Archive for Voice

Write what I read? No thanks.

There are a lot of writers out there who will tell you to write what you like to read. It seems like good advice–logical, intelligent advice.


If you write what you like to read, be prepared to sound like your favorite authors and to lose some of the enjoyment of reading altogether. Because if you write what you read, you’ll find yourself becoming much more analytical about the books you used to love and you’ll find that your favorites don’t quite inspire you as much as they used to.

Of course, this isn’t advice for everyone–what advice ever is? :-) But this is experience talking, and you’d do well to at least spend some time considering it before you dismiss it.

Without your love of reading, is writing going to be the joy that it was?

If you choose to write stories that are different enough from your most precious reading, you could end up a much happier reader. And a happy reader is a much more enthusiastic writer.

I enjoy writing contemporary romantic suspense in both light and dark tones. I also enjoy writing sci-fi romance. But reading? Lately, I’ve stuck to fantasy novels, strict science fiction, and shied away from the suspense. (I have read enough suspense, both romance and mainstream, that I feel comfortable that I’m on the right track with my stories, but I’m not one of those authors who believe you have to read every new book that comes out in a certain genre to be able to write in that genre.)

Let me know if you agree or disagree with my reasoning. I’d love to have the opportunity to see another opinion on this.

Soon, I’d like to talk about why I enjoy writing dark suspense, but why I don’t enjoy reading it–and it’s not for the reasons you might think!

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What to do when the writing gets hard?

Sometimes it’s like looking in a mirror and seeing a stranger. Whether standing behind you or beside you, it is you and you wonder how you got there, because you thought you were here. And then there are the days when you know who you are, but you don’t, and you wonder. Do I know what I’m doing? Do I know who I am when I’m not writing?

If you can answer yes, you’re lucky, and you shouldn’t forget that. But if you answered no, then you’re like me and that’s not such a bad place to be.

But it can be better.

I’m not a philosopher, far from it. But I know a few tricks when it comes to writing.

If you’re a member of a lot of writing listserves, go no mail and mean it. Don’t visit the web interface and read the messages you’re not getting, because you don’t want to see what other authors are saying. You need freedom to remember why you’re a writer and freedom to think your own thoughts. Sure you learn from these other authors, and sure you enjoy their company, but if you don’t concentrate on yourself, you might forget who you are and why you do what you do. How can you write what’s in your heart and in your head if you don’t even know who you are when you’re not someone else?

If you have a critique partner or a critique group, choose to keep it all to yourself for a change. Don’t talk about it, don’t write about it in email, or in any other fashion. You’ve always been told to share, but in this instance you want to be stingy and keep what’s you close to yourself.

Don’t post excerpts for anyone to see. Posting is committing and committing is for later. You need your space and you need air, and you certainly don’t need someone breathing down your neck for more.

Remember to laugh, because laughing is as fun as writing should be. Even that which is hard is good, and running from a beehive with your friends is terrifying until you’ve gotten away. And then you laugh until you cry and roll around on the grass, and wasn’t that the best day you ever had?

If you take writing too seriously maybe you’re not taking it seriously enough. If it’s a forever kind of thing you want from this you’ll have to let go. You can’t live in the moment forever and the future doesn’t exist. You have to want it today and tomorrow and yesterday, but if you do, you’re going to lose yourself, because when is life about work and how does living take second place to something else? It shouldn’t and you should remember this when your son asks you to look at his project because the next time you look he’ll be gone.

Take it one moment at a time and remember that one moment isn’t all you get. Your lifetime is full of moments and when you remember that you’ll realize tomorrow is tomorrow and today is today and you do have to live in the moment after all. But that isn’t so bad, because you’re not waiting for tomorrow. Tomorrow is waiting for you.


Another How-To Book

I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m a little nuts about reading how-to books. I’ve received a new one, just today, called “Finding Your Voice: How to put personality in your writing” by Les Edgerton. So far, so good. I’m on page 19 and already I’ve run across some wonderful advice.

He has a theory about “natural voice” in which he says (on page 4), “…readers select certain authors to read in much the same way as they select their personal friends: on the basis of the ‘voice’ (personality) of that person. All human beings in the world have a circle of people who like them and want to be around them…and they also have folks who don’t like them all that much. The same is true of an author’s readership. They are the ‘friends’ he or she will accumulate.”

I can’t disagree with this statement, because I believe it. I read authors because I like the way they write. And if given the chance to get to know any of those authors, I’m sure I would like most of them. :-)

It’s very rare for me to enjoy reading only one book by an author, but not enjoy any others, and vice-versa. If I’ve had trouble reading one book by someone, usually I’ll have trouble reading the author’s other books too.

I also think that’s why voice is so important. It’s unique, it’s you. It’s your one chance to make an impression on someone, to let them know just what kind of person you are–for good or ill!

On page 19, Edgerton says, “…how you achieve your own voice is governed largely by the words you select to place on the page. When you select the only word you feel fits in a particular sentence, then you’ve made your choice–a choice many others wouldn’t have made–and the accumulation of those choices is largely what determines your own style.”

I know this, but it was nice to hear it so neatly explained. It also sheds light on an incident I had with another writer a few years ago about the use of the word “pervaded.” I wanted that word in my story. It was the exact word I felt it needed. She wasn’t fond of it, and she thought I should use a different word. Of course, it was my book, so I won the debate. :-) But the point is that she wasn’t wrong. And I wasn’t wrong either. She was just unknowingly trying to get me to rewrite something in her voice, instead of staying true to my own.

I like “pervaded,” just like I like lots of other words that aren’t words she likes. That’s what makes us different, and that’s what makes our stories unique and our voices our own. Our plots may end up similar (haven’t yet–but you never know what someday might bring!), and if they do, our stories will still end up totally different, because of our voices.

So why am I reading this book?

Because I can’t trust myself to trust my own voice. I’m hoping this book has the tips I need to learn that trust. :-) Wish me luck!

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I learned something last night. Several somethings, in fact.

I came home yesterday evening, and because I was tired, I ended up putzing around instead of doing anything productive. Before the night was over, I had watched three (yes, three) hours of Project Runway. It was the finale, and although I’ve only ever seen one other episode, I couldn’t seem to get away from the tv.

However, as I said, I did learn something….

It’s all about the style
Jay won, in case you’re wondering. If that doesn’t mean anything to you, then maybe this will. Jay won because the judges thought he had a style all his own–a style they could distinguish from the styles of all the other wannabe designers and the already-made-it designers. He offered something different in his collection, but each article of clothing within that collection was clearly his. It made me think about how important it is, whether you design clothes or write, to have a unique style. Kara Saun lost because her work was too much like Gucci, and Wendy (poor, benighted soul) lost because she seemed not to have fully developed her own style yet.

This applies to writing fiction so obviously that I’m not even going to bother to explain it.

A trip to Amazon, and this was what I found (and added to my shopping cart–only $13.11 more before I can bring it home (I’m too cheap to pay shipping…)): Finding Your Voice: How to Put Personality in Your Writing by Les Edgerton.

Oh, and that’s not all. I learned something else from Project Runway, in a round about way.

I spend too much time composing and not enough time writing
And no, I’m not talking about music here. This morning, as I was traveling to Chattanooga to do some accounting (never let anyone convince you to make a career out of something just because you’re good at it, okay?) and started thinking about the show.

Before I’d even finishing writing the first sentence in my mind, I’d gone back and begun editing my composition. Then I realized what I was doing: I was fixing my words before I’d even finished writing them. I’ve wondered why I write so slow, and I think I’ve found my answer. :-)

So, what’s the cure?

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