writing

Finding My Voice

I wrote this as a guest post for efriend and fellow writer, Chris Hall over on her blog, Luna’s On Line blog. It’s not long but hits the high points of why I think voice is so critical to a writer. If you missed it on Chris’ blog, here it is–enjoy!

***

I have been writing fiction for about 25 years (non-fiction longer but that’s a different story). When I started, I wanted to write the biography of a prehistoric female–how she survived when experts said she shouldn’t. I took some classes, attended conferences, read a bunch of books, and got excited about writing as a craft. An agent suggested I not write prehistoric fiction because the market was too small so I switched to thrillers. I wrote one, another, both well received but they didn’t sell much. I figured if I was going to write and NOT sell, I might as well write what I wanted so I switched back to prehistoric fiction. My first novel, Born in a Treacherous Time, was rejected over one hundred times but still, I wrote another–Survival of the Fittest. That too was rejected one hundred times (I stopped sending out queries when I received my 100th rejection).  Repeat for two more and then I stopped submitting to traditional publishers. I figured that long-ago agent was right–agents just weren’t interested in prehistoric fiction and decided to self-publish. Yes, that approach is confusing, intimidating, time-consuming, fraught with danger…

But none of that mattered. I was in charge of my destiny and that felt good. I’d tried Plan A. This was Plan B. There was no Plan C. I peacocked for a while and then went back to work.

Somewhere along this long path, I found my voice. That was scary at first, putting a book out to the public written the way I wanted but I felt good about what I was writing. I knew the rules of historical fiction, which to follow and which to bend, and understood the importance readers place on how a story is told. In fact, that is as important as rules. By the third book written my way, I began to gain traction and sell enough that I could even call myself a writer.

Don’t get me wrong–my writing has had success. A first place in a writing competition. Quarter finals in a national competition. I even had an agent for a while… That’s another story. I’ve tried quitting, but I’m back at it within weeks, like an addict. I know people who quit smoking and their rough period starts when they quit and continues till they die. Is that what being a reformed writer would be–“Hello, my name is Jacqui and it’s been ten days since I edited my last novel…” I get the shakes thinking of that.

If you’re trying to find your voice, here are my suggestions:

  • Know the rules of writing in your genre
  • Talk to professionals in that genre about your writing
  • Then, write the way you want to, with passion and energy. That’s your voice. You’ll find a group of people who like it and that will be good enough.

I’ll rephrase what has been said about the death of one particular amazing writer whose stories seemed to be effortless:

Talent on loan from God. Talent returned to God.

When you find your voice, that’s what it feels like, as though someone greater than you is whispering in your ear and you darn well better listen.


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular prehistoric fiction saga, Man vs. Nature which explores seminal events in man’s evolution one trilogy at a time. She is also the author of the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers and Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. Her non-fiction includes over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, reviews as an Amazon Vine Voice, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Natural Selection, Winter 2022.

102 thoughts on “Finding My Voice

  1. Thank you for sharing!!… As you know whenever I write something, whatever it may be, I let my fingers do the walking and my heart do the talking… “It is not easy to find happiness within ourselves, and it is not possible to find it elsewhere.” (Agnes Repplier )… 🙂

    Hope all is well in your part of the universe and until we meet again..
    May your day be touched
    by a bit of Irish luck,
    Brightened by a song
    in your heart,
    And warmed by the smiles
    of people you love.
    (Irish Saying)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I only know one way to write, my way. To be honest, I really didn’t know I had a voice—until a reader told me. That was many years ago, but I’ve heard it from others since. They always ask me how I do it and I always say, I don’t know. If I have any talent, it’s on loan from God.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. How I LOVE this Jacqui, and I agree agree agree. I smiled, thinking of us trying to “give up writing.” Don’t even mention it. We are hooked – forever – until our talent is returned to God/Spirit (or even better, passed on to someone else). I applaud you for reaching out to 100 agents with each book. WOW. I don’t/didn’t have that patience. I figure a lot of the agents are in their 30s and 40s and looking for the “next best thing” for a young generation. I write with my voice, not for the agent’s agenda, thus I publish Indie. Whoo Hoo!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I did get a lot of interest in my first two thrillers, even an agent that ultimately didn’t work out, but my prehistoric fiction is too out there for most. I often wonder how Jean Auel or Sue Harrison got anyone attention. Oh well. I’m happy.

      Like

  4. Loved this! I loved your story and your tenacity. And I totally get you about finding that comfort zone with our voice. Write what you like, and there’s always readers for every niche. I believe our best work will come from writing our passion. It’s in our blood. Stopping writing is like wearing handcuffs for a person who talks with their hands. Lol 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Usain Bolt, 8 time Olympic gold medalist, runs… differently. When he was asked about learning to run like everybody else, and imagining how fast that would make him, he answered that he knew exactly how fast he’d be then: just like everybody else (as opposed to the best sprinter 🙂 ).

    When I read your post, it echoed Bolt’s answer in my mind: how inspirational is it to find your own voice, your own way of running, not to yield to even well-meaning critics seeking to have your voice sound just like someone else’s.
    I can tell you I like your voice, and want to read more of it!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Great post, Jacqui. I would listen to the experts (I think) and try everything to become successful, before (in the end, happily) settling to do it my own way. I can totally relate to that plan A failing and committing to plan B. But, only with one book. 🙂 You’ve got a long road behind you and a fun one ahead of you.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Hi Jacqui – finding one’s voice ‘settles’ one … we can then move along – you’ve done wonders and are always out there noticing things, prompting us without preaching … it’s so good to be amongst like-minded blogger/authorly friends … also I learn so much. 5 x 100 submissions is beyond me!! Congratulations – fun to read everyone’s comments … and yes you’ve got your voice – thank goodness for us. Cheers and enjoy the ongoing journey – Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I LOVE this post, Jacqui. Life is too short to live by rules that make little sense. True thinkers take a look at a problem and look for solutions rather than adopting a “woe is me” philosophy. Of course, we want others to tell us they find value in our work, but I’d say the one we need to satisfy the most is ourself. I find inspiration in others like you who have created your own path.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Once my son-in-law said Autumn was stubborn in not giving up. I said she is determined. I could say the same to your efforts, Jacqui,! Know yourself, know what you want and do what it takes. This is a very encouraging post!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Interesting timing for your post. I’m currently reading Audrey Driscoll’s work for the first time, and what is most striking about it is the voice.

    Even though I got my training as a writer in the workshop system, I have to say that it can kill a writer’s voice very quickly.

    Liked by 3 people

    • That’s an intriguing comment. I took a lot of classes and workshops, but nothing terribly extensive. As a result, my voice continued to evolve.

      I do remember my daughter as a rising violin star got a new teacher who changed how she played–tamped down the emotion she added to her music. To me, it was never her after that. I think that was her musical voice and it couldn’t recover. Sigh. Don’t tell her because I’ve never shared that with her. (I don’t think she reads my blog!).

      Liked by 2 people

      • The two workshop-based programs I completed were worthwhile for learning the craft of fiction, but my voice didn’t really develop until I’d finished the master’s program.

        I’m so sorry to hear about your daughter’s teacher. It’s a case in point. For me, the teacher’s role in the arts should be to give the student the techniques of her chosen form of artistic expression to write or paint or perform in the way that will realize her OWN vision of what her writing or painting or music should be. There’s always a risk that an audience won’t like it–but that’s a choice for the artist to make, not the teacher.

        Liked by 2 people

  11. What a beautiful and inspiring post, Jacqui! The one line says it all, “write the way you want to, with passion and energy.” I live by that. I could never write what is trending just to try and sell a few books. Thank you for sharing this today!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. 100 rejections? I applaud you for sticking with the agent search that long, Jacqui. I don’t know if I’ll last that long before deciding small press or indie pubbing.

    I agree that voice is important to an author. I’ve had readers tell me they would recognize my voice even if they didn’t know I had written the tory. That makes me feel that I’ve definitely found it. 🙂

    BTW, I love what you said about the author at the end. It’s so true about where our talent comes from!

    Liked by 1 person

    • 100 rejections was my permission to stop sending queries. I guess doing that for five books gave me permission to go Indie completely. I’m still happy with the decision.

      I love that about your voice. There is no higher compliment, I think.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. What an amazing journey. I’d say I admire your persistence, but I understand that drive/addiction. I know you couldn’t give it up. Congratulations on finding your voice and your happy place. (And on all your successes.)

    Liked by 2 people

  14. As a [paraphrase] of Chevy Chase as Ty Webb in the 1980 film Caddyshack, “I’m going to give you a little advice. There’s a force in the universe that makes things happen. And all you have to do is get in touch with it, stop thinking, let things happen, and be the [character].”

    You nailed it with your advice, Jacqui—thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I wish I could write as often as you, Jacqui. Hopefully, once the Barbarians leave home I’ll be able to. Until then, I’ll just quietly be rather jealous of you 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Voice is extremely important, I think. It’s how a reader gets inside of the character or the subject; it’s the necessary connection that creates a bond between book and reader. Finding your voice probably means that you know yourself really well, not something that people always achieve.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree, with everything. I get pushback at times from my critique group, often–I think–revolving around my voice, how I choose to tell the story. They may be right, but I can’t change my voice anymore. It’s what drives the stories, gives them energy. And that’s OK with me.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Pingback: Finding My Voice — – uwerolandgross

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