My writer’s voice
Hey, I’m back. My body is still on SE Asian time though, which would be why I’m up blogging at 3AM. Mr. Dare has promised the darelings donuts in the morning if they sleep through the night (something they failed to do our first night home…and our second). I, however, know I am assured of donuts whether I sleep or not. It’s just a matter of how much coffee I drink with them. 🙂
So, I’m up blogging at 3AM.
I’ve been meaning to blog about this topic for a while now, but somehow never found the time, what with all this traveling and deadline-meeting and squeeing and whatnot.
At this point, I have written three historical romance novels. Together, they comprise a completed trilogy and represent a fulfilled contract. Thus I find myself in a transitional phase, taking stock of what I’ve learned and dreaming about what I want to write next.
After writing these three books in one genre, what can I say for myself? I still can’t say I’m in print, LOL, but I can say that my voice feels very solid. That statement doesn’t exactly fit the definition of an accomplishment–it’s more of a reassurance. It gives me the confidence that I can write down whatever story I happen to dream up next.
Authorial voice is a tricky creature – elusive, shifting, hard to define. But editors and agents are always saying (so it seems) that voice is what sells a book.
To me, one’s writing voice is pretty analogous to one’s speaking voice. There are various factors that make a voice (of either kind) unique: tone, rhythm, pitch. There are certain rhythms I fall into naturally as I write, certain sentence structures and imagery and verb tenses that just happen on the page. I’m at the point now where I can write a scene, come back to it a week later, and think, “Yeah. That sounds like me.”
That’s not always a good thing. Sometimes I come back to read that scene and just cringe – much like I do when I hear my speaking voice recorded on an answering machine. Ugh! How irritating! I don’t really sound like that, do I?
There are plenty of times I open my writing files and think, Erg. Yeah, this sounds like me. But do I truly sound like that? My mind immediately goes to authors with sophisticated, lush, lyrical prose. Why can’t I have that voice?, I wonder. Maybe if I try hard enough, I can sound more like her! Or her! Or..sigh…her.
Whether I like it or not on any given day, my voice is mine, and there’s not much I can do to radically change it. My speaking voice, for instance, sounds exactly like my mom’s, and it always has. Sort of high-pitched and nasal and very Upper Midwestern. I’m not in love with my speaking voice at all (Sorry, Mom), but it’s mine, and I’d be a fool to try to transform it. I know this because I am a fool, and I did try to transform it at various points in my youth. You know, how on those high-school field trips it always seems like a great idea to pretend you have a French accent? Or when you’re chatting with a new guy on the phone, to affect a little sultry rasp, a la Jessica Rabbit?
Yeah, well, the thing is–that never worked. At least not long-term, not for me. When I’m consciously trying to use a different voice, I’m inhibited. I’m not myself. I have to speak too slowly, too cautiously. Inevitably, it grows tedious.
And the day writing becomes boring, I have a big problem.
So, my voice is there. It’s mine, it’s reasonably established, and I’m very grateful for that. Because I’ve got several new stories bouncing around my head, and it’s wonderful to know I have a voice, any voice, with which to tell them. And even if I still find myself coveting the smoky tone or sophisticated cadence of another author’s voice, I can tell myself that my authorial voice is just three books old. It may never change radically, but it will mature. With time and practice, it just might deepen a shade, become richer.
And those are my 3AM ramblings on voice. I will now try to sleep, and will likely dream of donuts.
(Heh, donuts. Yes, sophistication is a lost cause with me.)