Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Death Knell of Great Writing

In 1998, Gina Holmes began her career penning articles and short stories. In 2005 she founded Novel Journey. She holds degrees in science and nursing and currently resides with her husband and children in Southern Virginia. Her debut novel, Crossing Oceans, is set to release April, 2010 with Tyndale House Publishers. To learn more about her, visit: http://www.ginaholmes.com/.

My husband, Adam, is an incredibly handsome and wonderful country boy who is forever offering to fix me up a "mess" of squirrels.

I've never taken him up on that oh-so-tempting offer, but his small-town southern vernacular amuses me to no end. He is Dixie through and through. He suwanee's instead of swears, says "cat mess" when he really means "bull sh**", and every female is "darlin'", whether she's darling or not.

He's a great help to me when I'm writing, able to give me feedback when I need it. He's not afraid to tell me something's not quite right or when he thinks it's brilliant. The one thing he isn't able to help me with is finding the right phrase or word.

Why not?

He suffers from a common ailment that many others share—laryngitis. He’s forever losing his voice and no amount of antibiotics or chicken soup can help him.

What I mean is he's a good ol' country boy, like I said, and talks that way, but when he's trying to help me write, he suddenly becomes writerly, and being writerly is the death knell of great writing.

For example, I was working on a novel that was set in a country town much like the one he grew up in. I naturally figured he’d be a huge help, but when I would ask him: what would you say if someone was making you angry? I expected him to say something like, "You're making me hotter than a Baptist's knee," or something along the lines of the way he really speaks. Instead, what I got was something like: Your inconsideration for the indiscretions I have beseeched... blah blah blah.

Um . . . When has he ever talked that way? Never. But it happens every time I ask him to help. He suddenly loses his natural voice to become what he thinks sounds impressive and worthy of fine literature.

He’s not alone.

Still struggling to find your voice? The cure is simple enough—write the way you talk. Give your stuff to friends and ask them if you're writing the way you talk. If you're not, write like the child you used to be. Chances are that's still, deep down, who you are.

It wasn’t until my fifth novel, that I finally find my voice. For me that took becoming so comfortable in the craft of writing that I no longer had anything to prove and finally began to just tell the story.

Another thing that’s helped refine my voice is reading my stuff out loud. Anything that doesn't sound natural, conversational or flow smoothly, I edit until it does.
I'm sure I'm doing a horrible job at explaining myself, but reading this piece, and the others I write, do you get a sense of my personality? I hope so. That's my natural voice.

Once you find your natural voice, writing becomes faster, easier, more natural, and more enjoyable to read.

A great book that helped me understand voice is "Finding Your Voice" by Les Edgarton.
It may not completely cure your laryngitis, but it will, at the very least, help you clear your throat

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In stores, May 1, 2010

Nothing deepens a stream like a good rain . . . or makes it harder to cross.

Jenny Lucas swore she’d never go home again. But life has a way of upending even the best-laid plans. Now, years after she left, she and her five-year-old daughter must return to her sleepy North Carolina town to face the ghosts she left behind. They welcome her in the form of her oxygen tank-toting grandmother, her stoic and distant father, and David, Isabella’s dad . . . who doesn’t yet know he has a daughter.

As Jenny navigates the rough and unknown waters of her new reality, the unforgettable story that unfolds is a testament to the power of love to change everything—to heal old hurts, to bring new beginnings . . . even to overcome the impossible.


Sheila Deeth said...

I love the advice to "write the way you talk." Gave it to each of my kids in turn as they went through school. (But one of them prefers to do neither.)

Gina Holmes said...

:) Thanks Sheila.

Ronie Kendig said...

Great article, Gina! This really snagged my interest because Adam's southernisms are very much like the main character's in the military book I'm writing now.

Niki Turner said...

Terrific post, Gina! I've been thinking along these same lines with all the hoopla about Stephenie Meyer and the "writerly" community's dislike of her style/quality. I wonder if we've gotten so involved in being "writerly" we've forgotten one of the most important aspects of writing: what do readers want to read?

Gina Holmes said...

Thanks Ronie, if you need material, call me. He might not be able to produce it on demand but everytime he talks, I take mental notes!

Niki, very true I think. Great writing is the whip cream on the sunday but a plain old well told story is the ice-cream and without it, it's just a lot of fluff!

Ane Mulligan said...

I swanney, I knew I was gonna love Adam. Tell that good ole boy hey for me.