Has Anybody Seen My… Voice?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

When I first started writing, I was very afraid that I would lose my voice (the one in my writing). I would write half a novel, maybe even three-quarters of one, and then I would read a book with a strong voice in it and it would alter mine, leaving the rest of my book inconsistent. I’ve read about other writers having a similar concern, and I can understand why. After reading 300-400pg novel with a strong voice over several days, I usually start to think with a different beat, inserting words that were used a lot in the book. It’s most obvious with older books, especially when I start saying “thus” out loud.

(Now, some of you might argue that what I’m describing isn’t exactly what voice is, and since it’s such a slippery topic, you’re right. Voice is much more than that. Come back Friday for a post discussing voice. However, I did not understand this at the time so I was worried.)

My solution was—avoid reading books. Now, I love reading, so this wasn’t a good solution for me at all. It lasted for almost half a year while I wrote my first draft, but eventually I had to read. I missed it too much. So I went ahead and dug into a book, and it was great to read again. The next day I approached my draft, wrote a few pages, and my writing wasn’t really that altered. My voice was still there! Some of the word choices were affected by what I had just read, but that was okay. In fact, writing was easier than usual. The words flowed better and I wrote faster. Reading helps you write! This is probably old news to a lot of you, but for me at the time it was a pretty big discovery. Sure, I had read books that told you to read a lot if you want to be a writer and that it will help you with your writing, but I never really grasped the extent of what they meant till that morning.

How about you? What surprises have you had on your writing journey (or with other learning experiences)? Did you have any fears that turned out not to be necessary?

Note: Great giveaway over at Seeing Creative, Stina Lindenblatt’s blog. She’s celebrating reaching 500 followers and the prizes include Donald Maass’s Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook as well as first chapter critiques!

12 comments:

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I read once that if you're writing fiction, you should only read non-fiction while writing, and vice versa. Screw that advice. Since I write (or edit) everyday (fiction) that would mean I'd never get to read a novel ever again. Um, definitely not good if you want to write novels.

So I ignored the advice, and it hasn't hurt my voice!


(hmmm I could have sworn I'm following your blog, but no one is showing up in your followers widget!)

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Okay, now your followers are showing up again. Wow, weird.

Nicole Mc said...

Sometimes I'm afraid of this also. Especially reading a different person or tense that I'm writing. It throws me off a little. But there is not way i could really stop reading all together!! :)

Jenna Cooper said...

I've never worried about this, too many agents and writers have said READ READ READ if you want to write a good book. Lately I've been worried I don't read enough!

Plamena Schmidt said...

@ Stina Lindenblatt--Haha, yeah, I wished I had just gone ahead and read earlier!

I don't know why, but last night all the blogs I visited (including mine) didn't show up the followers. Luckily, they're back now. Thank you for letting me know though, I wasn't sure if it was just my computer or not : )

Plamena Schmidt said...

@ Nicole Mc--And you shouldn't! I can't believe I stopped reading for so long!

@ Jenna Cooper--Sometimes I worry I'm not reading enough either, but at least I'm reading now.

WritingNut said...

I couldn't agree more... and I know it's been said over and over again, but reading helps you with your writing! :)

Great, thought provoking post.

Plamena Schmidt said...

@ WritingNut--Thanks!

Kimberly Krey said...

Very interesting post! Yes! Sometimes reading can influence our voice. Which is why I usually alternate between different authors with very different voices (from one another).

Mallory Snow said...

I find the more I write, the less I'm influenced by the books I read. :)

Katie Dodge said...

During my research phase, I'll read similar books to the one I'm about to write, but then I have to set them aside so I don't take on their voice. Great blog! :D
katieonfiction.blogspot.com

Jenna Cooper said...

Hey Plamena, I wanted to let you know that I awarded you the Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award. You can find out about it here: http://findingthewriteway.blogspot.com/2011/06/irresistibly-sweet-blog-award.html
Congrats! :D