Musings On Finding My Writer’s Voice
Prior to becoming a fiction writer, I was a programmer. The cool thing about programming is the ability to get creative with it. (Creative? Programming? What?). It’s true. Let me give you an example. You give five different programmers a project that requires writing code, and I guarantee all five programmers will write it differently. But all five programs will spit out the same, correct result. How cool is that? The way each programmer does it is like their own writer’s voice. Their code will be shaped by how they learned programming (college or self-taught), what different programming languages they’ve been exposed to, if they’re messy or neat (will they commment their code), if they care about how optimized their code is for a fast execution time, how many years they’ve been writing code, etc.
I think each revision of a manuscript is like the programming example above. Each draft of the manuscript is different than the one before. Not necessarily better (although I would hope so), but different. The same story is being told, just in a different way. Each draft is in a different voice than the one before, the voice developing, becoming richer, more in depth. More YOU.
My first (crappy) draft read very much like a Nancy Drew book. Why? Because I’d read so many in my youth, and even in adulthood (I do love Nancy Drew books!) that it unconsciously crept out into my writing. It doesn’t have to be a book, it could have been a TV show I love to watch, or a favorite movie watched over and over. Regardless, while I love Nancy Drew books, I have no desire to write in the style of the Carolyn Keene syndicate. And nobody wants to read a book written that way. Not adults, anyway. This is not MY writing voice.
Why am I better at writing poetry than fiction? Why is my poetic voice easily discernable but not my fiction voice? Because with poetry, I write what I feel, what’s in my heart. With fiction, I’m trying to write what my characters feel, what’s in THEIR hearts. That’s a bit harder to do. Especially if I haven’t developed them well or they haven’t lived in my head for a long, long time, in which case I take the character into the shower with me. Get to know them. Get them wet and stick soap in their eyes. See that they have a birthmark at the nape of their neck. Discover that they like their coffee black (yuck). That they hate the color green. That their first boyfriend dumped them in the most horribly public way.
Then go rewrite those scenes again and don’t take shortcuts. Hopefully, after all the editing and revising, there will be a manuscript that has laid bare my writer’s voice.
The more you write, the better developed that writing voice will be. Write about things that don’t require character development (the weather, what you ate for lunch, whatever). Write all the time about anything and everything. This will help you see your voice in your writing (not to be confused with author intrusion), to get a better feel for your style.
Here are some links about writer’s voice that I found helpful:
Happy writing! And if you see my voice out there, tell it I’ve been looking for it and to come home ‘write’ away!