Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Finding the Inner Voice

When people ask me how long I've been writing, I don't hesitate to answer. I've been telling stories all my life. Since I could put words together, I've made up stories. When I got old enough, I started writing those stories down.

When I was younger, I wrote poems and song parodies. As I got older, I wrote short stories and humorous essays. Once I got into college, as a theatre major, my emphasis switched to plays, but I still wrote short stories.

As a college student, the time to write was limited. Even more so once I got to teaching full time. I had two small children, so finding a spare moment where I wasn't tending to them, grading papers or sleeping--Well, let's just say that didn't happen very often.

Once I left teaching and moved, first to Nebraska and then to Florida, I had more time to commit to my writing. I started a novel, my first attempt, and I admit rather embarrassed, I haven't finished that one yet. We won't talk about how many years ago that was. I got a great deal typed out, but of course technology's changed enough that all the files I had saved can't be read on my new system. I'm having to type it out again, editing and updating as I go. It's a long haul!

My first novel, "Indian Summer" is set in St. Augustine, Florida in 1739. This novel, too, took me several years to complete. Most of the problem was that I had chosen the wrong way to tell the story. Originally, I started telling it like diary entries, but that simply didn't work. Frustrated, I put it away and didn't look at it for years. Hidden in a drawer by my bed, the notebook gathered dust and the words were locked away--scribbles on a page.

Years later, I went through the drawer and rediscovered the pages. I read through it and decided the story still needed to be told, but most of what I'd written was useless. Salvaging the best parts, I started over. The story took a much different direction from what I intended, but the voice of the main character, Gabriella, was finally free to tell her story. And what a story it is! Part mystery, part adventure, and a dash of romance, "Indian Summer" captures the essence of the times.

Finding the right voice is important for an author. Ignoring the way the story wants to go is a sure fire way to keep it from ever being told. Listen to the inner voice, that one that nags at you when you're trying to sleep. Every writer hears it. It's that irritating compulsion to create that cannot and will not be denied forever. In order to hear it clearly, find a quiet spot, close your eyes and listen. When the words start to flow, you know you've found the inner voice.

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