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Three Tips for Listening to Your Own Voice

By Melissa Tagg

I am a big believer in listening to smart people. And as a writer, I’m a big believer in learning from smart authors and industry professionals.

BUT . . . with every book I write, there always comes this point where I realize I have waaaaay too many voices in my head. I’ve discovered recently that sometimes the best thing I can do for my creativity is step away from the voices and the tools and the craft books and the rules and give my own voice space to be heard.

I’ll go back to all those things, for sure! Because, again, I love listening to and learning from people smarter than me. But in case you’re like me–looking for ways to revive and nurture your own voice and creativity–here are three tips that have helped me:

Go dialogue crazy

Sometimes when I’m in a scene, I get so caught up in making sure I’ve incorporated all the necessary pieces and followed all the rules. Is the scene contributing to the overall story arc? Have I included the five senses? Is the storyworld fleshed out? ALL important questions to ask…but if I get too caught up in them, I can get analysis paralysis and find myself writing stiffly. To help me out, sometimes I let myself simply go dialogue crazy . . . meaning, I write solely the dialogue. I let my characters fire off each other and say whatever they want and I don’t worry about action beats or dialogue tags or anything else. Just the spoken words. Usually in doing so, I find the emotional heart of the scene.

Journal

I’m not a big journal-er type person in my real life. But when I’m stuck in a story or overwhelmed by all the plot pieces I’m trying to put together, journaling is an awesome way to hear my voice and my character’s voice instead of everyone else’s. Sometimes I journal as my character . . . other times I just journal about my life. Giving myself space to explore what’s happening inside me pulls double duty as it often reveals what’s happening inside my characters, too.

Rediscover your spark

Why did you start writing the story you’re currently writing? Was there a character in your head that wouldn’t stop talking to you? A time period in history that intrigued you? A love for a particular trope and a desire to try your hand at it?

I can tell you the exact moment my current story (All This Time) sparked to life . . . and it was YEARS ago! I was writing a prequel novella for my Walker Family series and onto the page walked a guy named Bear McKinley. He was a fleeting side character, a best friend for my novella’s hero. But I just knew, even as I typed his name and put words in his mouth, that he had backstory . . . and that one day I would discover that backstory. He showed up in three more Walker books and each time, I had the same thought: This guy has a story. I can’t wait to discover it. 

I’ve come back to that spark so many times during the drafting and editing process of All This Time. When I’ve been tangled in the weeds of the story, when I’ve worried over my plot or whether I’m living up to the things I’ve learned . . . I’ve kept coming back to my love for this character. To my certainty that there was a reason he walked onto the page three years ago . . . that this is a story I was meant to tell.

Melissa Tagg is a former reporter, current nonprofit grant writer and total Iowa girl. Her books have made the Amazon bestsellers and Publishers Weekly Top Ten lists. The final book in her Walker Family series, All This Time, releases in August. Connect with Melissa at www.melissatagg.com, on Facebook and Instagram.

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3 Responses to Three Tips for Listening to Your Own Voice

  1. Ian says:

    Great tips, Melissa.

    I a bit dialoguer … and I like how to phrase it: “find the emotional heart of the scene.”

    They tell me what’s going and in having them natter away it enables me to get greater visual clarity as well that helps me smell/taste/touch etc what’s going on in the background.

    Always love reading your posts, Melissa. You’d be a great teacher of story craft. I know I know your life is already too full with 2 jobs + writing novels, etc. But one day in a different season.

    Grace and peace, my friend

  2. Beth Vogt says:

    Great tips, Melissa. I especially like the twist to journal about what’s going on in my life because that provides emotional space — but it also just might uncover some interesting things in my characters’ lives, too.

  3. John Tucker says:

    Dialogue or tri-alogue, when one or more characters are sharing, makes the story lively. I’ve written musicals, skits, and plays. Without a bunch of good, interactive, streaming dialogue, they all fall flat. To “dialogue like crazy” sounds inventive and tends to pull ideas and opinions out of me for my characters like nothing else. This is a great secret to give “heart” to our stories.

    Thanks for these wonderful tips, Melissa!

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