Friday, June 1, 2012

Finding Your Voice by Siri Mitchell

Every once in awhile, an article pertaining to writing stands out and speaks to my heart in a special way. Today is one of those days. I’ve enjoyed and respected Siri Mitchell’s work for some time. And I was both challenged and encouraged by her words today. Enjoy!
 ~ Dawn

Finding Your Voice
by Siri Mitchell

If you want to write a novel, you can enroll in all kinds of conferences, and workshops, and classes on how to do it. But there’s one thing that no one can help you with. And if you can’t figure out that one thing, you’ll never be able to sell a book...even if you have the perfectly crafted plot and exquisitely drawn characters. That one thing is voice. If you don’t have voice, you don’t have anything.

A novelist’s voice is what distinguishes her work from everyone else’s. Sometimes it can take a long time to find. The problem with writing, as in so many things, is that there’s a learning process to go through. Lots of writers start out by, well...writing. Once they overcome a fear of criticism, they take that writing to a critique group or workshop. They grit their teeth, get feedback, cry some tears, screw up their courage and make the suggested changes. Then they take it back to the critique group or workshop. And repeat the process. Again and again and again. But what happens when it’s time to send the piece out on query? There’s nothing vital left in it. Though it might not break any rules and it might be just what everyone’s looking for, it has no personality, no unique voice. It’s all been edited out.

A writer’s voice is never really created. It can be developed of course, but first it has to be found. The problem with voice is that it requires something of the author. Actually, it requires everything. You have to make sacrifices in order to grab hold of your voice. You have to stand apart from your critique group, check out of your workshops, and figure out for yourself what you as an individual have to say to the world. And not only that, but then you have to insist that your words have the right to be heard.

What is your voice trying to say? More importantly, do you have the courage to say it? Even if it seems like no one wants to hear it?

God made you in his image. He had something in mind when he created you. Be encouraged by the words God says to you. “My dove is hiding behind some rocks, behind an outcrop on the cliff. Let me see you; let me hear your voice. For your voice is pleasant, and you are lovely.” (Song of Solomon 2:14)

You’ve been working on your craft. You’ve been learning about structure, you’ve studied all the rules. Don’t you think it’s time now to figure out what God has given you to say? Don’t you think it’s time you loosed your voice? Finding it might require some real work and some true courage, but I hope you’re willing to do it. We need to hear you. Be encouraged: Your voice is pleasant and you are lovely.

Siri Mitchell is the author of nearly a dozen novels, among them the critically acclaimed Christy Award finalists Chateau of Echoes, The Cubicle Next Door, and She Walks in Beauty. A graduate of the University of Washington with a degree in business, she has worked in many different levels of government. As military spouse, she has lived in places as varied as Tokyo and Paris. Siri currently lives in the DC-metro area. 

You can also find her on Facebook and Pinterest