I wrote this today and sent it to a writer friend, before I got started editing my novel ...
Voice! You hit the nail on the head … funny, just yesterday, I wrote to a California poet friend some thoughts about voice …
I’ve taken time off from writing because of the move and the sore legs (much better; can write with emotional pain and scars (lol), tough to do with physical versions) and the new town and job .. much orientation and settling required but I’ve made the leap. I bought a new mattress (Sealy Posturepedic) and have my new place set up and moving bills paid, a full fridge and cash in hand, so I can focus on other things now.
So glad I’m back to writing in the morning … when discipline turns to routine, the task is no longer a task but a love. I’ve always said I’m one of the luckiest people I know because most of my life I’ve made a living doing what I like to do … this is not work, taxi driving is work.
So, if it’s so much fun, why my struggle with writing? Well, learning, learning, learning, and assimilation, then connecting that knowledge seamlessly to feelings about various passages in the stories, and tell the story so that I am invisible (how can that be? It’s a subtlety, but we all know it is the way), and get the characters exactly correct. That’s a trick … as tricky as deciding to tell the story as I was then or as I am now! The present has won the day, btw.
I so agree all that is without due if the voice is labored. I believe now that two symptoms of failed writing are bad punctuation and bad grammar; the narrator can have personality, should have, but not bad grammar. So the writer has to tell the tale invisibly or he must devise tricks, like breaking the fourth wall, which also has to do with choice of words and not losing the reader. In some way, I’ve come full circle but arrived at a better organized and wiser place. I think, too, that a writer can cultivate more than one voice, and if the narration is consistent in the project, then that is an employed tool in my toolbox rather than simple waffling around looking for a soul from which to draw.
I think then, my stumbling point, has been language, assuming one actually has a story to tell and can tell it. In my latest memoirs, I know it’s me on the page – I like me. I’ve done some things that are extraordinary, things that have brought me to this place in my life. I recall, observe, and retell my stories and when I’m at my best, I notice a wry sense of humor and irony in my phrasing; this is consistent with my philosophy that people are fallible, always, and we should not judge too harshly. There are exceptions -- I’ve met a few mean people, and though I may dismiss them quickly in real life, I deal with them honestly and as they deserve in my novels.
So, I’ve come to know that, for me, VOICE is more than write what I feel, what I know, what I’ve done, or even the hackneyed “Tell it like it is.” Today, at least, it’s telling a story from a position of qualified comfort. DRY CAMP! and THE 5 CENT MURDER were not quite there, though I’m glad I wrote them and re-wrote them. THE PONY CLUB, THE HOTTEST PLACE ON EARTH are there, and DETOURED, my Haida Gwaii novel set in the late 70s will be too (I’m final-editing it now).
I expect my next projects to be consistent as well … THE LA PROJECT (the commercial thriller series -- last to final draft), THE SILVER GLOVES (the first draft is complete), WE TOOK SPACE BLANKETS (summary only so far), the BC amateur boxing history non-fiction up to 1972 (will start the Fall 2017)… then there is PER DIEM, my parody of local government, and then my murder mystery series (6 books?) set in BC, a second Haida Gwaii novel …
So, yes, I’m staying busy working at the craft and trying to do justice to memories, people, and context and say it without blundering into the scenes … love this job!