Monday, January 26, 2009

There Is Only One Me

So, I’ve found my Voice, and it’s still with me. It’s changing, but still there. And last week I talked about the things that became less complicated as a result of my newfound Voice. This week, I want to delve into the things that seem more complicated.

In general, writing is complicated. Very. Everything is connected, so everything must be in balance – all the major pieces that go into a novel must balance each other out, plus everything within those pieces must balance. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle made out of a zillion scales, all depending on each other to create the big picture. Complicated. Voice is no different, in that it’s just as complicated as all the other pieces. In finding my Voice, I’ve learned the pieces that need to balance within Voice. I.E., *how* it’s complicated .

I’ve always said that I’m not an interesting person. I’m not, really. When I walk into a room, no one notices. When I speak, not many hear me. I don’t command attention. I blend into the woodwork really well. And yet...if I were really so uninteresting, I wouldn’t have any friends. But I *do* have friends, so there must be something in me that sparks a connection with others.

This is where my Voice was hiding – the interesting and unique parts of me. The things I think but don’t say aloud, except to my closest friends. And they are unique to me, because we all have our own way of saying things. Just as we, writers, have our own way of telling a story. That is our Voice, and that is why no story can be told the same way twice.

My Voice lends originality to my stories. If my friends hear of something I’ve said, they can usually guess I’ve said it before they’ve been told. If someone else tells them the same story, it’s not the same. The idea and events may be the same, but the flavor is different.

Caroline Meckler said it well when she said all writing has Voice. It may not be the right Voice, so we have to keep searching until we find it. Once we do, then what? I’ve finally found the right Voice for my work, but hanging on to it is sometimes difficult. It’s like walking an overgrown, narrow path, with my more familiar paths within sight. It’s easy to drift toward those familiar paths, then realize I’ve gotten lost and have to find my way back.

Finding your Voice is only the first step. You also need to learn how to keep it, then use it to its full potential. Knowing your Voice, where it comes from, and how to use it are what make your story strong and marketable.

Succeeding as a writer comes from a similar place – it’s not about the story I tell, it’s how I tell it. And, the pieces of myself that I put into it are what make it truly unique. All of this is related to Voice. The pieces of myself that I choose to share, to weave into my story, will be saturated with my Voice. How could they not? They come from me. Deep within me. Those are the most powerful stories a writer can tell, and that power can be harnessed through your Voice.

This is strongly connected to Write What You Know. I said in an earlier blog post that I believed writing what you know comes from your heart and experiences. I believe that even more now. The more you know and understand yourself, the more you’ll have to share in your stories. And your Voice can harness this, hand the reigns to the reader, then take them on a wild ride.

That said, knowing and understanding yourself is probably the most complicated thing ever.


Marcia said...

This is where my Voice was hiding – the interesting and unique parts of me. The things I think but don’t say aloud, except to my closest friends.


This threatens to hijack the subject, but you know how we wonder whether critique advice we're getting is good or not? One thing I've learned: No matter how skilled the person critiquing, beware of critiques that ask you to remove exactly this material -- your original stuff. Chances are, you're dealing with someone who doesn't get you, maybe doesn't even like you (and may not herself realize it) than with real faults in the writing -- assuming of course that it's the material and not the writing itself they're pinpointing.

And oh, how complicated is writing! It's a continual pleasant amazement to me that so many wonderful stories get written.

Gottawrite Girl said...

It's seems a bit like acting, the whole business of getting into a character's head. But that said, I've also heard the same thing you say -- that we all just NATURALLY have our own, unique voices... so, maybe it's a blend of nature and strategy? Oy, who knows... It's just darned important, is the only unwavering fact about this elusive quality...

: )

Thanks, Tabitha!

Tabitha said...

Marcia - I don't think it's possible to hijack a subject that's so closely related to a zillion other subjects. :) And yes, I totally agree. I've had critiquers who were constantly removing those little bits of me in her critiques. It was very disheartening, and I eventually stopped giving her critiques any weight. Which was a disservice to both of us...but I eventually left the group.

GWG - I've thought this same thing on more than one occasion. A good friend of mine does acting work in theaters, and she and I have the most interesting conversations about the similarities between writing and acting.

As to that blend of nature and strategy, that's exactly what it is. I think we all have many Voices, and writers must find the most interesting one to put into their work. Some people access that easily so there's not much strategy. But others, like me, had to search and search and bang my head against the wall before I figured it out. I have to focus on that Voice in order to keep it there, so lots of stratety involved. I also plan to play with my Voice over the next several months, to see how best I can use it. More strategy. It's all so complicated! Augh!! :)

PJ Hoover said...

OK, I was going to quote something you said, but Marcia already did.

I love this comparison. It is absolutely perfect! The best description on voice I've seen yet!

beth said...

"write what you know" especially pertains to voice--the voice doesn't have to be real (i.e. it can be an alien's or tell a fantastical story), but it absolutely must be true and honest to the character.

Keri Mikulski said...

Love this post..

Great quote - "the things I think but don't say aloud, except to my closest friends.."

I've done a lot of work recently studying voice and working on mine... And I'm almost there, but not quite.. It's a very interesting feeling to completely expose your innermost thoughts.. Scary.

Christina Farley said...

Great post. Voice is so critical. For me, I guess I have two voices, one when I'm being just plain fun and silly and the other that I usually write with (and probably the one that will someday get published with).

Jacqui said...

I do not believe that you are not an interesting person, Tabitha.

Merc said...

Great post, Tabitha! Very thought-provoking. I'm, alas, too brain-deprived to respond properly ;) but I did like it.



Carrie Harris said...

Absolutely! And I think this oh-so-personal voice thing is why it's so hard sometimes to put your babies out in the world. Because your writing is (or should be) a reflection of your personal truth. You're taking things you'd normally keep private and sending them out into the world, and that's scary.

I think that writers who do this successfully are incredibly brave.

Kelly H-Y said...

Wow, fabulous post! Well said!

Tabitha said...

PJ - wow, thanks!! High praise indeed! :)

Beth - it sure does. "Write what you know" is another of those nebulous terms that is often misunderstood. No wonder, since it's so closely related to Voice. :)

Keri - thanks! And yes, it's terrifying! But I firmly believe that writers are brave people. :)

Christina - I think we have many Voices, for many situations. Glad to hear you've found one that's working with your writing. :)

Jacqui - LOL!! Thanks for validating my suspicions. :)

Merc - thanks! Glad you enjoyed it! :)

Carrie - you betcha. My work is like my children, and I won't be shoving *them* into the world anytime soon. And yet, the work must get out there... And I wholeheartedly agree that writers are brave people. It takes a lot of guts to put yourself out there like that. P.S. glad to see you're back from the zombies. :)

Kelly - thanks! And so glad you stopped by! :)

Mary Witzl said...

I don't believe you're not interesting either. In fact, I know that you ARE interesting: if you weren't, why would I come back here?

The more I write, the more determined I am to try to express all the things I've been struggling to express all my life -- as deftly and eloquently as I possibly can. And yes, it is so hard. The people who are convinced that writing is easy just can't be trying as hard.

Tabitha said...

Thanks, Mary. :) And I totally agree that anyone who thinks writing is easy clearly isn't trying. Or, thinks the whole publishing world is out to get them. :)

Mary Witzl said...

There are lots of people who seem to feel that the ability to parse a decent sentence coupled with a message that they want to get out should ensure them a publishing contract and a wide readership. The truth is, there is so much more involved in getting published. It always amazes me to hear people say that any fool can write a book. Any fool can string enough words to make a book, but just try getting that book published. But I'll never manage to convince my in-laws of that...

Rena said...

Great post, Tabitha. I don't know if I've found my voice yet. I write mostly picture books and they all seem so different from one another. I feel the same way as you where I can slip into a room unnoticed or that people don't hear me, or worse, don't even listen to me. It's not a fun feeling to have. Maybe I'll find a voice someday ... maybe.