Friday, September 14, 2007

I Found My Voice, Then Developed Laryngitis

I know that writing takes practice. That you can't just one day decide you're going to write a book, write it and then right after you type 'the end', you've got a publisher dying to buy it. Okay, this has probably happened to someone, but for most of us, it takes years of practice.

When I first started writing, I tried to be a certain way. Write a certain way? No, be a certain way. My hero and heroine were perfect. My villain had no redeeming value, and I had so many characters with their own point of view, even I got confused. I wanted my characters to be a certain way, so I forced them into boring stereotypes. And it showed. After a while, thanks to conferences, workshops, chapter meetings and talking to and learning from many talented writers, I learned to loosen up, let my inhibitions go and just write the story.

I wrote two books this way and thought I'd found my niche, my voice. That indefinable, vague but oh so important thing that defines 'me' and what I write and how I write it. I've heard good definitions for what 'voice' is, but can't think of one at the moment. But however it's defined, I thought I'd found mine.

Last year, I went through some sort of transformation. I didn't know it at the time. I just knew I couldn't write. Nothing came. I'd sit at my computer and get so frustrated and angry for not being able to put anything on a page. I was seriously questioning if I would write again.

Then, something sparked my imagination and I sat down and wrote three chapters. Problem was, I couldn't figure out what was happening. It was so different than my usual style, I thought I might be writing a historical. That surprised me. I don't write historicals. I love them, but I can't write them. So what did I do? I stopped of course, completely frozen in fear.

In January, I took two online courses that not only inspired me, they freed something in me. I began writing again. I went back to the story that had scared me, figured out what was happening in it and wrote the book. Turned out not to be a historical, after all. Odd, huh?

So what does this have to do with voice? Everything! The other day, I went back to one of my old books for some reason, can't remember why. It's always been my favorite. I read a few pages of it and realized it doesn't sound anything like my new voice. I was stunned. What had happened? Where did my old voice go? Will it come back? Actually, I hope not, because I like my new one.

I never expected this kind of change in my writing. I'm not saying it's better or worse, but it is totally different.

What about you? Have you found your 'voice'? Has your voice changed over the years? For those who write in different genres, do you have a different voice for each? Oh, and have you ever had literary laryngitis? How did you get over it?

1 comment:

MaryF said...

At this point, I am trying to find my voice. I think sqeaking doesn't count.

I applaud you for what has happened, it shows how you are growing as a writer. Actually it was encouraging to read your process of growth...that means, to me, each story you write is something to discover...!

but drat, does it have to be so very painful?