Thursday, December 16, 2010

Finding Your Voice - The Big Thing About Writing, About Life

While editing and rewriting my first novel 'The Misfit' these days, which I wrote ten years ago, it suddenly struck me as to how affected my writing was. It was not me certainly, long and unnecessary metaphors, heavy reading, stop and drag kind of flow that completely slowed the story and dragged it here and there. I can see much that was not right with it and am glad no one published it then. Thank you publishers for rejecting me then. One point for you all. (I will come back with a publishable version though).

The first thing I figured now is that I must not write to impress, to stylise unnecessarily. The bigger idea is to tell the story, to drive it forward to its conclusion, in the best way you can using all the means at your disposal to do that. Most new writers suffer from this problem of trying to find their voice, or style, their distinct signature. And after years and years (sixteen years now since I first wrote my first piece for a newspaper) of writing all kinds of stuff, articles, columns, reports, copy, blogs, novels, short stories - most of which have not been published, I find that I have one style that is most identifiable as mine. The one that I write normally, easily with.

This style comes when I really have something to say. When I am beyond impressing. And it is the style that I used in my third attempt at a novel in 2003, which was 'The Men Within'. I had no time for anything else in that novel as I had enough content. The bigger challenge was to keep it simple, drive it forward and not miss out on anything that I wanted to say. I was concerned for the school boy, as young as eight years old, which is the age of the youngest reader of the book (Prof. Vijay Kumar (OUCIP) told me that his son was eight when he read it and he gets the youngest reader award yet) - who might want to read the story and get something from it - in which case he should be able to. Just as an eighty year old grandma who never played cricket or understands it, should identify with it. I knew the subject well enough to say it with some authority, say it easily. I use that same style almost in my second novel that got published 'If You Love Someone...' (a romance but still it worked) and with the Sunday column in the New Indian Express, I think I am comfortable with that now. Finally. After all these years.

What I am driving at is that for any first time authors, or even any one who is trying to find that distinct voice of their own, it might help to see how you write when write something you know well, something you are passionate about. (Like I knew cricket). Something where you want to tell the story and there is so much of it that  you don't want to pause - you know that feeling. Where you can clearly see the connections as you o along and not stop and try to invent some. The plot, the story, the environment, if it is familiar, if you can 'feel' it, I think you will find it closest to your style. That was my experience. So do find something you like writing about, something you know and want to say it like it is and see if that is the voice you are comfortable with! Of course it may take years to find it, but once you do, all affectedness goes out of the window! And it becomes easy as well.

On another level, I think it is important to find our voice in whatever we do, our essence, so life becomes that much easier for us, just being ourselves.


Rajendra said...

yes, i think it shows when we are ourselves , or not, both at work and elsewhere.

Hmmm said...

Hi Hari,

Only yesterday (right outside KBR Park ;))a friend, who wanted to start writing a book and I discussed about being 'oneself' and staying true with writing. Infact we talked about your book The Men Within, and I referred him to your blog. Whenever an artist makes a showoff it becomes extremely visible! It is all the more risky for a writer, because a a book is opened to read at a time when reader CHOOSES and is more than WILLING to connect with the author and there's no one else in between(a performance or a movie never match to this level unless watched on dvd!) Hence the writer has more chance of pulling us into his/her world and when anything is written to impress - the 'connection' just doesn't happen!

Your post comes at the right time for my friend, and advise from experience always helps. Keep 'em coming. I'll learn too!

Harimohan said...

Hi Raja, It does - thought most think they can get away. It is the difference between hitting the right notes, the zone and an average performance. The bosses, even the others can 'feel' the difference.

Harimohan said...

Hi Hmmm,
That is interesting, and good timing as well. It is finally about honesty, about being comfortable with oneself I guess. This, in the limited space that I know, that I have explored. But I think it is that quality that, as you said, 'connects'- the one that can make the reader or viewer laugh or cry. I totally believe in that. That if I cry or laugh when I write, it has a good chance of making the reader experience the same feeling, the same honesty.