Saturday, August 15, 2009

Conference Recap - Cori Smelker, Finding your Voice.

Aren't you guys special to be getting a Saturday blog posting? I think so, too. There's just so much conference stuff to cover that I thought I'd insert this extra post for you to ponder over the weekend.

I had the privilege of attending two of Cori's workshops. The first was regarding interviewing the reticent client, which was excellent. But, since I don't do many face-to-face interviews, and I don't know that you guys do either, I thought I would blog about her second class because it pretty much pertains to all writers - at least of the fiction variety.

Cori titled her class You Got Style - Yes You do! Finding your Voice in the Midst of the Melee.

Personally, I have been told by many people- critique partners, readers and published authors - that I have a great voice. That's a huge compliment! Because once you have found your voice, especially if it's original and fresh, you have the potential to go far as a writer. Once a writer has developed a voice, it's common for readers to recognize it immediately, once they start reading.

Cori gave us a handout (LOVE those hand-outs!) with several tips on how to find your voice. If you're struggling with developing your individual style, try some of these suggestions and see if your voice starts getting clearer. I took a few of her tips (only a few of the many she listed) and expanded them with my own thoughts. Cori did a fabulous job with this - her wisdom and insight is amazing.

1. Play Games. Choose one topic at a time from the following list and write for 5 minutes straight about that topic. No matter what, don't lift your pen off that page (or let those fingers rest on the keyboard).

* Childhood memories
* Dreams and nightmares
* If I had a million dollars, I would...
* Things that are creepy
* Things that are sexy
* Best foods
* What I want most in the world.

The idea is that by randomly writing with wild abandon, aspects of your voice will magically emerge.

2. Challenge your preconceptions. Get inside another person's head and understand their viewpoint. For example, if you're a conservative, pretend you're a liberal and write an entire page defending one of their political positions. Or if you're an animal rights activist, write an entire page about going shopping for a fur coat.

3. Write from Passion. What are you passionate about? How would you argue that Jesus is the son of God? What words would you use to describe an event or cause you believe in? What makes your blood boil or your heart soar? Find those things and turn them into wonderful pieces of writing.

4. Take Risks. Think writing about something would be too embarrasing, too risky, or too challenging? Then that's exactly what you should write about. Think outside the box. Try a new genre or style. Can't stand science fiction? Try writing it! You may just find a voice you never knew you had.

5. Get a little help from your friends. Once you have several stories or articles written, ask friends and fellow writers if they can identify a specific voice. Ask them what's unique about it. What makes it exciting or dull? See what words they would use to describe your voice.

6. Write like you talk. Here is where I think many writers miss it. Have you ever read dialogue that sounds stilted and awkward? Maybe you've found yourself saying, "people don't say that today" or "she's talking like she's from the fifties, when the story is set in the year 2009." Pay attention to how you talk and try to write as similarly as you can. Unless, of course, your book is set in a different era. But even then, keep it as "real" as possible.

7. Remember, writing is about rewriting. Even writers who have a distinct voice spend plenty of time rewriting. The key is not to rewrite your voice right out of the story. Sometimes, due to critique partner suggestions or over-analyzing, we lose our voice somewhere in the editing process. Try to stay as true to your personal voice and style while at the same time creating an excellent story.

Thanks again to Cori for a fabulous workshop. I can't get over what a wealth of information I took home from the FaithWriters conference.


Pat said...

Great stuff Lynda! Thanks girl!

Dee Yoder said...

Write like you talk--is one of THE best tips ever! Or maybe I think it is because it's one of my pet peeves in a story. No one says "Let us go to the store now, Mother. I will try to find the best sale and we shall share the profits." PLEASE! But all of those tips and the many others in the workshops were great! I'm glad you're sharing them, Lynda!

Diana D said...

Hey, thanks for this one! I didn't get to hear Cori (or was I sleeping again? LOL) and I'm so grateful for the recap. And for the record, I TOTALLY LOVE YOUR VOICE. It's what draws me to your posts again and again.