Guest Blog by Thomas Smith I am happy to offer some helpful insights on finding your writing voice from author Thomas Smith. He and his publisher have also offered to give away a copy of his book Something Stirs to one of our readers who leaves a comment on this blogpost, so post away. I will draw the winner for this book as well as my regularly scheduled book drawing on May 1st, so by leaving a post here (with contact info) you are entered in two book drawings!
Finding Your Voice by Thomas Smith
When I first started writing, I read a lot of Charles L. Grant, Stephen King, Joe R. Lansdale, and Robert McCammon. I thought I wanted to be a horror writer. I had a file full of ideas about vampires, werewolves, haunted houses, malformed creatures created by a combination of man’s vanity and recombinant DNA, zombies, ghouls, and a smattering of ghosts for good measure. Armed with those ideas and the Berlin Philharmonic playing Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite: Infernal Dance in the background, I was off and running.
Consequently, my first attempts at writing fiction sounded a lot like cheap Charles L. Grant, Stephen King, Joe R. Lansdale, and Robert McCammon knock-offs. The writing wasn’t necessarily bad (OK, my first three novels stunk like dead fish), but it also wasn’t me. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but it doesn’t help much when you’re trying to blaze your own trail.
To find your own voice.
OK, Now What?
I realized that, though I was being rejected, editors were writing short notes on the rejection letters. They were writing things like, I really like the description, but … or You are a really strong storyteller, but … and the ever popular I really like this story, but…
So what’s a fellow to do?
I kept writing. I kept producing fiction that sounded like someone else. In the mean time I started going to various writers conferences and joined a writers group. The conferences exposed me to professional writers who were willing to share their knowledge with those of us who were just starting out, and the writers group was one of those where everyone was required to bring something they were working on regularly for the rest of the group to evaluate.
That’s when I learned the secret.
What’s The Secret, Mister Tom?
The two things that I learned are pretty basic, but they also get straight to the heart of finding your own voice. The first thing is the actual idea of the writer’s voice. What exactly is it?
A writer’s voice is the way the words move and flow. It is the way all the composite parts of our writing fit together as a whole. It is the thing that makes each person’s writing unique. Often you can identify a writer’s work by the way the words look and sound on the page. It is style plus a hard to define “something else” that sets them apart. Something you develop without being aware you are doing it. For example, read passages from your favorite authors. Notice what makes each one different from the next – the thing that lets you know it is their work. That’s their voice.
The next element of finding your own voice comes from practice. Find the feelings of the words. Words evoke responses, feelings and emotions. Some words are powerful (thunder, commanding, explode, terror, grandeur). Some words are peaceful (tranquil, flowing, sigh, velvet, sunset).
And it is through constant repetition – writing on a regular basis – that you get a feeling for the language. And as you write, rewrite, revise, and write some more, your own voice will emerge.
My novel, Something Stirs, releases this spring. You can read an excerpt on my web site: www.thomassmithonline.com (and yes … it is Christian horror)
Follow me on Facebook (http://profile.to/thomassmithwriting) and Twitter (http://twitter.com/tsmithwriting).