Finding Your Own Voice
Posted On 13/03/2021
One of my favourite authors wrote crime fiction. He began writing in the 1970s and continued doing so until his death a little over 10 years ago. Some writers have taken up where he left off and continue the series that he was well-known for. As much as I loved this series, I’ve begun to notice some basic problems with his writing. Don’t get me wrong. He was a good writer, but there were times when it didn’t flow as well. Or it didn’t have the same ‘voice’, if you will. It could also be a little repetitive.
When I first began writing, I was only 13 years old. I didn’t really care much about form, rhyme, meter or various grammatical rules. It’s not that I ignored them. I was taught the basic rules of English grammar right from primary school. I didn’t know all the terms for them, such as pronoun modifiers. In some ways I still don’t. Most of those rules are something I automatically follow, without necessarily knowing why. Yes, I do still get some of them wrong from time to time. But I’m learning.
I studied English literature at university. In many of the poems I studied, I had one main question. Did these poets think about the meanings of what they wrote? And were they thinking about structural rules when they were writing? Since these poems were written at least a hundred years before my time, I obviously can’t ask them. I do wonder if they would laugh at each interpretation, saying: “That’s not what I meant!”
I often compare my writing to those literary giants. I wonder if I will ever be considered as good as Shakespeare, or Alexandre Dumas (another favourite author) or even Robert B Parker. For years, when I was writing stories in a particular fandom, I would read other people’s work and wonder if I would ever write as well as them.
Then one day I realised that I needed to stop comparing my writing to someone else’s. Just because I think someone’s writing is good, doesn’t mean mine is bad. We all have different ways of writing. For me, I tend to be a visual writer, in that I picture the action in my mind and write what I see. For instance, I was once given a photograph to write a story on in English class back in high school. I wrote the story in such a way that it stood out to the teacher. Someone else might have taken that photo and done something completely different. Sometimes it all comes down to how we perceive things.
Writing is a lot like playing music. There are musicians who are technically brilliant, can play the notes correctly, but they may not put their heart and soul into it. For a writer, the same thing applies. We can follow all the grammatical rules correctly, make the writing technically brilliant, but we may not have put our heart and soul into it. Like the author mentioned at the beginning of this post. Maybe he wasn’t technically brilliant, but it felt like he enjoyed writing his character.
So, we can continue to compare ourselves to Shakespeare, but at the end of the day, we need to write using our own voices. Write the way you want to write, not the way you perceive others expect you to.