I thought I should address “voice.”
But what can I say about it?
“Find one” seems obvious.
I’m afraid the answer is obnoxiously obvious as well: “Look.”
Just as Dorothy had the ability to find her way home all that time but didn’t know it, somewhere inside you lurks your voice.
The way to go to it is to write. Write and write and write.
Don’t worry how bad it is.
Don’t worry that you’ll fall off a cliff by accident and people will find your pathetic efforts on your hard drive and they’ll say, “Poor thing, no wonder she jumped to her death.” This scenario is unlikely.
Don’t worry that your story won’t get any better.
The only way that it won’t get any better is if you stop writing it. (Or if you type the same line endlessly, like Jack Nicholson in The Shining.)
Assuming you’re sane and not possessed by an evil presence (bad marriages don’t count), your story will evolve. That’s the only way anyone’s stories evolve. You know that big secret successful writers are harboring? This is it: They write. Until their stories get better. Shhhh. Don’t tell.
Yes, there are basic techniques. Of course. But voice is possibly the most fundamental. You get what you give. Give time and effort, get voice. Sorry, the voice fairy doesn’t come. And Santa isn’t going to wrap up your story’s voice in a big velvet bow. Even God is pretty adamant: he helps those who help themselves.
So help yourself, and start pecking at those keys.
It’s like Michelangelo said: “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”
You may not see your voice, but trust me – it’s there.
The thing about writing is that it requires not only dedication, but faith.
Trust me – it’s much easier to dig your voice out of the rubble that is your rough draft than to conjure it from the nothing that is your blank page.
And typed words – no matter how mismatched – do rouse the spirits.
I spoke at a writing conference this weekend. Many of the attendees fretted: “What will the market be like in the future?”
“Who cares?” I answered.
“How will we know if we’ll ever fit in?” They soulfully asked.
“You don’t. Just keep writing.”
The frowning was widespread.
Writers write because they want to – because they need to. Shakespeare wrote: “Things won are done; joy’s soul lies in the doing.”
The Chinese put it this way: “A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.”
Sing on, my fellow starlings...
Sing and soar.
Hope is the thing with feathers, after all.