes on in there. I sometimes don’t even pay attention to it all. That’s where my Voice was.

I felt like a complete idiot for not seeing it sooner. :) I could have found it years ago if only I’d known where to look. Or, if someone had told me where to look...which brings me to something I've given a lot of thought over the years: whether or not Voice can be taught. I’ve always said that Voice can be taught, and I’ve heard many others say it can’t be. You know what? We’re both right.

No one can teach you how to write in your own Voice, because it’s unique to you and only you can fully understand it. That said, one can point you in the right direction. Someone who understands Voice and where it comes from can give you specific tasks and exercises that may help you find it sooner.

Personally, I don’t think this strategy is much different from teaching any kind of abstract concept. In college, I majored in Math and Computer Science, and I took some pretty “out there” theoretical math classes. It wasn’t black and white there-is-only-one-answer kind of math. The professors couldn’t teach us exact steps toward understanding the theories, so they pointed us in the right direction. We were either capable of understanding or we weren’t. But does that mean they weren’t teaching? If you think they weren't, I think those professors would disagree with you. : )

Voice is different in that it’s not a “you have it or you don’t” kind of thing. Everyone has a Voice – it’s just a matter of finding it within yourself.

So, this is the part that was less complicated for me. The more complicated things will make this post way too long, so I’ll get into that next week. : )

20 comments:

Brenda said...

Congrats on finding your Voice! I love when the light bulb goes off and everything starts to fall into place...It makes writing a little easier...

Hugs...

Marcia said...

Oh my, we differ on something.:) I'm better at character, and even voice, than plot. I do agree that finding your voice is a similar type of abstract to all that great other-worldly math. :)I'll look forward to the follow-up post.

Brenda said...

p.s. I nominated you for the Kreativ Blogger award on my blog...

Sharon said...

Tabitha,

Hello from a fellow Blueboarder!

I enjoyed reading your post. Voice is so important, and I'm glad you found yours.

I like your blog and website. I'm in the process of deciding on a website design for myself and it's hard.

The excerpts you posted from your books were really interesting. Best of luck with them!

Sharon

PJ Hoover said...

Congrats on finding it!
I think voice can be taught/learned. It's like it's an ability within us, but only with practice and the right instruction can we figure out how to pull it out fully. And in that (long) time, it will continue to vary and change how it looks because it will be at various stages of advancement.
Nice post!

Gottawrite Girl said...

Ohhhh, you are lucky!!! Plot is my WEAKEST! Let's trade for just a moment, and we could conquer the world!

Merc said...

Congrats on finding your Voice, Tabitha! :D That's always exciting to hear when someone finds something or has a lightbulb moment, etc. ;)

I envy your plot-focused mind. :P I have trouble with all aspects... can I claim being utterly random and fitting zombies into things my strength? O:)

Anyway, looking forward to your post on the more complicated aspect, and again, awesome to hear you found the Voice. :D

~Merc

Nora Maeve Downing said...

It was great to hear your voice coming through in this post. You are a natural teacher!

Tabitha said...

Brenda - thanks! :) I *love* the lightbulb moments. They make things so much more fun, don't they? :) And thanks so much for the Kreativ Blogger nomination! :)

Marcia - wow, a difference! Well, I suppose it was inevitable. Now, we're merely long lost sisters instead of twins. :)

Sharon - thanks! :) Great to see a fellow Blueboarder!! :) Glad you liked my website and excerpts! I just hope a publishing house likes them too... :) But I agree that deciding on a website is really hard. I began mine with a template from Microsoft Office Live, with their free service. I think they still have that service, and their templates are very professional looking if you want to check them out.

PJ - thanks! It feels so good to have found my Voice. Now I can grow with it, try new things, and see what happens. I'm really looking forward to it. :)

GWG - LOL!! You betcha! Conquering the world sounds really good right now, because then I can make someone babysit while I get in some consecutive hours of writing. :)

Merc - thanks! And I think fitting in zombies everywhere can definitely be called a strength. Carrie Harris (carrieharrisbooks.blogspot.com) would definitely agree with me. :)

Nora - aww, thanks! :) Now if only I had the patience for it... :) Fortunately, we've got people like you teaching. :)

Lady Glamis said...

What a great post. Thank you for sharing! I am still finding my voice, but I think I've got most of it down. It's been hard! If only I had known where to look, like you said.

So glad you've made progress!

CJ Raymer said...

"No one can teach you how to write in your own Voice, because it’s unique to you and only you can fully understand it. That said, one can point you in the right direction. Someone who understands Voice and where it comes from can give you specific tasks and exercises that may help you find it sooner."

That was awesome! So many times writers try on someone else's "shoes." And, they don't fit. We have to find our own pair, and let them mold to our own feet. Great post, Tabitha! XOXO

beth said...

I am like you--I'm all plot, but struggle with character/voice. I have found that my voice changes with each novel I write--that I end up acquiring a character's voice that supersedes my own.

Prince Balthazar said...

I'm pretty sure I have a good voice. Plot is the thorn in my side.

Great that you found your personal style.

Bish Denham said...

Congratulations on finding your voice! Shout it from the mountain tops, let it echo off their rocky walls.

I believe characterization and dialog are my strong areas. And I'm confident about my voice.

Jacqui said...

Wow. We are on a mind meld of some sort. I just blogged for today and then settled in to read what everyone else had to say and here you said what I said, only funnier. Sigh. Nice post.

Tabitha said...

Lady Glamis - someone needs to step up and give us writers some direction on Voice! :) It would surely help us save some time, and not so much with the banging-head-on-wall. :)

CJ - so true. When I first started writing, my shoes belonged to JKR because she inspired me to write for kids. I've worn many pairs since then, before figuring out I had to stop getting them second hand and get my own shiny new pair. Which I'm still breaking in. :) Great analogy!

Beth - yes! I have the same problem. Then, before I know it, my Voice gets lost, then the character's Voice gets lost because I don't know where mine went, and it all goes downhill from there. So I'm working on keeping my own Voice present at all times, and it seems to help my character stay grounded. *crossing fingers* :)

Prince B. - it's so funny how many people seem to either have Voice naturally, but not plot. Or vice versa. Makes me wonder if there are any writers out there who are naturally proficient in both?

Bish - I'm shouting from my roof! Of course, it's covered in three feet of snow and my teeth are chattering, so not sure how many people actually heard me. :)

Jacqui - yeah, we're definitely sharing the same brain. :) I checked out your blog post and loved every minute of it. :)

Anne Spollen said...

Great, now that you've got it all together, I'll wait for the ARC's. : )

Tabitha said...

LOL!! :) Thanks for the vote of confidence. :)

Mary Witzl said...

I'm glad you found your voice too, Tabitha.

Though I was terribly shy as a teenager, I've had something of the opposite problem myself; some people probably wish I'd use mine a little less...

Tabitha said...

I have that problem when I'm overly nervous and I at least remotely know the person I'm talking to. Or, I've been stuck at home with kids and haven't had a conversation with an adult for weeks. :)