A popular post from January 2008
By Julie Wright
Of course you're hearing voices. You're an author . . . we can't help it. But that's totally beside the point.
I met an author who hasn't read a single book authored by another person since he got his first book published. His reasoning is that he doesn't want his literary "voice" tainted by someone else.
Not only is his attitude excessively narcissistic, but he has trapped himself into a limited world. His voice will never grow--never improve; his characters will never stretch or be different from the ones he's already created. He has written many books, and it's the sad old case of "if you've read one of them . . . you've read them all."
Most serious writers know that their first couple of books are practice. If you don't get them published, you'll be saved from lamenting over your shallow voice and two dimensional characters. If you do get them published, you'll have that lamentation, but you can laugh yourself all the way to the bank. So there is comfort in having your first books published. ;)
But how do you develop you voice so that you move beyond your first tentative steps as an author?
And don't be afraid to read outside your preset genre. Read everything. Read drama, literary stuff, comedy, romance, mystery, fantasy, science fiction. As you read, your own voice develops. Your brain subconsciously picks out what works for you in writing and what doesn't.
I read 39 books last year. That doesn't count the myriad blogs and articles I read. And that doesn't count the reading I had to do on my own books to get edits done.
There is no way around it. If you want to be a writer, you have to actually (gulp!) write. And you have to write a lot. Try your hand at writing everything that holds a spark of interest to you. I've written music lyrics, poetry (badly), short stories, novels, commercials for products (I once fantasized that I would grow to be a high powered advertising executive dressed in a black power pant-suit and riding the subways). I've written articles for both newspapers and magazines and, of course, I spend some time blogging (which I count for good practice, but don't count towards writing goals).
And after you've written quite a lot, go back over your writing and look for recurring themes. It took me several years to notice that I am primarily a young adult writer. I read mostly young adult literature and when I write, I can't stop myself from writing with a youth audience in mind. I didn't set out to write for this age group . . . it just worked out that way. Even when I wrote for adults, I ended up with a riot of teenager fans. I also find I gravitate towards the fantastic, the paranormal, the time travel, the space travel, the beliefs of fringe society.
Time spent on poetry, on a short story, and the full-on novel help you to stretch your voice. Play with all forms of writing. Have fun with it.
If you write about things that resonate to the marrow of your bones, you won't be able to help but write in your own voice. If you're passionate about your topic, your characters, your story, your voice will convey that passion. If you're from the deep south, you will have a different angle of resonance than someone from Ireland. Write in the language you know--the language you speak. I am a firm believer in increasing your vocabulary, but you want your book to resonate to others. By speaking plainly, you will achieve that.
most people are searching for themselves. Writers are searching for their voices. To help you on your quest, read, write, and resonate (I love alliteration). Have fun!