Monday, December 6, 2010

Is It Possible to Lose Your Writer Voice?

Here’s something I’ve been wondering lately. Voice. By far one of my favorite aspects of writing involves developing my voice. Voice. It’s that elusive mystery that attracts people to buy multiple books from the same author. It’s the ultimate desire for a writer—to master their voice.
~
But can it be lost?

From one book to the next, one moment to the next can a writer’s voice slip away like smoke drifting from a chimney top, disappearing above the trees?

We’ve all fallen in love with one book from an author only to be greatly disappointed by books two and three. Is it fair to say that author lost their voice?

Sure discipline, years of practice and a steady diet of writing will all work against this happening but I still turn this one over in my head like a charred rotisserie chicken. Perhaps voice always has the potential to fade or lose its potency or bravado. I remember weeks following my father’s death when I sat to write I felt a visceral fear that I’d lost the magic, my voice had fled. I worried I wouldn’t get it back.

My worry was for naught.

As worry so often is.

It came back.

What do you think? Is it possible to lose your writer voice? I want to shake up some thoughts on this one.

*photos by flickr

37 comments:

  1. Hmm, good question. I think it's possible to lose it if you never had it in the first place. Like, maybe you thought you found it, but it was an imitation.

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  2. Good post! Maybe you can if you don't care anymore. I think I see that happening with some of the big names. They lose the drive that the rest of seem to have, cause, you know, they've MADE it.

    Great thought. I'm wondering if I need to worry about mine now. lol

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  3. Interesting! As a reader, when an author's voice has changed, I see that as the author's choice. The author picks a different voice, style for the story. I've never considered the author lost his/her voice. I wonder...

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  4. Today, I say yes! But I think it's only temporary. Buried, like I said in my post :) I think a nice burst of inspiration and some duct tape to silence that internal editor and there's some hope!

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  5. Oooh, that's a GREAT question. I think as writers we can if we don't write regularly. It's like muscles going flabby when you stop working out.
    But the muscles don't disappear just get smaller and need to built back up. :)

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  6. Sometimes, our real world events color the way we write. Once, I had a legal decision go against me and what I was trying to do. I took my anger out by writing about it. I came across differently than how I did in the chick-lit novella I was working on.

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  7. The cup of tea helped me with my answer. I think yes, our writer voice can be lost. But just like our physical voice, it comes back. Sometimes it gets raw, or weak, or wracked with coughing. Warm tea, gentle care, rest: it comes back. Slowly, sometimes, scratchy always. But it comes back. And stronger. Always stronger.

    Love the look of the place, by the way! I know I haven't been by in a while so I'm sure it's not "new" but it looks lovely.

    ~Jen

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  8. I think worry in and of itself is a huge voice killer. Worry brings doubt, which brings second guessing instinctive word and plot choices, which means we struggle to find what we meant to say.

    Voice happens when we relax and tell the story.

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  9. Sometimes we are given a voice, perhaps even a courageous voice, 'for such a time as this' and what we've written is all we are asked to voice.

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  10. Yes. But I also think that writers have more than one "voice" in their work, and that different pieces might use different (yet still authentic) voices.

    Sometimes, when I'm having a difficult time getting into a new work, I worry I have lost my voice. I think it's always there, though. You just have to discover it all over again.

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  11. Just have to chime in to let you know I'm loving these answers!
    ~ Wendy

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  12. Hmmm... never really thought about that question before. It's a good question.

    I've definitely been disappointed when authors' voices changed from book to book, but I always interpreted that more as an author's choice. And not usually for the better (but then, I'm the subjective reader, and if I liked what they were doing in the first place I'm probably not going to be so happy when it changes.) Often I find that authors have success with a book and then want to "try something new," and I prefer their old, strong, recognizable voice.

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  13. I've loved reading thise comments. I don't have a definitive answer to that one for myself. I hope mine always stays-- I think is is there when I let it be there and not worry.

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  14. I don't really know. I think you are "write" to say if with constant nurturing a desire to continue to unearth it, the chances of "losing" it are pretty slim. Ignoring the voice of doubt and continue to push on no matter how terrible you think the writing might be. I think that is the first way of discovering your voice and then taking those little nuggets of great writing and snowballing it into the rest of the MS.

    LOVE your new look! I need to chat with you and see how you did this. *wink*

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  15. I'm still so new at this- I feel like I am finding my voice. But I know it is possible. I think being in touch with your own soul and God are key to pouring a voice on paper. I tend to lose mine- when I read others I respect and try to be like them.

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  16. The post is great as are the comments. I can't add a single word to what Erica said. I think she's in my head today. =)

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  17. I think it's easy to lose track of it, or to let it slip away. Or maybe it's more like voice is constantly running away from me. And sometimes I catch it. Every now and then. And it's the best feeling. My voice on the page. But then it slips out of my grasp and takes off and I'm lefting chasing it all over again.

    I've had an interesting experience with this. Where my voice was super strong in the prologue of one of my books. Then it lost some of its sparkle in chapter 1. I had to go through the first few chapters and find a way to bring that same voice in the prologue to life in the following ch's. It was not easy! About gave me an ulcer.

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  18. Good question! I don't think of it as a writer losing his/her voice, as much as losing focus. Instead of continuing to be inspired by ideas that made his/her first book great, the author focuses on selling more books, or determining what readers are looking for - passion shifts from creating a great novel, to generating an income...

    Wanted to respond to your comment over @ Life Lessons: So good to see you! What a great idea! Are your girls trying to out-do one another with activities of kindness?! Now that's friendly competition - the kind a Mom wants!! Have a wonderful week and God bless!

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  19. Yes, I think it's possible, but I also think it can be found again.

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  20. I say, yes it is. But lost, thankfully, doesn't mean gone. I'm still looking for mine. I know I had it when I was younger, and it seems to have disappeared in the wake of education.:)

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  21. Very good question, Wendy. I think a writer's voice can change during different seasons of life just as our real voice can change (if we're sick,etc.,). And perhaps it can get lost if we're too concerned about sounding like best sellers.

    I have to say that I love your writer voice. I always enjoy your posts.

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  22. No, I don't think you can lose your voice. You can lose your sanity, your health, fresh ideas, all of which impact your voice.

    One thing I've noticed is current published writers are expected to produce books SO QUICKLY. Like fine wines and cheeses, great books generally need a cultivation process. Sometimes rush and clutter and other issues mute a voice.

    But it's in there!!!!! And I love it!!!

    Patti

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  23. Can you lose your fingerprints? Your DNA?

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  24. As with puberty sometimes voices change, mature into something deeper and wiser. I hope my voice resonates with my readers long after it morphs into it's mature form. I hope books two and three will be richer and deeper because of it. ;)

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  25. Yeah, I think so. My story writing voice tends to be light and a little bit funny, but it can't break through when life is tough. I think loss and hard times can sometimes squelch our voices for a little while. I feel like I'm finally getting my voice back.

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  26. Yes, I think it's possible to lose touch with our voice... or the voice that resonates most deeply with readers. I don't think it's possible for the voice to the "on" all the time, though. Wouldn't that give us laryngitis? :)But you know what I mean? Sometimes in order to maintain our voice, we need to rest and refill the well. (PS, I'm new here, but I've seen you pop up in a few blogs I read so I wanted to say hello!)

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  27. Hmm... maybe temporary laryngitis. Or if we lose touch with ourselves. And that would depend on time frame, I think. But for the most part, I think our voice can change and mature, but will remain ours.

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  28. I have a tiny problem with voice. I guess it makes sense that we all have an individual voice if we're, say, writing a blog post or writing a novel in third person. But since all my novels so far have been in first person, I'm writing in the character's voice - not in *my* voice. This has always confused me. A lot of writers I really enjoy have different voices for each of their novels and it doesn't bother me at all. What I appreciate about them is their excellent writing and story-telling skills.

    So, bottom line, I don't worry too much about finding *my voice* because I think it can change with each of my books - and I'm okay with that.

    Does that make ANY sense? :)

    Amy

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  29. Anything is possible, but I would think if you were writing often it would be a hard thing to lose.

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  30. I think it's definitely possible. Last year, when I did some intensive critting with my critique group, I would edit the voice out of my submissions. Finally, when I stopped worrying about what my group thought of my writing, my voice came back.
    Thanks for the post, Wendy!

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  31. First off, I really like your new blog look! Great photos, too.

    Maybe, you can lose it, if your off course or trying something different, or just burnt out. But I do think it's always within, waiting.

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  32. We're alike in this way, Wendy, because voice is what it all comes down to for me. And I think we can misplace it, like it steps away, but I believe if we're true to ourselves it always comes back.

    Here's to you, and your voice!

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  33. And! It's been far too long since I've visited you here, so it may have been up there a while, but I LOVE your new header!

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  34. No. I don't think you can lose it because it is a part of you. It might lie dormant for a while, though!

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  35. Great comments above, Wendy, and a great post. But now this (musical) voice major is going to offer a different perspective:

    Your voice is your voice. It's your voice when you talk, when you shout, when you sing. You can't change the makeup that gave you the voice. You can learn to manipulate it into different shadings, but it will always be your voice. Like others have said, it can grow flabby if it's not used, but you can't lose it.

    I'm sure this is a shortcoming of mine, but I don't focus on writer's voice--not when I'm reading or writing. I think about "song" and "music" in my writing. Music = what's my audience? Do they want candy pop or a symphony? Song = what's the story? What's the message? Does it matter? Why?

    I daresay that some in an audience are more concerned with music and song than voice, and vice versa. Some will live with mediocre song if the voice is stunning. Others will suffer a passable voice is the song is meaningful or entertaining. The trick is to figure out what audience wants voice and which wants song. The audience I write for, I believe, wants songs. They want stories, not shadings. So that's what I'm concentrating on for now: telling good stories; letting the voice be what it is.

    Just my perspective, of course. Thank you for this superb food for thought!

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  36. Hi Wendy,

    I think Jennie Allen, answered the question beautifully

    God bless you

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  37. I want my fiction voice to have the lyrical quality of the New King James (NOT King James) Bible. I didn't know that until after I realized that's the voice I hear in my head. During those times I suspect my voice could be fading, I know it's time to read the Bible more often.

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