Tuesday, August 11, 2009

That Little Voice

No, not the stupid voice I use when I'm talking to my dogs, Thistle and Pepper. Way off topic, but do any of you do that too? Use an embarrassingly goofy voice when you talk to your dogs? I'm just curious.

I knew not to do it with my children when they were little. I used
no baby talk and showed them flash cards I'd made with shapes and words so they could learn English quickly and correctly. Which they did, by golly! Then the kids got a bit older, and we brought dogs into our lives. Now we all sound like id
iots: "Who-za good boy? Do you want your widdle ears rubbed?" Nauseating, I know. But we're happy, so what the heck.

Thistle and Pepper, Destroyers of the English Language

My real topic today is "that little voice". You know the one. The voice in your head that helps you edit your work. It also tells you when your manuscript is truly the best you can make it before you send it out into the world.

At the PNWA Conference,
Deb Caletti mentioned that little voice. I'm paraphrasing, but she talked about listening to ourselves and not letting ourselves off the hook when we're revising. She was so right. Being easy on ourselves won't allow us to put our best work out there--and why would we settle for less?

We all have that little voice, and I've found mine improves and gets stronger with experience. Sometimes that little voice can get mixed up with my inner critic, the one that's too tough. When that happens, I need my critique group to point me in the right direction and/or I need time to help sort things out. Then I need to listen for that voice, what it tells me to do, and follow it, even though it will most likely involve unraveling the details I worked so hard to piece together. Let's face it: writing novels isn't for wimps.


Scott said...

My problem lies in the moments when my little voice gets too big and becomes a bit of a bully. It can be a bit pedantic at times too. For me, not being a wimp sometimes includes knowing when to stand between my little voice and my work or it would never get out the door.

Great post!

Lazy Writer said...

I definitely hear that voice, but sometimes I wish she'd leave me alone so I could just get the darn thing written. Then I'd let her back in when I actually do start editing and revising.

Dawn VanderMeer said...


Yeah, there's that. That's when I know I need to involve my crit group or a cold reader. I ultimately decide, of course, but their feedback gives me fresh eyes and a little distance. Sometimes I need a cold reader if I feel my critique group and I have seen the section in question too many times to see it clearly. I did that just last weekend and I found it helpful.

Dawn VanderMeer said...


I totally get it. I have to remind myself to allow the first draft to be sh**ty (thank you, Anne Lamott). I'm a bit of a perfectionist, so while I do some editing as I write the first draft, I limit myself. Then, once it's done, it's time to really analyze.

ElanaJ said...

I've got the voice. It never goes away, even when I tell it to. Darn thing.

Dawn VanderMeer said...

Welcome, ElanaJ!

I play mind games with myself. I'll sometimes put "first draft" or something lighter than my working title as a file name just so I don't take the draft too seriously. I feel like I need to get it all on the wheel before I can shape it. I basically give myself permission to suck so I can keep the inner editor away.