Giving Myself Cavities
A friend mentioned recently having read a few of my early books and commented on how they managed to be blatantly sexual and yet sweet at the same time. My first reaction was to think, "Sweet?! My writing?! No way."
I have long bristled at the word "sweet." I once considered it a comment on a person's character that is so cliche and generic that it's basically meaningless. Hence my reaction when I hear the word applied to my writing.
But I know deep down that it's true. I've heard the comment enough times from my agents, my editor, and readers, that my stories, much to my once-chagrin, have an underlying sweetness about them, that it has forced me to face my inner sweet girl and give her a break.
It's something very interesting about writing. Once you've written enough that you have found your voice, you are essentially putting your personality on the page every time you sit down and write. The stronger your voice, the more of your true self you're putting out there.
I like to think of my novels as being kind of brash and hard-edged, but really that's an aspect of my personality. Just as I do in my writing, I tend to hide my gooey, cavity-causing center under a layer of brashness.
Having trouble finding your voice? Hearing comments in rejection letters about how you're writing isn't quite there yet, or isn't distinct enough, or doesn't stand out from the pack? Try to put more of yourself into your work. If you write the story in a way that is truly you, that reflects who you are as a person, then you'll be writing the story that only you can write. And you'll stop hearing those "it's not distinct enough" rejection comments.
One exercise I think can help you get in touch with your most distinct voice is to write a scene as if you were writing it for only your best friend to read. Feel free to use the language you think only he or she would appreciate or understand--slang, profanity, whatever--and allow yourself to relax like you would if you were having a conversation with that friend.
What aspect of your personality do you think you'd be most embarrassed to find reflected in your writing?