Tag Archives: your own voice

Reading anything good? What happens to your own voice?

There’s a Fridayread page on Facebook. People share what they’re reading and what they like in particular about that book.

I can’t join the discussion. I have nothing to share. When I’m writing, I can’t get into a book. It’s as if I’m afraid I’ll somehow ‘catch’ their voice and lose my own.

I keep Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca by my desk as my talisman to remind me of the power of characters. See my post here on the subject. Not only is Daphne one of my sources of inspiration, I find I’m safe with her. I can re-read her short stories and I know her voice won’t get into my head. I’d recognize it straight away and so I’d be able to stop it from turning up on my page.

But, if I’ve been reading Joanne Harris, for example, I know I’m going to start describing my settings the way she does. Before I knew it, there’d be sugary, powdery aromas in my sentences or Gothic shadows lurking in my paragraphs. If I’ve been reading Lee Child, to give another example, my characters would start acting out, different, sharp. Clipped sentences. Move in. Move on. Fast.

So, I don’t read when I’m writing. Except for dear old Daphne.

Ae Fond Kiss at the Burns’ night with guitar accompaniment

He was an excellent guitarist. When he sang to his own accompaniment, the room hushed and listened. But, we couldn’t work together. He didn’t know what I was doing with my voice and I didn’t know what he was doing with his chords.

See, if we’d had a chance to prepare, things might have worked out better. So, after the first verse I asked to carry on ‘a cappella’ as they say in the music world. The term comes from Italian and means in the style of chapel singing without instrumental accompaniment.

We had a word afterwards and he told me I’d done the right thing.

So, this brings me to the subject of my previous post. You have to have the confidence to sing in your own voice, to write in your own voice. Some people will like it; some people won’t.

Finding your own voice in your writing

Do you receive Holly’s weekly tips? I do. Holly Lisle writes fantasy novels. I don’t, but what she has to say on all manner of writing issues is relevant to all genres. Find her at http://www.hollylisle.com

Here’s today’s gem from Holly: ‘It’s disastrous to use someone else’s style as your own.
Consider—the writer whose work you love is an original.
If you set out to use her style, you can AT BEST only
ever be a second-rate copy of her. Worse, you will work
twice as hard copying her style as you would developing
one of your own.

What you love about her style is the way her mind puts
the story on the page. But you don’t HAVE her mind.
You have yours, and what comes naturally to her and flows
from her hand as a part of her would sound false coming
from you.

If you managed to make yourself a good imitator and
managed to sell your work in her style, some of the
people who liked her work would certainly find you.
But many of them would consider you a pale imitation
(and they’d be right), and they would wander away.

Whereas, if you develop your own style, the people who
find you and love your work CANNOT find another voice
like yours. There IS no other voice like yours. Your
readers will stick to you because only you can give
them YOUR stories.

You’ll find your own voice as you write. It isn’t
something you have to struggle with; it isn’t something
you have to twist yourself into pretzels to “create.”

Your voice is you, talking naturally to your reader,
telling stories that matter to YOU. It takes time to
find your voice, and a lot of words written to get
past early awkwardness that comes from trying too hard,
but once you come home to who you are as a storyteller,
no one will ever mistake you for a cheap knockoff.

Be yourself. Pretending to be someone else will
leave you miserable, uncertain of the value of your
own work, certain that you only gained any success you
ever obtain because you copied some quirk of another
writer’s mind.

You would never be able to believe that the people
who loved your work loved YOUR work. You would
always believe it was the way you copied someone
else’s punctuation and grammar that they were
responding to.

Only you can tell your stories. Be sure you tell them
in your own voice.

Holly ‘

And my response – ‘thank you for this. It’s brilliant! I think it’s so important to find your own voice – like a singer whose style is instantly recognizable as soon as she opens her mouth. I’d go further. It’s in the timbre of the voice, to borrow a musical term.
Some people have operatic voices; they sing great arias, but get them to attempt something contemporary and it comes out all wrong and out of place. Others sing rock to raise the roof, or blues to make you cry and they’d sound just as misplaced trying to sing something from Puccini.

Tonight I’m singing a Robert Burns song at a Burns’ Night celebration. It’s a well-known song, but I’m doing my own thing with it. Isn’t that what we hear on X-Factor? You took this song and you made it your own?
I’m not looking to be a great singer. I just like singing. I love writing more. I know I have to have the same kind of confidence to do my own thing with it.’

Holly always signs off with ‘Write with joy’.

I do. So does Mick although he wouldn’t admit it.