"The face of the river, in time, became a wonderful book . . . which told its mind to me without reserve, delivering its most cherished secrets as clearly as if it had uttered them with a voice. And it was not a book to be read once and thrown aside, for it had a new story to tell every day."
Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi
...I hear it with my whole heart, as if it were my own heartbeat. There are some authors who do that for me.
I'm often asked about "voice." When I'm working for an agent or editor, they will ask me about the author's voice. It is an elusive thing. How do you define voice? Sometimes that voice really stands out, but sometimes the author hasn't really discovered his voice. Recently, a fellow reader/critiquer and I both recognized when a crit partner hit upon her "voice." It was exciting for all of us! She still is hesitant, but I think she is beginning to hear it, too. She has written a lot in order to find that place.
One of the main reasons I started my own blog was to rediscover my own voice. I lost it each time I would have to go undercover into someone else's manuscript, because we all know a good critic does not change the voice of that author. One of my favorite books about voice is Ft. Wayne native/author Les Edgerton's book, Finding Your Voice: How to Put Personality in Your Writing.(Writer's Digest Books.) If you are struggling with your voice, do get this book. I like it when he slams "da rules" right off the bat. At the end of each chapter he has exercises designed to help you get into your own voice (instead of mimicking someone else's voice.)
But maybe lately you've been saying, "I'm Nobody here with barely a voice squeaking through the rich, full sopranos,tenors, basses, rock stars." (Maybe that's my voice saying this.) On my desk is a piece of rose marble with these words etched on the surface: "Words are the voice of the heart." Confucius said this, though I don’t follow him, he did have some interesting things to say and had a strong voice. This quote speaks to the passions that are in our hearts. As Christians we're often told to follow the voice of our master, Jesus. The sheep follow the voice of the shepherd. Samuel didn't know that it was the voice of God, not Eli, who called him in the night, but Eli helped him to recognize His Voice.
But what is that voice in your heart? Whatever you find buried in your heart eventually will come out passionately as words. So,words, which come from your heart, are part of your voice. To find your voice is to find what's in your heart, your very lifeblood. Figure this out first. What hits your hot buttons? I have to listen quietly to hear the voice I have. I also listen what others say about my voice.
Here are some tips to get your ears on (this is old CB radio talk--"Ya got your ears on?")
1. Listen. Listen by reading. A lot. Read in the genre you wish to speak. Read books which "sound" like you want to sound like.
2. Write. A lot. Let people hear your voice, and if they like your voice, take note. Get your crit partners to point out to you each time they think your voice is coming through the story. Mark it in RED.
3. Listen to your heart as you write. If it says "thump, thud, swish-swish" then you might want to see a book doctor-type or mentor, and get your heart healthy. Get someone who is good at helping you with the writing without touching your voice. It's a fine art. You have to be careful with this one because I've seen crit partners flush the voice right out of a piece, or worse, put their own voice into a piece. Sometimes you have to listen the small, still voice which is telling you, "don't listen to this person, no matter how well-intentioned they are." (Just saying. )But if someone is really good at it, DO listen to what that person is saying about the writing. Phew. Tough call.
4. Get voice lessons and practice because eventually the voice and heart join together. Go to conferences, workshops, get together with fellow writers read your work out loud. Doc Hensley used to make us get into a circle and then read a piece out loud. Then the rest would make comments. Diann Hunt used to HATE this exercise, but it was so great to hear the voice of others. That is where I first heard Diann's great voice in writing.
5. Read your stuff to your dog or cat or horse. Your dog (or cat or horse) loves your voice no matter what you say. While you're listening for how you tell your story, you might just start recognizing your own heart-voice.
6. Let God hear your voice each time you begin a writing session. He knows what your voice is and will help you find the way to speaking out.
Write your heart...
Do you have insights on voice?
Do you have questions about your voice?
Whose voice (an author) do you feel is close to your voice?
Which author would you WANT to have a voice like?
(Anyone have a clue as to which author my writing sounds like??? What genre could you hear me speaking in? LOL.)
~Crystal Laine Miller