Sunday, May 15, 2022

How to Guard Your Writer's Voice


by Tammy Karasek @TickledPinkTam

As writers, we’re told to write in our own personal voice. As a newbie, I never quite understood what that meant, even though I shook my head and replied with an okay each time. In case you’re reading this and aren’t sure what is a writer’s voice, here’s a general definition:

The writer’s voice is the style usage of vocabulary, point of view, tone and syntax (arrangement of words to create well-formed sentences) that makes a writer’s words flow in a particular way. 

We write and write. We finagle the words and rewrite them trying hard to write what we mean in the best possible way. Yet we know that once we are to the point where we “think” our piece is cleaned up, we need to be wise and have other writers put eyes on it.

Writing partners, critique groups—either in person or online—are a valuable resource to do this. However, in my opinion, you need to find a partner or group that is a positive one. A group where the folks are currently writing, learning and growing themselves. Having a group that follow the basic rules of the industry and/or genre requirements is key. And on the flip side of this, if you are going to participate in the group you need to be doing the same. 

Now that you’ve found such a group or partner, what’s next? 

Key points to be a great critique participant:
  • Know the rules of the group and follow them.
  • Come with an open-mind and listening ear. 
  • Learn discernment on what is a rule and what is opinion.
  • Don’t be defensive, remember sometimes it is just an opinion.
  • Listen or read all of the suggestions and know you are permitted to toss out those that are not what you know to be facts. 
  • If several folks suggest something but you still think you are right, don’t argue, go home and do the research—then use the correct answer in your work.

Above are a few guidelines to help you have a successful critique experience. And wouldn’t that be great if this is how all critiques happen? Yeah, it would be. But they’re not always that perfect. 

I’m going to tell on myself here, but it’s okay, I can take it. A few years ago, I had a scene that I had worked then taken to one of my groups. They offered their many varied opinions and I went home and obediently corrected everything they’d said. Everything. Once fixed, I took it to another group. Wash, rinse, repeat – I’d do the same thing again—over and over to make it perfect. Go ahead, roll your eyes, it was only one scene, and 1500 words at that. But newbie…sigh.

Then I had a dear friend who was a multi-published, wise and experienced writing teacher hold my hands and look me in the eyes after reading this same piece. She smiled and said, “Where is Tammy in this scene? I no longer hear your voice in here. If your name wouldn’t have been on the top, I wouldn’t have known this was your writing.” I stared for a moment, realizing I didn’t know what she meant. Thankfully, I came to and asked her to explain. First, she told me—without even knowing—she felt I had let too many people see it and give opinions on how my scene should be told. And with that, it was no longer my voice. She went on to explain that the reader should be able to hear the voice of the writer as they read—the identifiable way of how they would speak the story should they be sitting across the table from each other. A good writer puts his or her own mark on how they write.

The lightbulb popped on like the dentist’s spotlight above my head—bright and in my face.

I now knew what she spoke of. I thought of how many changes I’d made and had to agree I, too, had no idea who said this. My friend then said, “just write your story and get it done. Allow others to look at it along the way, but learn to discern what is structure or writing rules and what is another person’s opinion.” 

I will admit, as a newbie writer, this was often hard to know the difference. However, I want to encourage you that you can find the answers to suggestions that don’t seem right. We have fabulous teaching available to us from so many places. Go with trusted sources such as those who are published and know the works of the industry. They are out there and many are willing to help bring you along, just ask. 

I encourage you to find a group to do this journey of writing with. But I caution you to remember to stay true to your own personal voice in your pieces. Learn to decipher when a suggestion helps your writing become stronger or if it’s just the person who critiqued it changing it to how they would have written it. I promise you will learn to see the difference. Give yourself the permission to disregard the unhelpful comments that will come your way—whether from a writing partner, critique groups, editors or contest judges. In time, you’ll be more aware when critiques are constructive and you should heed the advice of, versus those that offer no value for the writing to be stronger.

I ask … are you in a spot where you feel like your words have been changed enough that you no longer think the submission is even something you would have said? If so, now’s the time, dear writer friend, to take back your voice that’s been stolen from you. Put your voice back into that article, blog post or book. Don’t disregard story structure and grammar rules, but do write the story as if you are telling a friend the story face to face.

With a critique or edit … know the rules and change what’s needed, but never let anyone take away your voice in your work. 

Thoughts? Comments? Please jump in on the conversation … The Write Conversation!

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Tammy Karasek uses humor and wit to bring joy and hope to every aspect in life. Her past, filled with bullying and criticism from family, drives her passion to encourage and inspire others and give them The Reason to smile. She’s gone from down and defeated to living a “Tickled Pink” life as she believes there’s always a giggle wanting to come out! 

She’s the Social Media Manager for the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, Founding President and current Vice-President of ACFW Upstate SC, Founding President of Word Weavers Upstate SC. She’s a writing team member for The Write Conversation Blog, Novel Academy, and MBT Monday Devotions and others. Her work was published in a Divine Moments Compilation Book—Cool-inary Moments. When not writing Women’s Fiction and Rom-Com, she’s The Launch Team Geek helping authors launch their books and a Virtual Assistant for authors.

7 comments:

  1. I think the greatest example of "writer's voice" was a gentleman named Mr. Lewis Grizzard. Some might remember his posts in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper years ago; but if you were ever blessed to hear him speak, then every word you read after that was pure Grizzard. He had such a way with story. Much like a certain pink-preferring lady I'm proud to call a sister in Christ.

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  2. A critique partner who critiques IN your voice is of great value! I have three, two of whom I've been partners with for 17+ years. Over the years, that's what we learned - to critique in each other's voices. I trust them with my life and my work. But I've learned to apply this measure: if one person says it, I listen. If two say it, I will most likely change it. If all three say it, I don't question - I make the change.

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  3. You've really opened my eyes and ears with your post this morning. I learned so much, and I thank you for sharing.

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  4. Thanks for this timely piece. Appreciate your thoughts and advice.

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  5. Thank you, Tammy. This is very interesting.

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  6. Thank you, Tammy. I found this very helpful.

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