There’s a wonderful discussion of “voice” happening over at Rachelle Gardner’s Rants and Ramblings blog. Rachelle is an agent I won’t be querying since she works exclusively in the inspirational market, but her views on writerly issues are very informative. I recommend adding Rants and Ramblings to your reading list.
Anyway, back to the topic…recognizing, establishing and nurturing your voice.
Here’s Rachelle’s definition of voice: “To me, your writer’s voice is the expression of YOU on the page. It’s that simple—and that complicated. Your voice is all about honesty. It’s the unfettered, non-derivative, unique conglomeration of your thoughts, feelings, passions, dreams, beliefs, fears and attitudes, coming through in every word you write.”
Yes! I agree wholeheartedly.
My voice began to emerge when I quit trying to “write like so-and-so” or to please this mentor or that, and began developing my own worlds, peopled with beings I both loved and feared. My loves. My fears.
What has this got to do with critique groups? Actually, quite a lot. My face-to-face critique group was a necessary part of my evolution as a writer. Having my stories ripped to shreds on a weekly basis taught me the difference between telling and showing, helped me recognize passive phrases, illuminated the many weed words I unwittingly cultivated…
However, once I learned all the craft lessons my newbie brain could fathom, I ran up against a problem. I began to hear the critiquers’ comments during the creative phase of my writing. I started worrying about what Alan and Ted would think of that passage, whether Nina or Devon would approve of that plot point, and whether my idea would intrigue Ray or Jerry. In other words, just when I had gained enough craft to allow my voice to emerge, I began to stifle it in an attempt to please the many and varied styles at the table.
Critique groups walk a fine line … mine was necessary to my education in craft, but it became a liability to my voice. How bizarre is that?
Eventually, I withdrew from the group (saving myself a 2-hour drive each way every Tuesday) and organized a small writing group that meets at my house. The difference? We rarely critique. We’re a support group and a safe, dedicated place to write once a week.
I remain in contact with my original group, still ask for and receive critique on my work. However, I no longer hear their comments during the creative muddle of the first draft. I’ve learned to leave my muse alone when she’s on a roll…I know my internal editor will clean up her mess during the polishing phase, and thanks to all the time I spent in that critique group, I have a long list of personal weed words to search out and destroy before I request a critique…
But I also have a voice with which to express my thoughts, feelings, passions, dreams, beliefs, fears and attitudes.
How about you? Found your voice yet?