Writing teachers often say that finding your own unique voice is the most important thing to do as a writer. But what are you to do when you struggle to find your voice: Mimic authors you admire or write like the author you are reading at the moment?
The thing is, when people speak of voice in writing circles, they don’t often talk about what it is. It’s pretty simple, really. It is the voice you hear in your head.
Many writers are familiar with William Faulkner’s words, “In writing, you must kill all your darlings.” But what if you’re not always ready to bring your knife to the page? How can you learn to objectively edit my work?
Well, first of all, no one’s talking about killing, or slashing here. Maybe cutting…revision does mean cutting. It’s one of those funny things about revision, you know? Revision is a process by which things get combined, get shortened or get expanded. It is also a process by which certain things get left out.
Some people hate to perform. I tell them that, while being able to present your work in public is great for building your platform, a lot of performance is actually for your own benefit, to improve the writing in the first place…it seems to make them feel better. In that spirit, I have put together a list of nine things you might learn about your writing when you make that dark walk to the stage.
Having recently dropped a kid off at college for the first time, I know what it’s like to put together some IKEA furniture…with the added handicap of trying to read the directions through a film of tears. Not joking.
Something about the directions for her bed struck me as useful for writers. In an early step (#5 of #21), they tell you not to overtighten the hex bolts. This is because one piece has to fit into another and there has to be some give — you get to the tightening of both pieces later.
You see where I’m going with this, right? I see a lot of writers overtightening their first draft: wordsmithing, agonizing over the perfect dialogue snippets or vocation for a minor character. Those answers will come over the course of the drafting process if you leave things a little loose. If you overtighten, you will just have to go back to a much earlier step and undo everything you have done between now and then — or worse, snap a piece off in your hand and have to go back to that giant parking lot with the weird trolley carts that don’t hold a damn thing comfortably.