04 November 2009

How Do You Make Your Mark?

Sometimes I close my eyes and hear the voices of my favorite writers.

Each one has a signature I can't forget. Whether its the contemplative, haunting turn of a phrase or a lightning fast witty quip, they've grabbed me. What's more, these authors keep me captive and I have to come back for more. They have done their work so well that I hear them even after the novel is put away. I re-read their books whenever possible. I race to the store when a new one comes out. I tell everyone I know about them.

I believe that it's different for each of us. Definitely, it varies according to genre. And then there's us as the writers, with as many different experiences as there are leaves in a great forest. We all have something to say. And we all have a way to say it that is just our own.

What's your signature?

This is something we discover the more we write. It takes a while to find our place and learn our rhythm. It takes time to learn to dance. Perhaps there are a lot of false starts and missed steps. That's okay. When we find our beat and let loose--when we trust the creative spirit God has placed inside of us and allow it to move in freedom--that's when we find that sweet spot, the place only we can touch in that way. It's then that we soar.

My journey came slowly. It took a kick in the pants from a dear friend who read my second novel and didn't like it. Her reason: the story was fine, but she lost me. So I wrote another book, this time in a different voice. It was chick lit. The sassy, sarcastic voice was definitely me. My friend loved it. But still I felt like something was missing. Then came novel number four, it was a dark story, very southern--women's fiction. And there, I found my voice. One and a half novels later, it's just getting stronger. For me, it comes out in word choice and rhythm. It's reminiscent of my favorite writer but completely my own, a beat that only I can hear in my head. It sounds like me.

If you haven't found yours yet, I encourage you to keep writing--and reading what you write. For those of you who have, what helped you? And what do you believe is your signature?

Remember--you're unique. Just like everyone else! Ha! And just because there are millions of other leaves in that forest, doesn't mean that you aren't just as brilliant as all the others.






***Image found at Google Images***

30 comments:

  1. To me, it's the voice I hear in my head when I'm reading or thinking....it's ME! And you're right, if we try to fake it it's not the same. Like you, I've messed around with different genres and voices--a Southern storytelling voice works well for me. :)

    Elizabeth
    Mystery Writing is Murder

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  2. Hmm, I've had a few people describe my comical works as breezy or whimsical. I try different styles on occasion, like Austen-ish. My sister, who's a huge fan, says I do a good job.

    You learn/find your voice by writing and writing . . . . ultimately, it's what comes naturally.

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  3. Here's how Katherine Anne Porter felt about style.

    http://dearliteraryladies.blogspot.com/2009/10/how-do-you-develop-unique-writing-style.html

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  4. I love that you've nailed yours as word choice and rhythm. I'm told I do description well. I also get in a groove when I'm writing dialogue. My goal as a writer is to inspire thought in every scene.
    ~ Wendy

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  5. I like that--that we need to find our rhythm before we can dance. :)

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  6. Thanks for the pep talk. It's easy to want to sound and write like someone else, but tha's not how God made me! :O)

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  7. Wendy, I envy your and your groovy dialogue! That's the hardest part to write for me. Isn't it interesting how God gifts us in different ways?

    Thanks, Rebecca! I'm going to go check it out now!

    Yebo for Southern storytelling, Elizabeth! It's a lot of fun!

    You're welcome, Diane!

    Jennifer, thankfully, I can do this dance when it comes to writing. When it's the actual thing, well.... not so much. :0)

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  8. I feel like I'm still finding my voice. I have a definite comfort relaying pain and turmoil, especially tragedy.

    I love building tension and conflicting dialogue.

    Learning that I am as special and unique as all the other leaves in the forest really helps, thanks Kristen.

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  9. That's great that you've really seemed to find your rhythm. I really enjoy writing literary prose but I think one of my strengths is dialogue.

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  10. Cindy and Tamika, I am in awe! People whose strength is in dialogue fascinate me. Hmm... maybe you should do a blog entry on tips for those of us who struggle? :0) Ha!

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  11. Back in the 90s, when I was being rejected by romance publishers constantly, I remember someone saying voice is everything. You can fix stylistic problems but if you don't have voice, you have no hope. I guess we all have voice...some just seem to be more unique than others? I don't know if it's something we're even aware of on a conscious level. It's just...US.

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  12. I love the fall leaf picture and your closing words.
    Coming from a play-writing background, I would have to say that dialogue would be my strong suit. Stage dialogue has to tell the story and backstory and I am comfortable doing that. Not so comfortable with what goes between.:-)

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  13. I have to say, since I love writing in so many different genre's I'm curious how I will ever leave my mark. I suppose first book to garner me representation wins.

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  14. It definitely takes a while to find your voice. I think I'm still working on mine.

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  15. I think I've found my voice, but I'm trying to tell a brilliant story through it. I hope to make a mark one day. We'll see...

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  16. Nice post. I agree, we find our voices the more we write.

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  17. i'll be sitting pretty, then, when chick lit comes back in style. :)

    jeannie
    The Character Therapist

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  18. Kristen, you left that post on such a high. Thank you!

    not sure if I've found my voice or not, but I sure keep writing.

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  19. You're welcome, Eileen!

    Jeannie, it will! Chick lit is not gone forever. I really believe that!

    Wow, Ava! You wrote plays? That's really cool!

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  20. I love how instead of voice, you're talking signature. That's a unique way to look at things. I'm still finding mine....I'm like that the teenager who doodles different signatures at times to see which one looks the coolest. I'm narrowing in on the one that's truly ME, but haven't quite gotten there yet. But of course, I have to wonder if we'll signature, or voice, is stagnant. I think it changes along with us.

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  21. I find that people tend to say I'm 'profound'. Which is nice, but I'd love to integrate funny with profound. Don't know how it will come together. But I am attempting it. Great post, Kristen!

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  22. yeah, mixing funny with profound takes a special gift... I'm trying to get the gift.

    great post.

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  23. That is really hard. I tried to do that with my chick lit story. It takes a great sense of rhythm, but when it works, it's awesome! That's something I'm still studying for the future...

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  24. I think a great clue is to find what we enjoy reading, especially authors that resonate with us. Usually they tend to echo our own message and voice, don't you think? When we can find what we absolutely love to read, then it's so much easier for us to love writing it. Then our voices can shine through!

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  25. I use humor to get across life lessons. I guess I am a 'Lucille Ball' let loose in the jungle! an accident waiting to happen but they are OH SO FUNNY!

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  26. I agree, Jody! I think they do.

    Humor is a great way to portray truth... I bet the people of the jungle LOVE your red hair!

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  27. I couldn't put it any better than Jody Hedlund did, so I'll just say ditto!

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  28. One writer whose voice I love is totally "out there" in his theology, but I crave his casual, fun style, and often try to capture it.

    If a person says, "This sounds like you are in the room talking to me," you know you've found your voice.

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  29. Hey Kristan, this is a great question - my voice - hmmm. I'm not sure but I want to make people feel what they read - people have told me my stories grip them but not sure what my voice is actually. I love writing non-ficiton - and true to life stories.

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  30. Voice. Mine seems to change. Dark and brooding or quick witted. But I always see the same, underlying it all. No matter what my characters are going through, when I truly write from the heart, I hear myself when they talk. Even my villains. Especially my villains. Should I find this disturbing ?

    J

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