I went to my writers club last night and listened to Kay McSpadden speak about “Finding Your Voice”. She was informative and enthusiastic. She was nervous because we weren’t 16 and in high school. Unlike high school, she didn’t make me fall asleep. I was enthralled and excited to hear her message.
Every writer has a voice, no matter what your “niche” or “genre” is. Mine is children’s and humor, with a little social/environmental and popular fiction. However, I am concentrating on children’s right now. It’s the hardest thing I have ever written. Oh, I don’t have to force the stories out, but I do have to work on my content and trying to blend seamlessly from child to adult.
Mrs. McSpadden said right off the bat that you “have to find your purpose”. What is my purpose in writing? Is it to be published? While I would love to be a “real” author, that is not my purpose. Plain and simple, I love writing. I tell everyone I am a writer. It keep me in my mindset.
Time for a “Lisa” lesson. I read with the Gaston Literacy Council and it fulfills me in so many ways. We read with second graders who are at risk of failing the End of Grade testing in third grade. Once a week, I sign in at my son’s elementary school and I meet the child I am reading with in their classroom. We walk the long hallway to the area outside the principal’s office, pick out a book in their comprehension level, and sit down and read. It fills me with awe every time they “get” it. You can tell when they do…it’s a look that they get on their face and when they get it, they are hooked. They are readers. It’s at that moment that we change and we go up a level and I encourage them and cheer for them. I have wondered if at times I needed to bring pom-poms to school and do a cartwheel. I am as excited as they are. We celebrate even more as I encourage my kids to take the Accelerated Reader (AR) tests and just the accomplishment of not only taking those tests, but meeting their goals for the nine weeks is as exciting for them as it is for me.
Now that I have digressed so beautifully, I shall carry on with Kay’s message. She said that your purpose has to suit your niche. If you write popular fiction, it has to be entertaining. That’s why it is popular. If you are writing non-fiction, it needs to teach something. if you are an op-ed writer, you have to be persuasive. All of these things are part of your purpose as each piece that you write has a reason for being.
The second thing she spoke about was “knowing our audience”. You do have to know your audience. I know mine quite well. I am not only a mother, but as you already learned, I know what stories make my kids that I read with really twitch to read. When you are seven, I can tell you, it doesn’t take a lot and it’s generally mischief. If I wrote “literature” I would need to make sure that I challenged my readers. That I made them think and ponder endlessly. If I wrote op-eds, I would need to give both sides of the position. It’s pretty simple; learn your audience and you will weave your craft so much more easily.
Finally, we discussed style. You know what style is, the things you would rather have an editor worry about. We discussed sentence structure, word structure and the importance of using it in your niche. If I were writing non-fiction, I would be looking for accuracy on even the most minute detail. I agree that if your writing style is very wooden it sinks your story. However, you can have a unique writing style and if you do, even a poorly plotted book can do well. The key point is, know what your message is; if you don’t, it can get lost in artifice and style.
What did I take away from her lecture? That so far, I am doing a-OK. I am staying pretty close on track to my own style of writing and I learned a few things that will aid me in the meantime. I call that a lesson learned.