Have you ever picked up a book by one of your favorite authors who has been on the NY Times Bestseller’s List multiple time and written tons of books…only to be terribly disappointed? I have. Why? Not because the story is lame, but because the writing is less than stellar.
Turns out many successful authors use ghost writers. When reading a book recently, I noticed the difference right away. Stilted writing, telling vs. showing, and worst of all…a totally different voice. But, I also learned something important about my own writing.
My critique partner recently told me to reread a portion of my work. She said it didn’t sound as if “I” had written it. When this happens, it means I wanted to write something into the scene, but I couldn’t quite get the words right. I forced the writing. Thus, a different voice.
Voice comes from the heart and soul of the writer. When we are writing and letting our words flow without allowing the “inner editor” to interfere, our writing “speaks” in our unique voice. When I first began writing, I didn’t understand voice. How I longed for someone to teach me about voice, how to use it, and and how to hone it.
You’ve probably heard that there is no new story or plot. It’s true. What makes each story different is how each writer spins the tale. Writers tap into their own experiences, emotions, and personalities to create their work. This is the heart of voice. When the writing is being forced, word by painful word, the result is a cardboard cutout.
When I read a book by an author I love, I have expectations. I’m looking for that author’s unique voice. The best advice I can give to all writers is to stay true to what YOU want to write and write it in YOUR OWN words. Listen to advice of critique partners, but don’t let them rewrite your prose. Step back from the keyboard and read your work out loud. You’ll find those places where you “lost” your voice. Get back to the joy of writing and let the creativity flow freely.