Finding Your Writing Voice

At every conference I’ve attended, the process to find your unique voice has been hammered into my head like a railroad spike. The question is, how do you find your voice?

Great question, fellow writer.

The answer? Write. A lot. Keep writing. Copy other writers until you find your unique voice. Simple? Nope.

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When I started writing my yet-to-be-published novel in 2008 (yup, eight years ago), I wanted to write like Rosamind Pilcher. Beautiful, flowing descriptions. British accents galore. When I read my first few chapters back, out loud, it sounded phony. Definitely not my style. Not my voice.

I tried emulating Francine Rivers. I read her books and copied her voice. That didn’t work either.

It took thousands of words and countless hours to find my voice. Experts say to reach success, it takes ten thousand hours. A quick calculation of ten thousand divided by eight years, yields 1,250 hours per year. Divided by 365 is approximately 3 ½ hours per day. Think on that while you read on.

Below are three examples from some random authors. See if you can determine which one is Anne Lamott:

Example # 1:

People rarely took any notice of the tongue-tied and sadly inhibited Missy Wright, but Una, as the new assistant was named, had seemed instantly to detect in Missy the stuff of a good friend.

Example # 2:

The next morning, Elizabeth was on her knees weeding in the flower bed near Rosie’s window, impatiens and columbine. Rosie discovered this when she threw her window open, her room already hot and bright with sunshine. She said hello to her mother, and her mother answered, “Hello, darling. What are your plans for today?

Jeez, Rosie thought, it was like living with a secret agent.

Example #3:

Monday mornings had never been FBI Special Agent Savannah Barrett’s favorite day. Lawbreakers did their best work during the weekend. She stared at the crime report on her computer. Another Houston church burned during the night. This was her city, her responsibility, and the fourth church torched in the past two months.

Which one do you think sounds most like Anne Lamott? If you picked number two, you are correct. Her voice combines beautiful descriptions, gritty dialog, and snarky undertones. The paragraph is from her novel Imperfect Birds.

Have you grasped the enormity of what it takes to find your voice? Does the thought of 3 ½ hours a day for 8 years scare you? I hope not.

Jane S. Daly, Christian Author

I’ll be teaching an entire workshop on finding your voice at the West Coast Christian Writers Conference, February 17 and 18 in Pleasanton, CA. Hope to see you there!

For more information on my books and my blog, please visit www.janeSdaly.com.

Jane is the author of two nonfiction books, Because of Grace (2015 Hallway) and The Caregiving Season (2016 Focus on the Family/Tyndale). She makes her home in northern California.

Supercharge Your Writing Using Cinematic Techniques

It’s time to Get Inspired!

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Our guest speaker for this month’s Get Inspired workshop is award-winning author, Susanne Lakin. Susanne will teach fiction and nonfiction writers how to use cinematic techniques to enhance our writing. Join us for this informative and fun workshop! Free for Inspire members. Non-members pay only $15 at the door.
shoot your novel

Join us for the Get Inspired Workshop

Saturday, October 17th

9:30am to Noon

Oasis Christian Mission Center

10255 Old Placerville Rd #1, Sacramento, CA 95827

5 Steps to Stronger Point of View

34178310_sPOV – Point of View. Three little letters are the bane of every new writer’s journey. If we were writers forty or more years ago—now that would have been a completely different story. In the ‘good ol’ days’ we could write from everyone’s point of view at any time. Now—it is a big No-no.

Readers want you to pick a character and crawl in their skin, their thoughts, their motives, and their goals. You are allowed to change your POV character—but not without appropriate warning to the reader. Start a new chapter or create a scene break so readers will know you’re switching points of view.

So how do you do it? How do you keep in one POV consistently? Fellow Inspire writer, Loretta Sinclair describes it this way:

“If I am a character in your story and a fly lands on the back of my head, I can’t know it.”

 

1. The POV character can’t know anything that happens while she is not present until someone tells her about it. If she doesn’t know it, you can’t write it.

First Draft: She didn’t know he was in the room until he spoke.

Final Draft: When he said hello, she jumped off the couch with a yelp.

Let’s practice:

Example: King Edmund threw his tankard across the room, not knowing Mariamne had slipped into the room.

If he didn’t know it your reader can’t either. Try this instead:

King Edmund threw his tankard across the room.

Yelp!

He spun—heart pounding, hand on the hilt of his sword.

(With the second version, you have pulled your reader in and have them turning the next page to see who yelped and why, and what’s going to happen next.)

 

2. Stay in only one character’s POV at a time. Otherwise, you’re head-hopping and it’s not considered good writing. Your reader needs to be in only one character’s head at a time in order to relate to the character. 

First Draft: A shiver ran down Jane’s back when she realized Greg had been spying on her. That made him feel awful.

Final Draft: A shiver ran down Jane’s back. “You’ve been spying on me haven’t you?”

Greg looked at his feet and said nothing.

Let’s practice:

Example: Shawn glared at Meg. She hated him. His stomach knotted as she plotted his demise.

Try this instead: Shawn glared at Meg. Her lips were drawn in a thin line, and her breath rasped through her throat. Her finger flexed and moved toward the axe leaning against the wall.

 

Ready to go deeper?

 

3. Your characters can only experience life through their own senses. You can’t see your own face (or back) without a mirror, so neither can your POV character. They can’t know if their mascara is running, whether their tears are making muddy trails in their face, the look in their own eyes, or what color their face is turning.

First Draft: Alexis’s face flamed as bright as a fire engine. Her eyes flashed with rage at the detective.

Final Draft: Alexis narrowed her gaze on the detective blocking her path. Heat crept up her neck and pooled in her cheeks. She held his stare unblinking, fisting her hands until her nails dug into her palms.

 

4. Alert your readers when you’re changing POV characters in the middle of a chapter.

First Draft: Aria rose with slow purpose and left the king with his steward. She wandered to the outer bailey, letting the clop of her boots on the paving stones drive all thought from her head.

The king turned to his steward rubbing his hand over his neck, trying to work the knot free. “Should we keep her secret?”

(There is no way Aria, the POV character, can know what is happening in the king’s chamber. If you insert a POV shift (* * * or ####) between the above paragraphs and remain in the king’s for a while this works fine.)

Final Draft: Aria rose with slow purpose and left the king with his steward. She wandered to the outer bailey, letting the clop of her boots on the paving stones drive all thought from her head.

***

The king turned to his steward rubbing his hand over his neck, trying to work the knot free. “Should we keep her secret?”

 

5. Don’t tell your readers what your character is doing, just have him do it.

First Draft: Drew wondered what Alexis would do if she knew he had been in her apartment.

Final Draft: What would Alexis do if she knew he’d broken into her apartment?

Let’s Practice:

Example: She felt scared.

Try this instead: A floorboard squeaked behind her. She clenched her breath, her heart pounding in her ears.

Tip: Do a search for the following words: thought, knew, wondered, realized, speculated, decided, wished, felt, saw, and other similar words. These words are all telling the reader what your POV character is feeling for thinking. Instead show the reader these same things in deeper POV. Draw your reader in—and don’t let them go.

Be patient as you master POV, it won’t happen overnight. With practice, you’ll get it.

Here are a few sentences with POV violations for you to fix:

  1. Rachel waited for Bryce to knock on her door, but he was busy tying his shoes.
  2. Max felt powerful surf threaten to overturn his boat. Jackson gulped hard on the shore, fearful for his friend.
  3. Roxy stepped out of the ladies’ room, toilet paper trailing from her left shoe.
  4. “I’m sorry Dillon, but it’s over.” Marissa punched the button on her phone. Dillon was frantic, punching her number as fast as his thumbs would fly.
  5. Justin felt angry.

Add your favorite fix(es) in the comments below for a chance to win Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View, by Jill Elizabeth Nelson.

michelle_murrayMichelle Janene  writes Christian Fantasy and Bible curriculum for students and adults. She teaches Middle School and leads a thriving Inspire Christian Writers critique group. She’s passionate about the Word of God and medieval history. In the summer of 2014 she founded Strong Tower Press to publish her own works with the first novella coming soon!

Michelle also serves as the Inspire Anthology Coordinator and oversees the selection, editing and distribution of our annual anthologies.

Get Inspired: Fiction Author Panel June 20

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Join us next Saturday, June 20th as we host a panel of fiction authors who’ll answer your questions about the craft, editing and publication.

We’ll meet at Oasis Christian Mission Center

10255 Old Placerville Road, Sacramento, CA

9:30am to Noon

Members attend free, non members pay $15 at the door.

Meet the panelists:

 

Morgan BusseMorgan L. Busse writes fantasy for the adult market. She is the author of the Follower of the Word series, including Daughter of Light, Christy and Carol Award finalist. Morgan lives on the West Coast with her husband and four children. You can find out more about Morgan on her website.

 

 

 

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Shannon Dittemore is the author of the Angel Eyes trilogy. She has an overactive imagination and a passion for truth. Her lifelong journey to combine the two is responsible for a stint at Portland Bible College, performances with local theater companies, and a love of all things literary. When she isn’t writing, she spends her days with her husband, Matt, imagining things unseen and chasing their two children around their home in Northern California. Connect with Shannon on her website. 

 

 

BootsElaine Faber is a member of Sisters in Crime, Cat Writers Association (yes, you read that right!) and Inspire Christian Writers, where she serves as our distribution coordinator and as an editor for the annual Inspire anthology. Elaine has published three novels, most recently, Black Cat and the Accidental Angel. Her short stories are in multiple anthologies. Stop by Elaine’s website to learn more about her and her writing.

 

 

1013122_1385472168352270_778892518_n(3)Joanne Butterfield writes historical fiction. Her debut novel, The Dust Settles is the story of an Iowa farm family at the end of the Dust Bowl. The second book in The Planting trilogy releases later this year. She also writes and teaches Bible studies after serving for 20 years as a discussion leader and class administrator for Bible Study Fellowship. Recently retired, she took part in UCDavis’ Creative Writing Program. Joanne lives to read, write, walk and take vacations with her husband, Phil. She finds great joy in her involvement in the lives of her children, grandchildren and great-grandchilren. You can connect with Joanne on Facebook.

 

 

Bring your fiction questions and your writing friends.

Bethel Writers Workshop

June 10-12, Redding, California

 

Bethel Writers Workshop

Bethel Writers Workshop

DATE OF EVENT: Jun 10, 2015Jun 12, 2015

LOCATION: Bethel, 933 College View Drive, Redding, CA 96003

REGISTRATION

Registrants can register for the optional critique session and the optional writers’ contest

For more information and/or to register

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Are you attending? If so, please let us know: inspirewriters@gmail.com. We can save $39 each if there are 10 Inspire writers going.

Get Inspired! Workshop Recordings are Now Available Online

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We know you can’t attend every event Inspire hosts–and that you still want to learn and improve your craft. So, we’re happy to announce that our Get Inspired! workshops are now available on our website. These workshops are free for all Inspire members. Just log in on our website and you’ll have immediate access to the recordings. If you’re not a member, but would benefit from these and future workshops, you can join today and you’ll have access a lot of great content.

ScrivenerWordWorkshop  TIPS & TRICKS WITH WORD, SCRIVENER BASICS AND HOW TO SUBMIT TO INSPIRE FORGIVENESS
Michelle Murray and Lori Sinclair present a power-packed training workshop on the three topics listed above.
Publishing Smackdown PUBLISHING SMACKDOWN: Part 1 and Part 2
Traditional Publishing vs Indie Publishing: Not sure how you want to publish your next book? Listen in as Susy Flory and Lorena Bathey debate the pros and cons of both options.
DialogueWorkshop DIALOGUE WORKSHOP
Keli Gwyn and Candace Calvert lead an entertaining, educational and interactive discussion to help writers sharpen dialogue skills.
jennifer_harrision LINKEDIN WITH JENNIFER HARRISON
If you’re like most writers, you know you “should” be on LinkedIn. You may even have an account. But you have only a vague idea why you’re there. You’re not alone!
Kathy_Boyd_Fellure PINTEREST-PERFECT-PLATFORM WITH KATHY BOYD FELLURE
If you haven’t already discovered the picture wonderland of Pinterest you’re in for a treat. Board pinning is a fun, relaxing, and creative way to draw an international audience.
DrPortiaHopkins DR. PORTIA HOPKINS explores WRITING AS A SPIRITUAL PRACTICE which leads to healing for both writer and reader as we engage with our hearts and write with vulnerability.
SocialMediaWorkshop  SOCIAL NETWORKING…HOW TO MAKE IT WORK FOR YOU
A panel discussion on how writers can effectively use Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Blogging to connect with potential readers.

New recordings will be added soon, so once you’ve listened to these, be sure to check back frequently.

What would you like to learn? If you have a suggestion for a workshop, please leave it along with your comments. Your feedback shapes our mission!