Have you ever lost your voice?
You know the feeling. Aching throat, perpetual cough. That hacking, throat clearing noise that grates on your nerves and everyone elses. Just when you start remotely feeling better, you wake up and suddenly-you can't talk! Now, you might be like me and find it amusing to be speechless. You might also find that people are happier to be around you when your forced to communicate by written word only.
Ever lost your writing voice?
A writer's voice is his mark, his signature. It's the way fans know the new book is going to be just as great (if not better) than the old. An author's voice is a gateway into their world, an opening of a narrow door that leads to strange and wonderful worlds. Sometimes you catch a note or two and off you go, following the golden bricks of discovery. Other times, all you hear is clanging and you walk past the door, fingers stuffed in your ears.
Not everyone is infatuated with the song of every author. It's what makes us unique and recognizable in a sea of published works. It helps us stand out when someone reads and excerpt without first informing the crowd of our name.
What happens when that voice is lost? What happens when you suddenly wake up one morning and find your writer's voice has flown the coop? How did it happen?
A number of things can contribute to Writer's Laryngitis (hmmm, perhaps I should copyright that one...). It could be that you're obsessed with Neil Gaiman and, gosh darn it, you're going to sound just like him! Or maybe it's a bit more subtle. You find an author you adore. You read her books religiously, sometimes two and three times a year. You sit down one morning to write your brilliant new novel and, lo! Your words doth cometh out like the Bard's! You pause. Is that really so bad? I mean, heck, how popular is Shakespeare? You wouldn't mind being the best selling Cliff Note on the rack in 50 years. You ink up your quill and begin.
Yet...something just isn't right. It's not that Shakespeare's words are any less powerful today. It's the fact they're Shakespeare's words and not YOURS. I speak from experience on this. I have a favorite author. I read her books three or five times a year (I lost count). Funny little fact: I pulled out my beast of a trilogy and, LO! It doth sound oddly familiar. And I don't me familiar as in my reflection in the mirror familiar. Chunks of dialog and description are now crossed out. Why? Because they aren't me. They're someone else.
It's fine to emulate the greats. There's nothing wrong with reading the classics and finding out what makes them tick, what makes them timeless. It's even perfectly acceptable to try your hand at sounding like Austen or Poe or Wilde. But when it comes time to write YOUR novel, you need to sound like YOU.
How do you do that?
Stop by tomorrow and I'll tell you :D