My agent told me once that everything about writing (grammar, plotting, show versus tell, etc.) can be learned through a textbook, a professor, or even the Internet—everything, that is, except voice. And it’s true. There’s no instruction manual in circulation that can teach you how to find your writing voice. But that doesn’t mean you can’t discover it on your own.
Point in fact: I inadvertently stumbled upon mine. (For the record, it’s the only thing that I stumbled upon when it came to writing. I’m still abysmal at plotting, as evidenced by the twenty-something—TWENTY-SOMETHING—drafts for my current WIP. And let’s not even get started about pacing.) Anyway, my writing voice. Looking back now, I can see exactly how I discovered it. My debut, The One Thing, was born from a monstrous stack of notes, just scribbled-down words on scraps of paper, really—ideas and thoughts about the storyline, funny little antidotes, feelings and opinions. Those notes, though, were the tickertape in my brain all day long, the conversations with other people that sparked emotions or concepts about the story. They were me—my voice. Am I saying that all you have to do to find your voice is take an Everest-sized pile of notes about your story?
I don’t know.
What I do think is that jotting down notes is a great way to pay attention to your thoughts, because, like it or not, thoughts make up who you are. And your writing voice should be a direct reflection of you.
The cool thing about thoughts is that, just like your stories, just like you, they branch in a thousand different directions, sometimes channeling your inner badass, and sometimes cowering in the corner. Thoughts can jerk you by the solar plexus right back to age sixteen—feelings and all—and toss you over some ambiguous gray line where suddenly you’re wiser than your years. This is the space where real, rounded, organic characters are born. It’s the space where you find believability and authenticity in your writing.
I dug pretty deep in this for my upcoming story, The Leading Edge of Now, which is equal parts shocking and heartwarming, and—not going to lie—it was absolutely terrifying to put so much of myself into a story. When it’s all said and done, though, I suppose that’s what being a writer is—trusting your heart with your readers.
The Leading Edge of Now releases from Kids Can Press on September 4. Want to read The Leading Edge of Now? Fill out the form below to enter to win an advanced reader’s copy. Prizing provided by Marci Lyn Curtis. Open to the U.S. only. Void where prohibited.