Writer: Know, Like, and Be Thyself
I debated how to start off this series. Do I begin with a-nuts-and-bolts planning-your-novel post? Or do I begin with a voice post?
I’ve decided to begin with voice because voice involves self-awareness. And planning your novel is personal and individual. If you don’t know who you are, you won’t be able to plan your novel to suit your personality. Make sense?
So, when it comes to writing a novel your way, we’re really talking about that difficult-to-define idea of “voice.”
What is voice?
There are tons of definitions out there, but in my mind, voice is the author being herself. It’s you being you. It’s picking the subjects, settings, and characters that thrive in your imagination. It’s using words the way you use words.
People struggle to find their unique voice, but your voice is already inside you. What holds you back from sharing your unique ideas with the world?
What will people say when they find out that you secretly fantasize about delicious men or that you sometimes plot the perfect murder in your mind? What if you’re not creative enough? Or funny enough? That is fear talking, and fear will rob you of your voice.
In order to write a novel with your authentic voice, three things are required. First, you must know who you are. Second, you must like who you are. Third, you must show who you are.
Who Am I? The answers to questions like those listed below will set you apart from other writers in your genre and will give you clues about how you will prefer to organize your writing process.
As a person?
- Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
- Do you prefer to plan in advance or wing it?
- Do you require quiet to work, or do you listen to music?
- What are your favorite hobbies?
- Favorite vacation spot?
- What is your oddest interest?
- If you could be doing anything right now, what would it be?
As a reader and a writer?
- What types of books do you like to read? (Not what books do you feel you ought to read, but what books do you love to read.)
- What are your most and least favorite types of plots?
- What themes do you enjoy and which do you detest?
- Favorite and least favorite characters?
Seriously, sit down and make a list of what you love and hate in books because if you begin to feel insecure about your voice, the first thing that will happen is that you will begin to write what you hate. Stop it immediately!
Do I Like Who I Am?
At the risk of turning this into a ra-ra blog, let me just say that most people have struggled with self-esteem at some point. Embrace who you are, fix what you want to fix, but use your unique qualities to your advantage! Everyone has something unique and different to bring to the book world. But you cannot bring this special something if you dislike those aspects of yourself that are different.
Before you can write a novel in your own unique voice, you have to accept your quirks and foibles. You have to like what sets you apart. Your oddities, flaws, and wacky humor are exactly what will set you apart from other writers and help display your true voice.
What if you don’t like yourself so much? You will be tempted to adopt the voices of other writers you admire, and your voice will disappear from the page. And really, why bother writing a whole book if it mimics somebody else? Be yourself.
Do I Flaunt It?
If you know who you are and like who you are, then be who you are. Everywhere. In public, in private, on paper. When starting a novel, new writers (and not so new ones too) become afflicted by “Great American Novel syndrome.” This is their dream! It’s serious business. As a result, they put so much pressure on themselves to write an “important” book that they freeze up and write the most inauthentic, boring text ever. Or worse, they never finish.
As you begin planning your first novel, pretend that no one will ever read it. Write your novel to please yourself. Make it wacky, ridiculous, sexy, audacious…whatever you want. If you write only for yourself, your voice will be real. So I’m putting on my tiara and Jayne t-shirt, and I’m going to get writing.
What are you going to wear?
PPS. My next project is a novella in the Personages of Pride and Prejudice Collection: Mary Bennet. Why did I choose her? Because I love Austen’s minor characters!