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  • Writer's pictureCatherine Goonen

Have You Lost Your Voice?

Writers are a strange breed. They pour out their hearts on a page in the hope someone might connect with their words. Some do and some don’t. That’s expected. But there’s always that little part of them that wants to make a difference to every person who chooses to read those pages. And so they write.

It is said authors should write what they know. When writing fiction, that can mean taking what they know, even a little of who they are, and bending it just a bit. If a reader knows the author personally, it’s likely they’ll recognize that person on the pages somewhere. No, it’s not an exercise in vanity. An author simply knows themselves best. And so they write what they know. They add their unique “voice” to the pages, a “voice” with whom people can identify and create a personal connection.

Once an author has poured themselves onto those pages between the cover, they hand them over to someone whose purpose is to ensure what they’ve written reads well. Is it grammatically correct? Does the story make sense? Does it flow well? Are there any holes in the plot, missing details, too much detail. . .the list goes on. Please understand. This is an act of complete trust. They’ve just handed their heart and soul to someone and asked them to point out what's wrong with it.

Imagine putting on your favorite outfit, styling your hair, applying your makeup, then looking in the mirror and thinking you look quite nice. Then, when you ask for someone’s confirmation, they tell you the outfit doesn’t fit quite right, your hair looked better yesterday, or you applied the wrong color of lipstick. Of course, all those details may be correct, but whether or not you receive it as constructive criticism or devastating disapproval is all in the delivery.

It is the same for all authors, including myself. Getting our work critiqued is not a bad thing. It can help us to “hear” our story from someone else’s perspective. Critiques give us the ability to tighten up our writing, get rid of repetitive words and phrases, and fix that irritating passive voice that can rear its ugly head. It also helps us to shift from “telling” to “showing,” so we can bring that story alive for the reader.

Then again, critiques can sometimes overwhelm a writer with too many perspectives, too many “change this,” and “try that.” Some of the changes can fix mistakes that mark the writing as substandard, written by an amateur. Yes. . .definitely fix those. However, there’s a danger in trying to fix too much, taking too many suggestions that may not be necessary. When that happens, the story may lose its “voice” and begin to sound like all the others.

You should never sacrifice your “voice.” That’s your signature, and what sets you apart from all the other writers out there. It’s what your loyal readers come to recognize and look forward to seeing in your writing. If you’ve replaced your “voice” with all the fixes and changes suggested by others, your writing will sound like them instead of you. Then, what’s the point?

Absolutely do hone your skills. Learn about amateur mistakes and how to avoid them. Tighten up your writing, even hire a professional editor. Just don't change what makes the story so special. Never give up your “voice.”

"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect" (Romans 12:2).

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