Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Finding Your Voice

We are not alone. Not only is that a reference to a great book/blog/support group all headed by Kristen Lamb, but it follows with the theory that there is nothing new under the sun. Some of my most brilliant lines, ideas and blog posts (which I think are TOTALLY new), I later discover have been said before. Hmmm.

For instance, in March of this year, I wrote a brilliant post titled My Third MFA. I walked around for a week with a smile about how witty I was. (Unfortunately, you can't see all the positive comments because Apple erased them!) But just yesterday, I read a post titled My Private MFA by Randy Susan Meyer about the very same thing. Granted, I wrote mine months ago, but hers put me back where I belong. She is—at this moment—singing "Anything you can do, I can do better." She's done the same as me, but she's already published. Bravo Randy!

The truth about an MFA is this: If you have the time, patience, money and open mind to pursue an MFA it will teach you how to write. If not, you either have to be brilliant or you have to be persistent and self-motivated. (I consider myself two out of those three.) But, perhaps more importantly, a master's degree in writing will help a writer find her voice by practicing all kinds of writing and then deciding what feels best before starting a 90,000 word novel.

My first novel, Any Day Now, was written in First Person POV by a female protagonist. How in the world did I think of that?! My second novel, On A Midnight Street, was Third Person POV about a male protagonist. (Please see this post to find out why the hell I thought I could do that.) My current WIP is omniscient. I've recently read and loved and been influenced by two books (specifically Bel Canto) by Ann Patchett written from the omniscient POV. This is exactly why they say that writers must be readers. And we are not only supposed to enjoy other books, we're supposed to study, analyze, and learn from them.

Recently, I was speaking to a brilliant young man (ahem, okay, my son Elliott Krause) about the pros and cons about different POVs. Elliott, if I may, just graduated Phi Beta Kappa from KU with majors in English and Psychology. He was accepted at the University of Iowa (#1 writing school in the country) into their Non-fiction Masters program. He's becoming a writer the traditional (right?) way. I'm trying to sneak in the back door. But what I realized after that conversation, is that I am still—in the midst of my fourth novel— finding my voice. I would like to think that this is the one. It certainly feels better than any of the others, but it remains to be seen if this becomes my writing voice permanently, or if I return to 1st or 3rd POV.

I've been writing now, more and more hours each day, for 4 years. Not quite at my 10,000 hours yet, but well on my way. The good news is that I LOVE writing, so I'm having the time of my life.

For you writers out there, how did you find your voice? From school—writing required papers for teachers. Or from reading? Or did you just start writing and assume whatever came out of your finger tips was right? How many of you writers have experimented with all the POVs to find your voice? Is it predicated by the story, or by the author?


  1. Now that's great question: How did I find my voice? Or better yet...have I?

    My very first novel (sitting patiently and waiting for a real huge edit) was written in third person:female protagonist...

    My second novel (now being edited) is in first person POV, something I never imagined even attempting...but somehow, it seemed to work.

    I also have another novel in the works...with the same POV...both of these are female protagonists.

    Then one day, while showering...I imagined a story written by a male in first person!!! So far, I have only about 5 pages...and I may end up changing the POV before I get too far into it. (can I think like a man?)

    So, back to your question...I can honestly say, I don't even know if I've found my "voice" yet...or perhaps I will keep trying my hand at all of them and see which seems best. (Could it be possible to do all and the stories still turn out good?) I have read many authors who have done several...just sayin.

    Your last question...Is the POV predicated by the story or the author?
    Definitely the story. Which is probably why I've done so many...the characters tell the story, I'm just the lady at the keyboard! :)


  2. Thanks for the comment, Sharon. Interesting thought about the last point: How many ways can a story be told? What would it be like to take a classic work and change the POV? It would be drastically different, but not necessarily bad. Those are decisions we writers need to make. They could be the difference between a good book and a great book.