Welcome to Deep-Fried Friday, where I’ve pulled out the Fry Daddy and am ready to toss in a basket of thoughts to start sizzling. I was thinking recently how I have always told myself stories and loved reading, but it never really occurred to me to write a book when I was young.
By high school, I was mostly reading classic literature with deep themes and rich prose and page counts that made other young people dizzy. When I thought about writing a novel in my teens or 20s, it was in the context of having read Thomas Hardy, J.R.R. Tolkien, Jane Austen, D.H. Lawrence, Leo Tolstoy, all those Bronte sisters, and many more. I couldn’t imagine having that in me.
I don’t have that in me.
When I finally started to write seriously, I realized that my voice is not that of Tolstoy or a Bronte. My life experiences have formed me into a person who appreciates their narrative style but couldn’t pull that off in a million years. It would sound terribly stilted and weighty and blah.
Instead, I am a 44-year-old suburban wife and mother of two who has struggled with relationships, faith, cooking, and my mile-long to-do list. As a result, I’m a straight-talking, sarcastic, Texan-accented gal whose daily goal in life is to make sure that my children still have clean underwear in their drawer and that I prayed for something other than patience or sanity in the last 24 hours.
So my writing voice is, well, like that.
All too often, newbie writers seem to try to force themselves into the voice they have desired and admired. However, there is only one Tolstoy. He got that writing voice, and you can’t have it. Likewise, there is only one YOU. You have your writing voice–and while it might share similiarites with others’–it is not the same as anyone else’s voice. Your writing is exactly what it should be–the culmination of your God-given talents, your personality, your background experiences, your wit and wisdom, your unique perspective, etc.
For myself, I feel like this post should have been titled Writer Strangelove: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Voice. Because it’s been an interesting journey of getting to the point where I genuinely appreciate my own voice. I like that I write the way I do. I like that it isn’t earth-shattering in its profundity. I like that it is more humorous than highbrow. I like that my books will appeal more to young adults and those looking for a little escape than a graduate-level discussion.
My favorite blogs give me a snippet of the voice of the author. I would disappointed if after having read a funny blogger’s posts for months on end, I opened their book to read “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Tawna Fenske is perhaps my favorite example. Though I wasn’t a romance fan before, she won me over to reading her romantic comedies because of her strong, funny voice on the blog. While I doubt English Lit classes will be studying her prose in depth, her fiction is fresh and captivating. I like her voice.
So how do you know what your “voice” is? I suggest turning off that internal editor writers talk about and jotting a quick essay on whatever topic you want. You could even write a long email to your sister. The way you communicate in writing to friends and family is likely the way you communicate in writing to potential readers. That’s your voice.
So what do you think? How did you grow into your writing voice? Have you read authors based on their unique voice? Do you ever wish your writing voice was different?