Help! I’ve Lost My (Writer’s) Voice! A Remedy For Allegedly Lost Writers

Where is my voice?
Where is my voice?

Occasionally we get a reader who has a writing issue, and we do our best to help them out. Here’s one poor lady who fears she may have lost her voice.

Dear Dan,

 I can’t seem to find a voice in my writing, though, as you point out, perhaps I am too close to it. Or, after years of writing news articles and children’s non-fiction, is it possible I have successfully eradicated my voice?

 Signed,

Laryngitis Keyboardicus

Dear Lary,

Nope, not possible.

(We recently discussed finding your unique voice HERE, now let’ see about rediscovering it!)

You may think that because you write news (which surgically attempts to remove “voice” and uniqueness) and children’s non-fiction (which, well, I didn’t really know what that was, but after checking your Twitter bio it includes writing “for kids.” I’m guessing what you write there is slightly different than how you talk to your female friends after a few cocktails; fair?) that you have eradicated your voice.

You have not.

You've still got it!
You’ve still got it!

You have chosen to write in one venue that requires you to suppress your unique voice – news. Forcing yourself to adapt to the requirements of news reporting creates a writing habit. It’s supposed to be more factual, less creative, than other writing. That habit, which will spill over into your other writing if you allow it, is insidious – but so is creative writing that tries to be news. It’s apples and oranges.

Ask any stay-at-home parent whether they remember what big words are and they’ll crawl over broken glass to speak with an actual adult. Talking to kids is different from real world talking. Same with writing for kids – and you’ve done a lot of that. When you write a story that will be read by six-year-olds, you are envisioning a frail six-year-old’s sensibilities as you do, not Ramon the pool boy ravishing the wealthy socialite while her husband plots her murder.

Uh… I hope.

F************ck!!!
F************ck!!!

If we report to an office, we have to dress a certain way and act a certain way. (Can you scream “Fuck!” at your office? Can you at your house? I’m not saying your should, but…) You probably can’t fart at your office desk with abandon the way you can at home, and if you wanna get upset and scream at home, you can. The dog understands. The co-workers will not.

So, just as we adapt our manners for work, we adapt our writing. You simply change gears. Or, as we say in the wine business (and almost all writers are in the wine business, either selling or buying) have a palate cleanser.

In the movie Tom Sawyer, he exclaimed that after a visit to his aunt’s house he had to cuss for ten minutes just to get the taste back into his mouth. Same thing. Don’t expect to go from professional news writer to Hippie Cahier in 10 seconds. Kick your shoes off. Sip some merlot. Get into some comfy clothes. And then read something along the lines of what you want to write. Hopefully that’s something you wrote in your noncomformist days

Maybe not that relaxed.
Maybe not that relaxed.

That will allow you to re-find and re-discover your voice, but I bet it’s there.

Think about the days when your articles came back all full of red ink from the editor. He was deleting your voice. That was his job, to take YOU out of the article and make it Joe Friday, just the facts, ma’am. Maybe around paragraph ten you got to slide in a witticism.

Oh, paragraph ten, how I miss you…

Right?

So think back to what you used to put in that you’ve been trained to take out.

My guess is, news speak and children’s nonfiction is not how you and your gal pals talk when you get together, but I bet if they ever laughed at one of your comments, THEY KNOW YOUR VOICE.

You just need to find a way to change gears and amplify it.

Switch from work you to voice you. Here are some ways.

If you normally write in the same place in the house, stop. Voice writing you do on the back porch.

If you normally write as soon as you get home, stop. Voice write only after a glass of wine.

I know how you ladies roll.
I know how you ladies roll.

If you normally write in clothes, stop. No shoes, no long pants. NO SWEAT PANTS EITHER. Maybe put on a pair of running shorts or your jammies. Think Bull Durham. You want to be the opposite of your work self when you are your voice self, but only because work self requires strict adherence to nonvoice stuff. The more you change, the less worky you’ll be, the more voicey.

All that said, your voice wants to come out. It’s still a wild animal you’ve tethered. Your articles still don’t sail through without a change or two. Your children’s nonfiction stories still have a touch of your uniqueness (that’s why they’re popular), but if you’re writing in those venues, you’re going to have to play by those rules.

So…

Change venues.

Not just where you write and what you wear, but what you write.

Write some flash fiction.

Write a sex scene. A really raunchy one.

Hello!
Hello!

Write about a justified murder from the eyes of the murdered.

Write about a bank robbery from Jean Veljean’s POV.

Be a drug dealer and hold the .38 and squeeze the trigger as you eliminate the rival drug lord from your territory.

Write a joke.

No kids are gonna see it, and nobody from work, either. Go crazy. Write the opposite of whatever you usually write.

There are quite a few sites that suggest random topics to you. Chuck Wendig does this a lot. Check Allison’s stuff, she’s a Wendig fan and she’s done it a lot, too. One time, she was a horny space man. Others included:

  • a horror story that is holiday themed in 2,000 words or less.
  • 1,000 words in Flickr’s “interestingness”
  • randomly pick two subgenres from a list of twenty and mash them together like peanut butter and jelly.
  • A 100 word essay on anything. 100 words is not a lot!
  • a mixed drink randomizer; use the drink it displayed as the title of our story.

Or this one:

“My random number generator landed on the words “screaming” and “starfish”. I’ve been writing a lot of horror lately, so I’m shooting for a more romantic direction this time, in spite of the presence of ‘screaming.’ ”

You get the idea.

My erotica flash fiction is practically a cardio workout!
My erotica flash fiction is practically a cardio workout!

Writing is a muscle you have to develop like anything else, and different types of writing require different writing muscles – and different audiences in your head as you write. Flash will force you to build those other muscles and – lo and behold – you’ll rediscover that amazing writing voice that your editor loves but suppresses the hell out of.

I’m writing a YA fantasy at the moment. Prior to that, I wrote a romantic comedy sex romp, Poggibonsi. VERY different audiences in my head when I did those. For my YA, I have my niece in mind as the MC. Trust me, she was not ever in my head when I was writing Poggibonsi!

And I’ll double dog dare you to submit a flash story here. We’ve been talking about having more fun, and this is a great way to launch that aspect of our blog. Weekly flash fiction writing contests. Why not? I’ll post it and we’ll let readers tell you what they like about your voice.

They’ll see it, then you’ll see it – and you’ll wonder where it was all this time!

Go get ‘em, Lary!

Fans: what would YOU think about having a weekly flash fiction writing contest here?

.

Your humble host.
Your humble host.

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Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the hilarious upcoming novel “Poggibonsi: an italian misadventure.” Check out his other works HERE.

15 thoughts on “Help! I’ve Lost My (Writer’s) Voice! A Remedy For Allegedly Lost Writers

  1. Count me in, I’d love a little challenge.

    I do have a couple of people who I use as my ‘aim’ when I write my romance stories. It helps me to focus on who my reader might be. My daughter wants me to write a book that she can share with her school friends, and I know that will need a completely different voice to the one I use for my soppy love stories, so I’ll write that with a group of 9 – 12 year olds as my aim. Understanding the reader should be the first layer in the foundations of every new story.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That reminds me if the phrase ‘use it or lose it’, though I have no idea where it comes from? I’m might have been a ‘drink drive’ campaign. In this case, it’s a practice writing campaign!

      Like

  2. What wonderful and witty article, Dan! I laughed several times, and I really like how you approached the worrisome subject of literary laryngitis. I also think you suggestions would also work to treat writer’s block or muse abuse–when the muse shuts the lights out on and shutters up a writer’s inner theater.

    Kudos, and thank you for sharing your wisdom and writing tips, Dan. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on The Beauty of Words and commented:
    This is yet another excellent post by the inimitable Dan Alatorre. He has some suggestions which are not only excellent for writers seeking to revitalize their voice, but also for those who are stalled in their writing.

    And face it, stretching the limits of your writing is never a bad thing. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. So, a great post as usual, Dan. I reblogged it on my site.

    Are you really looking at doing a short feature on your site? I could definitely contribute something, although I’ll take a pass on raunchy. But if you like fairy tales, I’m your gal.

    What’s your YA fantasy? I’ve done a bunch of those. Okay, written. The editing thing is still in process. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think we’ll be able to assemble a good crew to manage an anthology. MY YA synopsis is (with a few changes):

      15-year old Gina takes advanced placement classes with plans to graduate early, leave Tampa, zip through UCLA medical school, and start her real life. She has a few close friends but other than saving the world through medicine, she has no real direction – a fact that worries her workaholic mother.

      On the 10th anniversary of her father’s death, Gina skips school to visit an old stone water tower near a park he once took her to. Although she has ridden her bike past it many times, she becomes strangely drawn to it.

      Inside, she discovers a portal that takes her back 400 years to a new Spanish settlement that will become Tampa. Spain intends to establish European-style palaces and royalty throughout the Americas. Each afternoon, Gina visits the old Florida, coming home in time for dinner, never letting the two worlds know of the other’s existence. She befriends an apprentice to the young prince’s advisors and learns that what she does there affects things in modern times. A poem she writes for the prince in 1600 appears in her history book back in 2016!

      Reading ahead in class, she sees a looming plague that will kill millions – unless she can stop the prince from returning to Spain and inadvertently taking the terrible disease with him. As time is running out, her secret world is discovered. Gina’s friends follow her through the portal and are captured by the Spanish army – who intend to execute them as witches. As Gina works to help her friends and persuade the prince, she finds herself falling for him and wondering which world she really belongs in. Should she abandon the life she knew and stay in 1600’s Florida, saving millions of lives but instantly becoming dead for centuries to everyone she ever knew, and forever leaving the mother she always hoped to reconnect with?

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Uh, if you want some real historical stuff, do you know the real plague of the 1600s? Syphilis. It was brought back from the New World by the Spaniards, and the effects were similar to those of AIDS in the 1980s. Condom use (yes, they had condoms back then, although they weren’t exactly Trojans), upsurge in at least public approval of monogamy, panic, etc.

    It’s one of those factoids I’ve noted but never did anything with.

    Anthology, huh? It’s an idea I’ve played around with but decided I needed more publishing experience to do effectively.

    Just as an FYI, anthologies seem to do better when they have a loose structure. At least by genre. Fantasy, sci-fi, and horror seem to do well. Contemporary and historical, not so much, which is a drag, because they occasionally come out of me. Thank heaven I’ve got a blog now, so I can publish them. Romance also has a short market, but I look at that and think, seriously? What kind of a romance can you do in a short? Could just be ignorance talking there. *shrugs*

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hello Dan,
    When I get that… stops the writing thing, the better tone this down or blonde it bit thing, which stops me allowing the characters to speak in their voice or as you rightly say in my voice. I write a silly situation as if I am a man or a dog and when this happens I laugh and sometimes cry out loud because it reminds me to keep that something… you know the scent that stays behind, the essence of myself within the words.
    Sometimes over editing leaves it clinical and no longer mine.
    Thankyou for sharing this.

    Liked by 1 person

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