So every two weeks I go to a local writing group, or as we dub it our ‘Writing Support Group’ we don’t set homework, we don’t force people to write, it’s a place where people can come read something and get some feed back on it, or run a plot summary past people or ask general questions about writing.
Last meeting one of the guys had found a writing class where they helped writers find their voice, to learn what it was, and he raised it as a question, what exactly is the writers voice, does everyone have one, how do you find out what yours is, is it learnt or a natural gift?
We had a chat about it and we, or at least I, came up with the following. That everyone does have a voice, that no matter what you write, it will always be your voice, however as you grow and develop that voice will change and become more defined, and while yes some people will find this easier than others, they may just have a better gift for words etc you still have a voice.
I brought up art as an example for this, as I feel because of the medium its easier to see what is meant by ‘voice’ or in this case ‘vision’. Often, when people are wanting to draw comics they will start out drawing people that are clearly heavily influenced by Japanese Anime/Manga. And yes ok some people won’t move beyond this stage, they’ll doodle, perhaps they don’t have the time to dedicate to the hobby maybe they start a web comic and then give up (its hard work, I tried it once!). But there are those who write that do a similar thing, maybe they start stuff and never finish, maybe they’d love to write but just don’t get the time. Still even at this stage this is what their voice is.
However if you were to look at an artists work over time (and webcomics are a good example of this) you will see their art change, develop and grow. Where they might have started drawing pictures that were very similar to Anime/Manga they will perhaps start to find their own way to depcit things, perhaps other work will start to influence them. They’re work will start to change and grow, their ‘voice’ is developing. Writing is surely the same thing, the more you write the more you read the more your voice will develop. And while you may find that certain authors will influence your writing style more, it’s still at the end of the day your style, your voice. And as with any talent you will find that your voice is good at some things and not others.
For example I really like to read China Mieville and I love Zoo City By Lauren Beurkes, they have different style and I love the way that they use language, but I know that for me I could never write in the same way that they do. I don’t think my mind works quite like that, but it does make me think about the language and the way they’ve put sentences together as I’m reading it.
Other authors, for me, are easier to take ideas from, such as Joe Abercrombie who writes quite gritty and very gory stories. He’s very descriptive when it comes to blood and puss. I find it very easy to think about the words he’s using the way he’s putting it together and consider that if I were to write a fight scene I can use those words to get the feeling across. I’m not trying to mimic him here, but I feel that reading Abercrombie has helped me think more about what is needed for a fight scene and to change my writing style somewhat. But it’s still my voice, I’m taking what I’ve learnt changing it and doing it my own way. Sure you might see influences of certain authors in there, (well ok perhaps if I ever become published) but the key word here is influenced. I’ve done things in my own idiom.
(Hehe and now I am thinking of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.)
Anyway I hope that makes sense. Don’t worry about finding your voice, you have it, its just the more you write/read the better it will get.