Every writer has a voice, even when you're just starting out. It's something you already have. While every writer has a voice to start out with, learning to trust it can be tricky.
In the years since beginning my writing life, I realized that trusting my voice is one of the hardest things to get a handle on. In terms of writing, Voice is the unique signature that differentiates your work from others. It's comprised of, but not limited to the following criteria-
Type of humor
For example, if two writers each write a story about a horse, they may take different approaches to it.
In the first writer's story, the horse could be struck by lightning, but instead of getting electrocuted, it gains the ability to talk as people can. After some madcap mishaps, the horse figures out the best way to use his newfound gift.
The second writer's approach may take a more realistic turn in that a girl and her horse go on an adventure through the plains beyond her family farm. While the horse in this story doesn't talk, he'll express his feelings through his mannerisms and gestures.
Yet another way would be to combine the two tell the story from the horse's viewpoint like a memoir. Like the first story, the horse can tell the story his way, but like the second story, won't use spoken lines, instead opting for a diary-style format. Now obviously real horses can't write, but by telling the story as if they could without spoken lines will express his feelings and thoughts on things.
After your story has long past the first draft stage, you'll want to get feedback to see if your writing can connect with someone besides you. The key is finding the right people. You'll need people who can view your work objectively and honestly, without the need to brutally tear you apart word by word.
While you don’t want to be blind to suggestions to things that will make your story better, it's still your story. No matter what changes you make, it has to be your story, not a story someone would prefer you write.
One good place to get feedback is the Absolute Write Water Cooler forums, they have a "Share Your Work" section where you can post small excerpts of your work and get feedback. It's password protected so you'll need to register an account to use this feature.
If you don't want to share you story with the whole forum, you can go to the "Beta Readers, Writing Partners, and Advisors" section and find someone on the Willing beta-reader thread. Or post a request for a beta-reader (Beta-readers are people who agree to read and evaluate your work) Again, you'll need to register with the AW forums.
Trust me, it's worth it, I've gotten valuable advice from other writers who have the same goal I do, to improve your writing and get closer to publication.
It can be hard to get feedback, especially in the beginning. But it's the only way to get an objective opinion of your work. Even if someone doesn't like your story, they may give you advice that will ultimately help you make your story better, even if it's hard to hear.
However, be careful not to let the advice you get drive you batty. In some cases, someone may not like your story solely because of their tastes and preferences. Other times, they may not read your genre and may not understand certain things about your story.
That's why it's important to get feedback from multiple sources. If they bring up a lot of the same things, you'll want to pay attention, even if you highly disagree. Often when you get a general consensus on a problem people said they had with your story, it's usually the case.
For example, in one of my novels, I constantly got feedback that my dialogue was either too formal and stilted, or it didn't sound "real." Sometimes it was both! It hurt to hear that, especially since I love writing dialogue, but since almost everyone who read that novel said this was a problem, it was worth investigating, and they were right.
This is something I continue to grapple with because I've gone over my last novel (The one with unrealistic dialogue) at least twenty times since I wrote the first draft in 2005. Why did I stay devoted to it so long without easily giving up? Simple, I believed in my story. I wrote the first draft because I had to have this story in visible form. I spent years revising it because I knew it'd be a worthy story once it was "finished."
While it's not "Finished" yet, I had to put it aside to work on Project M for two reasons-
1. Saving my sanity
When you work on a story for long periods of time, whether it be months or years, it's easy to get frustrated when you constantly get feedback that it's not working because your character's inconsistent or your punctuation is not up to snuff, or whatever pet peeves your readers might have.
Even if you find your readers are right about the problems your story has, it can still feel frustrating as if nothing you did in your past revisions made a difference. As a wise writer told me: Even though it feels like your edits haven't changed anything, they have. Every time you improve even a single sentence, you're getting better at it.
2. Moving on isn't "Running Away"
While I still believe my last novel will be submission ready one day, I'm unable to do the restructuring and re-imagining it needs to shine as I know it can. That's because I'm so close to the work that I gloss over things that shouldn't be.
But I can't just wait and do nothing to get the distance I need to make the proper changes. So when NaNoWriMo starts on November 1st: I'm not going to look at my last novel at all and focus solely on my new novel, Project M.
I struggled with putting my last novel aside more than others I've put aside because I was tired of starting novels, finishing the first draft of them, and not getting them polished at the level to be taken seriously. I felt like I was running away for starting another big project when this isn't finished in terms of being submission ready. But I realized I've been too hard on myself, and NaNoWriMo is my chance to start over and re-evaluate my writing process.
Even though good writing is rewriting, when I kept hitting brick wall after brick wall, it stopped being fun for me. While I've learned to persevere and do the hard work, it has to be balanced with having fun.
My main goal in NaNoWriMo is to have fun with what I'm writing. Get out of Editor mode, and recapture the joy I felt when I started writing in the first place. I haven't felt it in a long time, and need to again.
After December 1st, I'll give my previous novel another look to see if I can better see where I went wrong before and go through another round of revision.
I'll talk more about revision and surviving the early feedback on your story at a later date.
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