COLLABORATION AND USING YOUR VOICE
Hullo, All, and welcome!
Why is your story your story? Why are you writing it and not another author? Or, why are you not writing what so-n-so writes?
Because you have a voice. We all have our own unique voice, and our own tales to spin. As much as I love the writing of oh-so-many authors, too many to list, I don’t write what or how they do. Nor should I try. I have my own stories to tell, and like eye-witness accounts, even if another wrote the “same” story, it still wouldn’t be “the same.” Different perspective, different voice. Just like fingerprints or snowflakes.
How do we discover our writing voice? By writing. Journal, blog, articles, flash-fiction—they all help develop our own unique style and flair. Panache even. The more we write, the more our voice develops.
In tandem with writing is reading. As conflicting as that sounds, reading others’ prose builds my own. By recognizing similar strengths, by acknowledging a technique another uses—and knowing it doesn’t fit my own repertoire.
Read in a variety of genres. Don’t lock yourself in to only one. Expand your horizon. I’ve a new favorite author, Jane Ann McLachlan, who writes science fiction—and not only sci fi but other genres as well. I’ve never been a sci fi fan girl but I enjoy Ms. McLachlan’s stories because they are well developed, thought out, and the characters are real and likeable. In other words, she had a solid voice. Horror is definitely not my genre, not to read and not to watch. But for the sake of growing my own craft, I’ll read some Stephen King.
Of course, my favorite genre to read, historical fiction feeds my mind with so much—historical details, culture come to life. And my own voice grows stronger for it.
There is the argument by a few that reading does not strengthen my work but weakens it instead. My argument to that is that dancers all study the great dancers, artists stroll museums and study art books, surgeons observe other surgeons, chefs study other chefs—you get my point. And while we writers are a different breed, the same truth holds for us—we grow in our craft by studying what others have written.
I’m not alone in this conviction. Over on Writer’s Alley, Ashley Clark writes about this very thing. I share her four key points:
How, then, does collaboration fit into discovering and developing your own voice? Does that not serve to weaken it even more than “just” reading something someone else wrote? Not at all.
As with reading, collaboration brings to the table fresh insight, a new perspective. It does not change your voice but enhances it. Like the difference of being in bright sunlight, shadows, or the dark of night. Nothing has changed, only the perception of it.
Think of a room in your home. What color are the walls? Now think of the same room after dark. Does the color appear the same as it does in daylight? What about with the overhead light on? Or bedside lamp? I know in my house, artificial light gives everything a yellow cast. Photos taken in lamp light turn out dingy looking. But has the actual color of the wall changed? No, it is the same color, but in different light.
It’s the same with your voice. Collaboration simply puts a different light, so to speak, on your voice. It’s still you but with some bling, perhaps. Or deeper resonance, or clearer articulation. You haven’t changed, but your voice is stronger, clearer, more defined.
Just as collaboration is about the refining process, so too, is brainstorming.
I like the way Susan Tuttle says it over at Seriously Write Blogspot, “During the brainstorming process, a friend becomes the board you throw things against to see if they stick.”
The key points in her article are:
So throw some ideas against that wall. See what sticks. Share your stories with one, with two, with ten people, friends, family, writer allies. And I promise you, in this business, the best are always an ally. Allow your voice to be fine-tuned, like a Stradivarius violin, it only plays the sweetest music when tuned by a master. Paint your story your most brilliant hue and let the light play on it, the shadows, the deep dark. Your color is still there, shining, telling your story.
Oh, and by the way, this is my voice. This is where I come alive, the design bit, this is my voice in this sea of “how to’s.”
“I once said I should write down all the story ideas in my head so someone could write them someday. I had no idea at the time that someone was me!”
Ms. Mason has been writing since 1995, and began working in earnest on her debut novel, Tessa in 2013. Meanwhile, she cranked out a few dozen poems, and made countless notes for story ideas. Ms. Mason lived with depression for many years, and the inherent feelings of worthlessness and invisibility; she didn’t want to be who she was and struggled with her own identity for many years. Her characters face many of these same demons.
Ms. Mason has lived in the Upstate of South Carolina since 1988. She lived in Colorado for sixteen years, during which time she: went to high school, got married, had babies, got divorced and went to college. Her “babies” are now grown, two have babies of their own. She currently lives alone, with her five cats.
Ms. Mason writes Christian-worldview–in other words, there’s no salvation message, but there are plenty of characters who know the Lord and share His perspective with those who are struggling.
Tessa and Clara Bess, books 1 and 2 in her unsavory heritage series, are both available on Amazon, both for Kindle and in print. The third book in the series, Cissy, will be available in September, 2016. Ms. Mason also has several poems included in an anthology, Where Dreams and Visions Live (Anthologies of the Heart Book 1) by Mary Blowers, http://maryblowers.com, as well as a short story, Sarafina’s Light, also in an anthology, Blood Moon, compiled by Mary Blowers. She will also be working on a personal anthology of poetry to be released in 2016 as well.
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