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. : )