Inner Voices

Katherine Longshore 7 Tuesday, January 14, 2014
I'm hearing voices again.

Our topic this week is "Battling Inner Voices".  Specifically, I take this to mean silencing the inner critic, muffling the Skinny and setting aside the fear that speaks loud and clear, especially during the first draft and through reviews.  I know this is something we all deal with and we all need reminders on how to battle it occasionally, but is also something I feel like I've already covered at length (here, here and here).  I'm starting to feel like a broken record, because my Skinny pretty much repeats the same things over and over again, and I tackle her in pretty much the same ways.
Random photo of Highclere Castle,
aka Downton Abbey, one of the
inspirations for Manor.

So I'm going to write about hearing other voices.  And perhaps not battling them, but embracing them.

Rewind to May 2013.  I was working on MANOR OF SECRETS and BRAZEN at the same time.  Edits for MANOR were quick and manic--I'd bust my ass to get a revision completed only to get it handed back to me a week or so later.  Meanwhile, BRAZEN was the most epic mess imaginable, sprawling across three years of history and encompassing multiple dynamic characters, all of whom had the same name (because these are the Tudors, people.  If you weren't named Henry or Thomas or Mary or Elizabeth, you were toast).  I tried to engineer things so I'd be revising one while an editor had the other, but all too often I was working on two at once, barely keeping my head above water and occasionally wishing I'd decided to take a job at Starbucks.

In the middle of all of this, I told Veronica about a subject I'd always wanted to write a book about, but couldn't find the character to tell it.

That was the seed.

One of the ways I clear my head when I can't seem to get the words out is to go for a walk.  So in the middle of BRAZEN chaos, I stepped out into a cool May morning to try to empty my mind.

And in walked a character.  And another.  And another.  And these three people started talking.  Loudly.  One in particular started commenting on everything.  On the events that were unfolding with them in it.  On the sunshine and the setting and how the other characters interacted.  The entire scene played out in my head as I rushed home at top speed so I could sit down and get it all out on the page.

And at the end of those pages...BAM.  One of the characters dropped a (metaphorical) bomb.

Seven pages of something new.  Seven pages about people who had nothing to do with BRAZEN or MANOR or anything else I'd come up with before.  Seven pages that just happened when I should have been revising something else.

Those are the voices I listen to.  Those are the voices I want to embrace.  Those seven pages belong somewhere in the middle of this book.  So after revising and copyediting my two books under contract, I started writing more scenes.  Some belong in the middle.  Some in Act 1.  Some in Act 3.  I've even written the end.  I'm about to start the hard work of making sense of it all--gathering these events into a story arc and guide these characters' voices into arcs of their own.  I've always been a pantser, but this is pantsing in the extreme.  And I kind of like it.

So I guess what I'm saying is, don't battle all of your inner voices.  Turn off the Skinny, unless she becomes the inspiration for your book (though Donna's already done that).  But listen to what your characters have to say.

Becomes sometimes...BAM.  They'll drop a bomb that will catapult you into your next book.


Love this, Katy! And I agree with you. Sometimes important voices speak at challenging times but they should not be ignored. So excited to read the book those characters find themselves in!

This is something I struggle with, because I want to be IN CONTROL. I'm slowly learning to let go and listen.

Sometimes I feel like my characters have all the control, Beth! We'll find the balance somewhere...

What a great idea to praise and encourage and welcome the good voices! They arrive unexpectedly which is why I have my little notebook around somewhere 24/7. I write like a maniac when they come as if I'm taking dictation from a very demanding boss! LOL! Thanks, Katy!

Ah, yes. I remember this fine day. Love being a part of your books "birthing process," however I can be. This one... the May 2013 baby, might be my favorite yet.

Thanks, V. You've definitely been a big part of this one.

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