I remember when I finally decided to walk down the writing road after years of wanting to pen a book, but (insert excuse here) kept me from sitting in front of computer. I had hopes. I had dreams. I had a goal.
My first completed novel was bad and, if truth be told, passing time hasn’t changed that fact. It’s still bad. I’ll admit it…really, really bad.
Part of the reason was I had tried to stick to all the English rules completely; therefore, my book read like a textbook, dry and boring. (Yes, I had a few beta-readers tell me just that). After a long cry and, what I thought was just a dead end and a waste of time, I realized something. My betas were right. The book did read like a textbook. My characters were like robots. The scenery was lengthy and not compelling for the reader to step inside my creation for a visit.
I hadn’t learned the most important part of writing—voice.
But how can you learn to write with voice?
I hadn’t the slightest clue.
I pondered and pondered this question, and then, I picked up books from my favorite authors and read. I didn’t read for pleasure. I read for information.
I asked myself a flurry of questions. “How did they paint that picture in my mind?” “How is it they made me hate this character and love that character?” So on and so on.
I started to examine how the sentences were worded. I studied how punctuation was placed. I began to realize that these great authors didn’t always follow the rules. Once in awhile, there was a comma where it didn’t belong. And over in that sentence, it’s…fragmented. Wait, what’s that? A dangling modifier.
And you know what else I learned? It’s okay.
The rules of writing should be followed, or you will end up with a sloppy book, but here and there, it is ok break the rules. For instance, a misplaced comma is nothing more than the author wanting you to pause for dramatic effect.
An author’s voice is what brings the book alive. It fills it with vivid colors and scents and touch. It sparks emotions and heightens responses.
It was a wonderful lesson to learn, and a lesson that led me to another understanding.
Writing with your voice is a skill that must be practiced as each word is typed on a page. It’s a continuous process, and one that is not meant to be tamed. It is an ongoing learning experience that always improves but is never aced.
For each book you write, it is different. Different characters. Different worlds. Different situations. Different relationships. Different conflicts.
With all the differences, how can you possibly write with the same voice?
J.L. Spelbring lives in Texas, where she wanders out in the middle of the night to look at the big and bright stars.
Besides knocking imaginary bad guys in the head with a keyboard, she enjoys being swept away between the pages of a book, running amuck inside in her own head, pretending she is into running, and hanging out with her kids, who are way too cool for her.
Spelbring will be at the YART Young Adult Texas Tea event on April 21st.