Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Finding My Voice

I compare finding my writing voice to knowing what to say, although I realize that they’re two different things. As a writer, voice is what makes your stories unique, whether it be word choice, type of dialogue you use or even kinds of characters you favor. As a person, knowing what to say can be the ability to speak what’s on your mind, speaking appropriately in a variety of situations, or having the perfect comeback.

In my head, I always know exactly what to say. I can play out a scenario and have the perfect conversation. However, in real life, the conversation doesn’t always occur as I rehearse it, probably because the other person has not been privy to my private, head conversation! That’s one reason why I like emailing people—I have all the time I need to work on a pithy response and that delete button is a godsend.

In my writing, there are days when my voice shines through and I can breeze through pages and pages of a manuscript. The dialogue is snappy, my descriptions are detailed and everything works. Then there are those OTHER days. Those are the days when I want to throw my computer through the window (although that would seriously inhibit my Facebook time). I can’t wrap my head around the scene, can’t hear my characters speaking, and in all that silence, I can’t find my voice.

I don’t always know how to explain my unique voice, but I definitely recognize it when I see it. And I hate it when someone tries to change it. I don’t mind a critique partner or editor suggesting changes, because I know they’re trying to make the story better. I do mind, however, when they rewrite things in such a way that it doesn’t sound like “me.” My daughter feels the same way. She doesn’t like me to correct her school writing because she’s afraid she won’t sound like herself (we have a constant battle over how “voice” is different from “grammar”—I’m determined to win this one, but oh, it’s going to be tough). I can respect her concern, and I’m proud that she’s begun to recognize her own voice this early. It took me a lot longer!


  1. Completely agree with you about someone trying to change your 'voice' when you know it doesn't sound like you. I'm not sure I actually recognise my own voice, but I do know when I've written something that doesn't 'feel' right to to me.

  2. How wonderful to share your talents with your daughter, Jennifer, and have her let you.

  3. Hi Jennifer,

    Re critique' and editorial rewrites: just write 'em your way if you think changes are required!

    There was a funny story a while back, of a well-known author who had numerous suggestions from her editor for rethinks ad rewrites. She thought about them all, then said to her husband I wrote a damn good story and I don't want to change a thing. He said don't, leave it a week or two and then send it back. See if the editor cottons to no changes. She did as he suggested, sent it back and it was passed as brilliant, the editor's comment: "Glad you took my ideas on board!" ;)


  4. How true. Voice is what makes a writer unique and different from all other writers who are writing the 'same thing'.

    Ah. The grammar battle. Enough said.