Friday, October 12, 2012

Handwriting and Voice

Photo credit: Freedigitalphotos.net 
No one person's handwriting is exactly the same. We all swoop our "A" differently or cross the "T" from the opposite side that one should. ;-)

Our common denominator? We all had to learn how to write. We had to learn how to hold the pencil. How to print or cursive. The proper way to write an "O" or curl a "Q". Our teacher had to hover over our shoulder until the day that we finally "got" it and were able to write the alphabet on our own. 

What about the day you decided to write a novel? You knew nothing, except  you had this crazy-good idea for a story that simply had to be told. So you wrote it. Put every one of those words on the page and then stood back and gasped at the masterpiece you had created.

Then you started actually learning how to write a novel and realized that every bit of that backstory had to be cut. You couldn't say your character hated the villain, you had to show that hatred.

You had to learn the mechanics of writing a novel. You had to learn what is good and right and true to make a novel acceptable. But as Chip MacGregor said so much better than I ever could, once the rules are learned, those rules have to become our own.

When you learned to write the alphabet in print and then cursive, you learned the rules and mechanics. The proper way to write. But soon your own personal style and feel took over and your handwriting became your own. Not someone else's, but yours. It used to be in the 19th century, a left-handed writer was forced to use their right. And the same is no longer true for the novelist.

Your writing style is your own. Yes, you have to know the rules. You need to be aware of them, because it refines your writing and teaches you valuable skills. But once you've learned those rules and they become more second nature, then just write. Julie Cantrell and Julie Lessman right nothing alike, but that's what makes the literary world so exciting. You never know what you're going to find!

Write the rough draft to discover the story and enjoy your voice. Edit to refine it. Edit to bring those rules into play, but some of your best and most enjoyable writing will come when you're not trying and just enjoying. 

At this stage in our writing career, we all need mentors and teachers and coaches to hover over our shoulders, offering wisdom and direction in the way you need to go. Many times agents play this role, but more often than not, it's the authors who've gone before us that teach and guide. Like our handwriting teachers, they show us the write way to take our novels. 

But pretty soon those things become us. My first novel sounds nothing like what I'm writing now. My voice and style have refined themselves until as I edit my novels, I am constantly thinking, "this would be so good if THIS happened." A-hem. I have learned to keep reading, because 9 times out of 10, I've already applied that witty piece of dialogue or plot pivot I had been considering. And that's not an ego boost. I honestly forget what my own story says, LOL!

But when style becomes default, voice isn't far behind. How do you write? What's the rhythm to your words on the page? What do you always go back to time and time again to form your thoughts? That's not to say it won't need work over time, but you'll know who you are in your writing and it will become easier and easier to find. You'll also become more confident.

Let's talk. Have you discovered your personal style or are you still at the unearthing stage?

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Casey Herringshaw is a homeschool graduate and has been writing since high school. She lives in rural Eastern Oregon in a town more densely populated with cows than people.

17 comments:

Melissa Tagg said...

I have discovered my personal style, I believe, and I thank Susan May Warren and My Book Therapy for that. When I started writing seriously a few years ago, I was so lost as to what I needed in a plot...and I just got caught up in trying to write these crazy, twisted plots...and my voice was nowhere to be found in the process. Because of the storycrafting techniques I learned in MBT, I was suddenly freed up to really, just, write...as me...it happened at the very first MBT retreat I attended and I remember leaving, thinking, oh my goodness, this is me. This is my writing.

I loved your comparison to our handwriting styles! :)

Joanne Sher said...

What a fascinating comparison, Casey - love it. I don't think I have my style quite yet, but I'm getting there. Really like this post.

Diane Rinella said...

Great post! I have run across too many posts lately that simply focus on rules and how you should never break them. It's almost like people want others to lose creativity. This is refreshing.

I think I took something out of this that may not have been intended. My greatest challenge is knowing when to break the rules. Sometimes we get so caught up in them that we lose our creativity. There is a time and place for things like structure and format, but sometimes chucking those out the window provides the most fascinating read, just like changing how you cross your t's can make your handwriting sing.

Thanks for getting my brain going this morning.

Cindy R. Wilson said...

I think I've finally discovered my style and I'm really enjoying it. But it took SEVERAL books and I'm still refining it. I know reading other authors and learning from them has definitely helped me find my true style.

Lindsay Harrel said...

Good point, Case! I think I've found my voice...but I'm still working on learning the other craft elements. :)

Mary Vee said...

The handwriting analogy is perfect. As a school teacher I knew which kid left their name off the paper from the handwriting. My voice needs to be indelible in my story. Ink only...no erasable pencil. That is the goal.

Jeanne T said...

Love this, Casey. I'm still discovering my voice. Slowly, As I learn the rules and figure out how they work with my writing, I become less conscious of following them, if that makes sense.

I'm with Melissa. The skills and story knowledge I've learned through My Book Therapy have been an immense help!!!

Casey said...

Melissa YOU are your personal style. You are one of those super unique writers that I'm sure, sound exactly like the books you write. And yes, completely agree that MBT is vital and gives such wonderful direction.

Casey said...

Joanne, the more you write the more you will discover it. You'll discover it one day when you no longer have to think about forcing your words into a specific pattern. You'll have already discovered that pattern :)

Casey said...

Diana, those rules are so important to make our writing stronger, but a certain point, the rules have to become relevant to our writing. It's a balance between respecting their role in our stories and making the stories our own. :)

Casey said...

Cindy, I know it's taken me until my fourth novel to figure out how I write and I'm still discovering it because of how I write doesn't resonate with a lot of people. I think we "arrive" but we don't ever TRULY arrive, know what I mean?

Casey said...

Lindsay, don't you just love to continue learning?? :D

Casey said...

Mary and a strong goal that is. Beth Vogt and I were talking about this last week and it sparked the idea. Love how brainstorming with other writers does that!

Casey said...

Jeane, that makes PERFECT sense. Exactly what I was aiming for with this post.

Karen Schravemade said...

What a great analogy! I especially love this line: "some of your best and most enjoyable writing will come when you're not trying and just enjoying." I definitely need to take that to heart!

I do feel like I've finally found my voice. I write like what I love to read. With my own flavour. Love how no two writers will ever be exactly the same. :)

Casey said...

Karen, I think there must be such a freedom in knowing you've discovered your voice. Yes! I need that reminder again for myself right now as I work through edits and keep thinking about making this something an agent wants to read instead of just writing because I love the story and characters!

Keli Gwyn said...

Casey, how cool that you've discovered your Voice. Isn't it fun when that happens?

I didn't find my Voice. It found me, but not until I stopped searching and just wrote.