Who Am I?

sunshine_through_cloudsIn the aftermath of the Great Realm Makers Conference, writers across the nation(s) are applying their newfound wisdom and writing techniques to their manuscripts, polishing things up, and sending them out into the world.

One of the main benefits of a conference like this is the opportunity to talk to professionals in the industry and get feedback.

I got some good feedback from someone who really knows the business. But, as with all feedback, it’s also very painful. It is heartbreaking to hear that your work isn’t good enough, no matter how encouraging or useful the information. And let’s be honest, there’s always room for improvement, so there’s always going to be a reason for someone to give constructive criticism or feedback.

And, no matter how willing or teachable you are, sometimes the worst part is figuring out how to apply what you’ve learned.

At least, that’s the case for me. I understand the what and the why, but the how is more elusive.

Especially in this particular case.

The person who gave me feedback, after reading samples of three manuscripts, commented that they’re all very different and she had a hard time hearing my voice. There wasn’t a sense of continuity or anything that gave her an idea that they were all mine. She asked, “Who are you as a writer?”

So, I’ve spent the last several days struggling with that question. And not just who am I as a writer, but who am I in general? I could tell you lots of things that are “me” and lots of things that I like and so on, but I didn’t really know how to incorporate that into my voice as a writer.

And of course, one of the hard things about voice is that it’s not really something that can be taught, it can only be found.

So, I’ve been wrestling with this idea, praying and thinking and asking counsel. Who am I? What is my purpose? Why did God give me a passion for writing if I don’t have a voice? What am I supposed to do, what message am I supposed to convey with my words?

There were a couple things I found, and a couple ways I found confirmation in what I was thinking.

And I have come to the conclusion more that it’s not so much how I say it but what I say. The more I write, the more my unique voice will appear, but my goal, my purpose, is to show the love of God in a unique way. To show human nature, not in the mires of sin, but with the beauty of being created in the image of a perfect God and to show that no matter how dark things get, there is always Hope.

That’s who I am.

As a person, and as a writer.

About Avily Jerome

Avily Jerome is a writer and the editor of Havok Magazine. Her short stories have been published in various magazines, both print and digital. She has judged several writing contests and is a writing conference teacher and presenter. She writes speculative fiction, her ideas ranging from almost-real-world action/adventures to epic fantasies to supernatural thrillers.

13 comments on “Who Am I?

  1. Ugh, voice is so vague and undefined. Get five editors in a room and there will be eight different definitions of voice.

    As a writer and a reader, I think voice is just style. Mary O’Hara sounds different on page than Grisham, and they’re both different from Rowling. The only way to peg your own voice is to write a LOT.

    At present, I’m using voice as a tool–I want my teen urban fantasy to sound different from my Regency shifter romances, and they’re both different from my first person paranormal romance. I’m not going to sweat the elusive “voice” so much as I attempt to, in Maggie Steifvater’s words, “get into your brain and rearrange the furniture”.

    • That’s kind of what I’m doing. I have a dark, supernatural suspense and I also have a middle-grade fantasy. Those SHOULD have two different tones. But at the same time I want them to be “mine,” and I think my heart and expression of hope will do that.

  2. This was said with so much beauty and grace! Thank you for this post, I am finding my voice as well.

  3. Kessie makes a great point. The problem with talking about writer “voice” is that it presumes that we’re all writing like Tolkien or Dickens in omniscient POV, where the narrative voice is distinctive from the voice of the characters.

    If you are writing in deep character POV, then it is appropriate for your works to have different voices, because they have different POV characters and settings.

    When I edit for other writers, I’m way more concerned about their characters’ voices than I am about the writer’s voice.

    Avily, you are totally right that what you are saying is more important than how you say it. My fantasy novels have a different voice from my contemporary novel, but both are about intelligent professional women. That’s my “voice,” if you will. Style, tone, whatever. It kind of doesn’t matter what you call it. But it is confusing to have the writer’s style called “voice” when in deep POV the writer needs to be invisible.

  4. Something else that occurs to me is that this kind of feedback — that says you’re just not quite there yet — is the most frustrating because it’s the least actionable.

    I mean, early on when the feedback is “your pacing is too slow,” you can work with that.

    But when the feedback is “The writing isn’t distinct enough to set it apart,” what do you do with that? You can’t do anything with it except to keep pressing ahead.

    • That’s true.
      She had some actionable suggestions, too. Things that I can look at my work and say, “Yeah, I get that, I could improve in that area,” but the fact that it is so inactionable is why it sticks with me and I am both frustrated and desirous to improve.

  5. The struggle is real. And that fact that you’re struggling, you’re wrestling and moving forward is what will move you forward. Never give up, never surrender.

    It’s so important to stay teachable and listen to mentors and those with the eyes to see things. I love to hear you taking things to heart and looking to improve.

    It’s also important to make sure you don’t put TOO much weight on the words of any one professional. Art is subjective. And there are a lot of gatekeepers who have gotten used to speaking as if their preferences are the end-all, be-all of what the world needs. If your story or “voice” doesn’t measure up, they say “keep working on it”.

    If you’re hearing that from several “experts”, they’re probably right. Or they’re all in the same circles with the same blindspots. I haven’t seen your work, so I can’t comment on where you’re at, but wherever you are… writing more and continuing to learn and hone your craft is always a good move.

  6. I think when anyone–expert or otherwise–complains s/he doesn’t see an author’s voice, what’s really being said is that s/he wants a certain level of stylistic predictability from that author. I can’t take the “author’s voice” complaint to heart. I like variety in what I write (and read), and I’m a experimenter as well. My aim is to fit the narrative voice to the story rather than chain the story to a particular stylistic voice.

    I follow a writing blog by Brian Klems with Writers Digest. A guest post gave one of the best perspectives on author voice I’ve seen in recent years. The nutshell version: we don’t find voice by intense soul searching; we find voice by honing our word skills.
    The post is actually about adverb use, but toward the end of the post is the very pointed paragraph about voice. If you want to check it out, here’s the link:

    • I’ve gotten a handful of similar comments. Thank you! Talking it out definitely helped ease my mind on the matter.
      I will check out that link. Thanks!

  7. I’ve come to this discussion rather late, but I must support what Ms. Deppner said about “the same circles” of “blindspots.” What used to be called style is now called “voice” because there is so much pressure to write in only one accepted fashion, so-called Deep POV. I suspect your three works are different because the subject matter and tone of each is different. Editors today, the gatekeepers, are all looking for, in a word, sameness. Not in story, but in expression. This explains why so many Christian novels, specfic included, sound as if they came from the same literary hand. Basically, they do, from editors who impose their own “voices” over the writer’s. My point is, please don’t take it so much to heart and anguish over it. Be yourself, not a clone of the machine. Ask God your questions, for He has the answers. Look at how many different “voices” exist in Scripture, yet God wrote it all, every single word. Don’t sacrifice yourself on the altar of the machine. Seek God. Trust God. Get feedback, certainly. But I sense this has torn you up emotionally and spiritually. There is nothing wrong with your voice, sister. Perhaps you just need to hear it a little better. I’m praying for you.

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