As unique as a fingerprint or as common as the air we breathe? It is true that every writer must find their own unique voice as well as develop their own style.
How exactly does one do that? How do you know when you find your style or your voice?
There are a lot of things that I did and that I’m still doing, honestly, to fine tune my own voice & process. Writing, for me, is forever evolving. What works for one project, or part of a project, will not necessarily work for another. Writing is a creative process that, like my own experiences, changes with time and circumstance.
The process that has been most effective for me, is rooted in the way that my imagination can paint a picture that is truly vivid and nearly tangible for me. It really begins with a mental image. It can be a place, or a character, an event or sometimes just a feeling which manifests itself as a visual entity. It is upon this image that a story starts to build. I often do not know exactly what a story is going to be once it has clawed its way out of my mind. At the end of it all, I just sit back and find that it is complete.
I am a free writer. I tend to avoid outlines that attempt to narrow the parameters of my characters or the events they experience. Outlines don’t have to be confining, but for me, they feel limiting. Maybe I like feeling the surprise that comes with not knowing what a story will throw at me, even if it is one that I’m writing. This doesn’t mean that I don’t edit, proofread or rework scenes. There is a lot of that going on at various points in my process. I simply do not decide what is happening in a story at every twist or turn from the onset of writing.
I prefer writing in chronological order. I learn the happenings of a story and the details of characters, the same way that they become known to a reader. I often feel like I’m just a witness to someone else telling the story. With a background in acting, I visualize everything as if it is a movie playing out in my mind. The scenes are set, not only with what is seen but every one of the senses are involved for me. In a way I become the characters, experiencing the story as it happens. That isn’t to say, the characters I write are me, I just sit in their spot and observe as a story happens around me. I am there to document.
It sounds so weird, I think. But, that is how it happens for me.
All this isn’t to say that I don’t do research, or that I don’t have character boards. I do a good deal of research on story places, or historical elements which have inspired a project. I check a lot of things, to be sure that they are accurate to a time and also to ensure that things the characters say or do are authentic and honest to who they are. I use sites like Pinterest to gather visuals for places, or historical facts as well as character elements. I compile story ideas into a small notebook, which is pretty much always on hand. If a location, character or basic prompt comes to mind, I will write it down in my notebook. Sometimes I don’t do anything with the ideas, but there are times where I’m in the middle of a story and I will have this feeling that something needs to happen or is happening next and I will flip through the idea book. Oftentimes, this is a catalyst for what comes next. These are probably the only areas in which I’m very organized.
If I take a break from writing, as often life nags at us to do, I will read from the beginning everything that I have written for that project before continuing where I left off. This is usually how I rewrite or edit. I usually don’t have a rough draft that hasn’t been read and reread before it has found its completion. If I didn’t take a long break, then I don’t necessarily start at the very beginning. Typically I will go back to the start of the most recent chapter finished and read through it before picking up where I left off. I find that this sets me back into the place, time and chaos my characters are living.
Rarely do I have anyone read anything that hasn’t been completed. Workshopping is so important as writers, and having a tribe to read your work and give you honest feedback is crucial to growing as a writer. Katie and my husband, Ben, are probably the only people who get to read anything that isn’t “complete”.
So there you have it, the process, my process to writing.
An idea strikes, a scene starts to paint itself in my mind’s eye and I sit down and write start to finish. It isn’t always a well fleshed out story. Sometimes it is strictly the bare bones of something that could be great, or it could be complete crap. But isn’t that why we call it a “rough draft”?
All in all, you find your voice and your process and you write. However that looks for you, is right.
“Keep your heart open, a suitcase packed and wander often, for the world is wide and adventure awaits.” ~Emylee