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.)

13 comments to “My writer’s voice”

  1. Gina Black
    · August 23rd, 2008 at 6:55 am · Link

    “Welcome back,” I said in my fuzzy morning voice. 😉

  2. Alyssa Goodnight
    · August 23rd, 2008 at 11:19 am · Link

    I feel as if I’ve found my voice too. Now if I could only stick with a genre…

    Congrats on three finished to-be-published books!

  3. Lynne Simpson
    · August 23rd, 2008 at 12:14 pm · Link

    Glad you had a great trip!

    For a long time, I didn’t think I *had* a discernible voice, and insecurity about this led me to take all kinds of well-meaning but ultimately misguided advice from online crit groups, writing contests, and so forth.

    When I finally stopped listening to outside influences and focused instead on just telling the dang story, I realized I’d had a voice all along. It’s not a showy one. Nor is it a lush, highly ornamented one. But it’s mine and it gets the job done, so I’m happy. 🙂

    Oddly enough, it’s the same no matter what genre I write, and thus far, that hasn’t been a problem.

  4. Santa
    · August 23rd, 2008 at 8:09 pm · Link

    Welcome back, Tessa. Can’t wait to read your voice! An author’s voice more than any other element brings me to authors.

    And here, here Lynn. I have found myself doing the same exact thing.

    Great blog for 3am. I’ve also found donuts to be a great motivator.

    Happy dreams to you and all the Darelings.

  5. Tiffany Kenzie
    · August 24th, 2008 at 7:10 am · Link

    Welcome back, Tessa!

    I think sometimes writers are afraid of their voice. Mine is very distinguishable and a bit like I’ve hit the reader on the head at times. So, that being said, I held back a lot of the time.

    I’m glad to say my voice is found, and strong and I don’t hold back after too many bad crits, and some really good crits where the author/writer on the other end was like–Tiff, come on, you can go deeper, so on and so forth. It took me three books to get there (safely tucked away) and a switch in genre to really find it.

    mmmm, donuts…

  6. Elyssa Papa
    · August 24th, 2008 at 9:19 am · Link

    Welcome back, Tessa!

    I think once you’ve embraced your writing voice, then it’s opened more writing doors to you. I don’t know if that makes sense whatsoever; I’m blaming the sugar-high I’m still on after eating sugar frosted cookies. Mmmm… cookies.

    You have a great writing voice, and people when they read your books will get that you love what you do—that writing is your passion.

  7. Janga
    · August 25th, 2008 at 3:33 pm · Link

    Welcome back, Tessa!

    It’s easy, I think, for writers to feel about their writing voices the way you feel about your speaking voice, Tessa. I have found my voice, but trusting it is a different matter. I spend too much time thinking if only I had the sultriness of X or the wit of Y or the angst of Z (Insert names of various published and unpublished writers). I hope that as I complete more books, I will develop more trust in the voice that is mine and spend less time vainly wishing I sounded more like writers I admire.

  8. Tessa Dare
    · August 26th, 2008 at 1:58 am · Link

    Thanks for the fuzzy welcome back, Gina!

    Alyssa, I admire your versatility!

    Lynne, sounds like you have the best kind of voice – one that never intrudes on the story. Mine has a tendency to jump up and down for attention, and I have to remind myself to keep it in line. 🙂

    Santa, I agree that an author’s voice – particularly in the case of new-to-me authors – is what draws me to a book. And now I am so craving donuts again.

    Tiff, thanks for dropping by! I would agree that your voice is very distinctive and lovely. I hope you’re working away on that book I got a taste of! I want more!

    Ely, I think you’ve hit on something so important. When you’re having fun writing, and you’re firmly in your voice, that enthusiasm shines through.

    Oh, Janga – I am so glad to know I am not the only one. You said it so perfectly – I’ve found my voice, but I’m still working on trusting it.

    Thanks, ladies. Virtual donuts for all!

  9. Kelly
    · August 26th, 2008 at 6:24 am · Link

    Good grief! You’re far more coherent at 3am than I am at 10 am!

    I’m still working on finding my voice, my true voice, anyway. One of the setbacks of having grown up on stage is that I’m fairly “flexible” in terms of speech, synxtax, and persona. I still struggle occasionally to find the element in all of that that is uniquely me.

  10. terrio
    · August 26th, 2008 at 7:33 am · Link

    I just found this and I love how you talk about voice. It reminds me of when I started in radio. I had to find my voice for that and after a while, it became very natural. For some reason, my voice drops when I’m on air. Not sure why.

    I think my voice is similar to how Lynne describes hers. It’s no frills, simple and maybe even a little rough around the edges. But trying to fancy it up has held me back, so now I just tell the story as it comes out. I sure hope that doesn’t turn out to be a bad thing. LOL!

    Welcome back and I hope you got your donuts!

  11. Sleeper Sofa ·
    · November 4th, 2010 at 5:25 am · Link

    i’m quite good in witing but i have not yet signed up on a writing contest “

  12. Sleeper Sofa
    · December 3rd, 2010 at 10:52 am · Link

    last time, i joined a writing contests on the internet and i won a small price for writing a nice piece of writing ;..

  13. Tea Dress
    · February 6th, 2011 at 3:31 pm · Link

    *”. that seems to be a great topic, i really love it .;;