Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Insecure Writer and Losing Your Voice



Today is July's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.




Why am I an Insecure Writer this month? 

Because I seem to have lost my voice.

 I don’t mean from yelling during the World Cup. I’m referring to my writing voice. That little piece of you that goes into everything you write, whether you realize it or not.

Voice is one of those hard to describe things, but I like to think of it as the sum of all those choices you make when you write. It’s the kind of humor you use (or don't use). It’s how close or distant you make your POV. It’s the ratio of showing vs. telling that feels right for the story. In other words, it's the things that makes your story different from all the other stories out there with the same plot as yours. It’s what agents and editors look for when they read your manuscript.

My voice borders on the whimsical, which is probably why I liked the Harry Potter series so much. But I spent this past week looking back over earlier chapters of my story and my voice seems to be missing. It's there in the earlier drafts, but it's been steadily disappearing with each subsequent draft. Turns out I'd tried so hard to follow the rules, I'd driven the voice right out of my story. Not good.

So my new goal is to make sure my voice comes through loud and clear in each new draft. I can’t guarantee anyone will like it, but at least it won’t sound like everyone else's stories.

26 comments:

  1. I think this is quite common and usually takes going too far with rules and guidelines until you start figuring out which things are useful to you and which aren't. Basically, I think you have to lose your voice to find it again (hopefully better and stronger ).

    mood
    Moody Writing

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    1. Yep, I'm beginning to think it's coming back, a little stronger than before.

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  2. Yeah I've found that I edit the voice right out of my books if I start editing too soon. So now I draft without looking back at my work. Then rewrite focusing on getting the voice right.

    And then carefully edit to make sure everything's clear to the reader. (Well. Everything that NEEDS to be clear, I mean.)

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    1. I'm beginning to think that I'll need a final editing pass just to put my voice back into the manuscript. Hopefully, I'll get better about not taking it out in the first place.

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  3. We don't need no stinking rules!
    If that's sucking the life out of your story, heck with the rules. Voice is much more important.

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  4. Oh no, Ken! This happens to way too many authors. Editing can be hard. We tend to focus on the minutia and the rules that we forget to look at the big picture.

    I can't speak for everyone, but for me as a reader Voice is on the top of the list of thing that make me fall in love with a book.

    Voice, character, story, THEN writing. A sentence can be beautifully crafted, but if the other three things are missing than it just feels cold.

    I hope you find your voice again! Good luck.

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  5. It is such a shame that we feel as though we have to follow all the "rules" and we lose the one thing that makes our work unique—our voice. So glad you realized you were doing that! Good luck finding your voice again!

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  6. That's such an important point! It can happen to anyone. The thing to do is learn the rules, be able to write within them - and then be able to decide when to toss them out the window! My "voice" often comes with passive verbs and even an adverb or three. The trick is that I know how to fix it, and once I do, I see if I like it that way better. If I don't, if I think it sucks the voice from the passage/paragraph, I go back to the "wrong" way. Good luck!

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  7. Lexa is right. As writers, we work hard to learn the rules, but it's important to know it's okay to break them. Sometimes, you have to break them. I have a novel that lost its voice on the final revision. It never sold, and I'm sure it's because that unique voice is missing. One day I'm going to go back one draft, add in only the additional scenes, and try sub'ing it again. Good luck in your writing.

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  9. Lexa and Cherie sum it up nicely. Too often we allow the joy to go out of our writing because of the strong desire to be better. I try to distance myself from my characters when I'm writing. I have this little post it that reads, This isn't about you. It's like watching a good movie and getting so engrossed you forget you.

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  10. Yeah, voice is hard. I found that I went through a stage where I'd lost my voice. It was because my previous voice was contrived. Then, as I went on, my voice formed. It happened gradually at first, but I think a lot of people go through the process of losing a voice only to find a more purified version of it.

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  11. A unique voice is what will draw people to your work. J.K. Rowling's voice is rather popular so if yours is anything like hers, you should be in good shape. : )

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  12. I found that true when I followed all the rules, too. So I slacked off on some, so I am me.

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  13. I had to laugh about the World Cup. My voice went away for a while too. :D

    Good luck with your editing. Your voice will make your stories shine.

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  14. Echoing the above comments, it's so easy to focus on the rules and lose that all-important voice! I'd suggest trying to write without editing for a while, or maybe go back to an original draft. Best of luck! :)

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  15. The comment above me already say what I was going to say. I actually had a critique group member cross out a bunch of lines in her critique saying "you don't need this". They were all "voice" lines that the other members loved. Ah well.

    I hope you get your voice back!

    Loni

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  16. That's what happens, ChemistKen. Few of us live between the lines so how can we write between them? Great point you make.

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  17. I agree with what everyone else is saying. Sometimes the rules just dull the voice. And it is your own unique voice that makes the story yours. Good luck and have a great rest of the week. :)

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  18. Following the rules absolutely causes you to lose your voice. I want to recommend a book for you to read called, Finding Your Voice by Les Edgerton. He's a really cool guy who has a very uncannily good sense for what voice in writing is and how to get you to find your own. I read this a few years ago when I was having the same trouble you are now, and it helped me immensely!

    I would make some regular suggestions, too, if I may. Perhaps change to writing in a different POV, say from 3rd person to 1st person. See what happens when you get inside your character's head and really become that character. If you haven't already tried that approach, you may be surprised at how helpful it can be.

    Best of luck, Ken. You'll figure this out, eventually. Give it time!

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  19. You'll definitely get it back!

    I've read about this happening with other writers. They edit and edit and eventually lose the voice. But I know how you feel...we're trying to do all the "right" things.

    Good luck. No go get that voice!

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  20. Rules will do that to a voice. It took me a long time to learn that.
    Best wishes finding your voice again.

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  21. I once edited a novella so many times, I lost my voice too - I edited it out. It's great you spotted it, and know how to rectify it. Good luck, and have fun with your words!

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  22. I know what you mean!!! Mine comes and goes. It gets nice and strong during NaNoWriMo when I am writing like crazy and can't stop to think about things too much. Then it fizzles out. I make some free writing a regular part of my routine to keep it going.

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  23. It sometimes pays to break the writing rules. If we didn't, everything would be the same and rather bland. I'm all for finding a voice that works for you. Hope you can edit it all back into your ms.

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  24. I've tried to comment twice using my Google ID and neither showed up. Your voice came through loud and clear in both chapters I read on the plane. Inventive and funny. How's that for voice? The biggest change I made was to get you out of the students' heads.

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