I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Monday, May 2, 2011

Writer's Laryngitis: When You Lose Your Voice

I had a bad case of laryngitis last week. Writer's laryngitis, that is. I completely lost my voice. For lack of words, I stalled on my work in progress (WIP).

I evaluated my symptoms. Was I suffering from writer's block? Nope. That's when you stare at the screen and don't know what to write. I had a three-page synopsis to use as a road map, as well as a 50k word rough draft from NaNoWriMo.

Was it writer's fright? No. Writer's fright is akin to stage fright, where you freeze up on your memorized lines. But after the MBT Deep Thinkers Retreat,  I knew my hero's and heroine's Dark Moment, Lies, Inciting Incidents and their Ds (Denial, Disasters and Devastation).

But when it came time to write, nothing. No words.

Words for my novel flowed until author Rachel Hauck, aka Madame Mentor, challenged me to go deeper with my story. Her goal? For me to push past the first layer of my heroine's personality and write a multi-faceted woman, rather than a one brush stroke version.

I like to be challenged. Really. But what stumped me was how to assimilate Rachel's push to write a deeper story while still retaining my voice. For a while, it felt like to do one--go deeper--I'd have to lose the other--my voice.

And that's when writer's laryngitis hit.

There seemed to be a huge chasm between my voice and where I wanted to be as a writer. My attempts to get across the gap strained my voice until one day I had no voice at all. I sat down to write--and produced nary a word.

There's no simple cure for writer's laryngitis. No gargling with salt water. I just stopped writing. When I confessed my struggle to Rachel, her response was: You won't lose your voice as you learn to write a deeper storyYour voice will come through because it's your voice.

I should have known that, right? But sometimes it's easy to lose sight of the simplest truths. Rachel's encouragement was the ultimate cure for my laryngitis. I learned that pushing myself to be a better writer doesn't mean sacrificing voice--but rather refining it.

Share an insight about your writing voice in the comments below for a chance to win a fun AquaNotes pad! It's perfect for those times when the voices start talking to you while you're in the shower!


  1. Beth,
    So very true. I'm working on the same, making my character multifaceted. Thanks for the encouragement.


  2. Wonderful post, Beth. Thanks! You've really captured this gripping cough-drop defying disease. So glad you've recovered and I(and all of us) look forward to your great forward progress in this WIP and in all of the others to come!

  3. Hi, Alena,
    You can do this, my friend! We're pushing ourselves to write better, to write deeper. And we won't lose our voices. Madame Mentor says so, so it's true!

  4. :) I feel bad! I'm sorry I made you have writers laryngitis. :)

    But yeah, your voice IS you! Going deeper refines it. Trying to write like someone else, which is also easy to do when you read successful authors, will mess with your voice more than digging for those deeper layers.

    You're awesome Beth! You have a great voice!!

  5. I learned a lot from that bout of laryngitis, Rachel. It was all worth it. And I'm recovered and writing again. Thanks for believing in me!

  6. I know exactly where you're at. When my writing sounds more like a newspaper article than a novel I know my true voice is not coming through. That's when I close my eyes, put myself in my character's place and write what they feel.
    Alas, sometimes I still get caught up in the mechanics and I end up telling vs. showing, but that's part of learning to write.
    Great post Beth!

  7. Jennie,
    I like what you said: Close your eyes and put yourself in your character's place and write what they feel.
    That's a great way to overcome writer's laryngitis!!

  8. I wrote an article a while back on my personal blog about "voice". Here it is if you're interested. http://www.teridawnsmith.com/My_blog/Entries/2010/7/8_Diagnosis_Beige_Voice.html

  9. Love the post, Teri!! And here I thought I was oh, so original with the writer's laryngitis idea. Oh, no, there's nothing new under the sun!! I love the Diagnosis: Beige word picture!!

  10. Beth, love this post. :) I appreciate the thoughts on voice, and refining it. I'm learning, through writing friends, to do a litte of what Jennie mentioned--make sure that I'm not writing myself into my characters. Fellow writers have helped me to write my characters as themselves using my voice. Does that make sense? :) Wonderful post!

  11. Write the character. Not me. Write the character. Not me. But use my voice.
    Why do I suddenly hear that guy from "The Emperor's New Groove" asking, "Is that my voice?"

  12. Oh, Beth, I so sympathize with your post. I hate those moments of just staaaaring at the screen, wiling your voice to make any kind of sound!

    Two things that help me:

    -blogging - I resisted starting a blog because I felt like I'd be wasting time I really wanted to put toward my novel. Instead, I feel it's freed me to just let my voice sing, unrestrained.

    -watching a TV show or movie with great dialogue (i.e. Gilmore Girls)...gets my brain humming. Don't know why, it just does!

    These don't necessarily help with the "going deeper" part...for that, I need my MBT Book Buddy and Deep & Wide books! :) But on those days when my writing voice needs a jumpstart, one or both of those activities often does the trick. (Well, that and an ice-cold can of Diet Coke with Lime!)

  13. One of the reasons I like reading your blog posts, M-Tagg, is 'cause your voice is so delightfully fun!
    Hhhmmm, maybe it's time for me to buy a six-pack of Diet Coke with Lime?

  14. Great post, Beth. While I haven't read your work from the dark side, I have read your nonfiction, and I really hear your voice in it. I also hear it in your posts. In fact, all of the Ponderers have really unique voices. I don't think I've started reading a post without knowing who wrote it within the first few lines. lol

  15. Great insight, Pat. I get to pre-read a few of the Ponderers' posts. And I "hear" their voices loud and clear too.

  16. Wow. Your post hit close to home. I recently finished a great book and thought--Man, I'll never be able to write like that. Upon reflection... that's the way it should be. Really, a big relief, when you think about it. I don't need to learn to write like someone else--just to dig deeper. It's got to be there somewhere.
    If I could only remember where I buried it...

  17. Beth~ Thank you for your transparency! I think one of the best cures for any of the writing ailments is knowing you are not alone. It's like motherhood. Once you know you aren't the only mother who ever allowed your baby to roll off a bed or changing table and onto the floor, you can stop freaking out about your failures and get back to focusing on the baby.

    Pat~ One of my favorite things about the Ponderer blog is being able to "hear" each unique Ponderer voice. Lately I've been trying to guess the author by the title. =)

  18. Julia! I have done that SO many times!! (Finished a book and thought I will never write like that.) Your reflection is revelation to me. Reading your comment made me realize I need to work harder at finding my own best voice. Too bad there's not a giant X (in an authentic pirate font, of course) marking the exact spot to dig!!

  19. Julia,
    I have to remind myself that the writing world already has its Susie May Warren. And it's Rachel Hauck. It's Donita K. Paul. Pick your favorite writer. I need to be me--the best me. And that's what Rachel (and Suz) are pushing for--in a loving way.