Finding your writer's voice

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These are highlights from various knowledgeable sources about how you can find your writer's voice.

Susan J. Letham

Voice is the way your words "sound" on the page. In writing, voice is the way your writing 'sounds' on the page. It has to do with the way you write, the tone you take--friendly, formal, chatty, distant--the words you choose--everyday words or high-brow language--the pattern of your sentences, and the way these things fit in--or not--with the personality of the narrator character and the style of your story.
Think of your manuscript as a long, long letter to your reader, and remember that we rarely have problems writing letters and journals.

Holly Lisle

Voice is born from a lot of words and a lot of work -- but not just any words or any work will do. You have to bleed a little. You have to shiver a little. You have to love a lot -- love your writing, love your failures, love your courage in going on in spite of them, love every small triumph that points toward eventual success. You already have a voice. It's beautiful, it's unique, it's the voice of a best-seller. Your job is to lead it from the darkest of the dark places and the deepest of the deep waters into the light of day.
  • Read everything. "The more you read, the more you will acquire a visceral instinct about what works for you, and an equally compelling instinct for what doesn't. You'll discover how stories are put together, get a feel for how good novels are paced and plotted and how bad ones fall apart, and you'll start developing a hunger to write specific stories, because you'll come across areas of fiction where nobody is writing the kind of books you want to read."
  • Write everything (different genres, different media, etc.). Nothing you write is wasted.
  • Copy the best.
  • Play games: make lists, play games with the components of those lists.
  • Challenge your preconceptions.
  • Dare to be dreadful.
  • Write from passion.
  • Take risks.
  • Remember that complacency is the worst enemy. Challenge yourself to go outside your comfort zone.
  • Remember that fear is your best friend. "At the heart of everything that you've ever read that moved you, touched you, changed your life, there was a writer's fear. And a writer's determination to say what he had to say in spite of that fear."

5 Tips for Developing your Writer's Voice

  • Follow your literary hunches. Take risks. Ralph Keyes wrote: "Confident writers have the courage to speak plainly; to let their thoughts shine rather than their vocabulary."
  • Learn the difference between good writing and voice. Practicing good writing will free your voice. Strunk and White: "As you become proficient in the use of language, your style will emerge because you yourself will emerge..."
  • Stop comparing yourself to other writers. It's ok to admire other writers' styles; just nurture your own as well.

george in Writing

"You don’t need to find your voice, you already have one! Your writer’s voice is there in your head. It’s what you hear as a constant word track throughout your day. Your challenge is not to find your voice, it’s to put that voice to paper."
  • Relax
  • Pay attention to authors you like. What resonates with you?
  • Ask for honest critiques from folks you trust.
  • Write. Discipline yourself to write 2000 words each and every day. Doesn't matter what you write.
  • Relax, write, practice.
  • Write like you speak.

Rachelle Gardner

  • Voice is not style. It's not technique. It's not branding. It's not a decision to write in first or third person.
  • Your writer's voice is the expression of YOU on the page. It's that simple—and that complicated. Your voice is all about honesty. It's the unfettered, non-derivative, unique conglomeration of your thoughts, feelings, passions, dreams, beliefs, fears and attitudes, coming through in every word you write.
  • So how do you find your voice? You can't learn it. You can't copy it. Voice isn't a matter of studying. You have to find it. And the only place to find it is within you.

Sharon Leah

This is how I detect a writer’s personality through their writing:

  • Sentence construction (unique characteristics).
  • Word choice.
  • Active, direct and immediate?
  • Does the writer present information in a linear or circular manner or something in between?
  • Does the writer know and apply the rules of good grammar and punctuation?
  • Does the writer care about the reader's experience?
  • I also agree with the advice about reading work out loud because doing so can reveal a lot of weaknesses in writing. But unless we want all of our writing to read and sound like blog posts, then we have to put more thinking and less talking into our writing.

Nathan Bransford

Voice, at its most basic level, is the sensibility with which an author writes. It's a perspective, an outlook on the world, a personality and style that is recognizable even out of context. You could drop randomly into a David Sedaris story or an Ernest Hemingway novel and probably guess the author within a few paragraphs because they have strong, unique voices. An author's voice is often imitated (think: Tolkien), but a truly original voice can never be duplicated.

Essential elements

  • recognizable style
  • personality of its own with a discernable tone and outlook
  • consistency--”A good voice is never lost when the plot shifts.
  • moderation – don't overdo it
  • transportation—envelopes the reader within the world of a book; gives a sense of the character of the world
  • authority—the writer is in control; there is sureness to a great voice
  • originality—a good voice is unique and can't be duplicated; but it is extremely contagious
  • authenticity—your voice is in you.

C. Patrick Schulze defines it as, “The distinctive style or manner of expression of an author or of a character in a book.” The phrase I see as most important in this definition is, “distinctive style”. I believe it is the way you, the author within, artistically projects your personality onto the page. It is the combination of tone, syntax or grammar, and the way you combine the words you choos. It is the distinct flavor or personality that reveals itself on the printed page.
  • Write with your heart
  • Write as you might speak to those close to you
  • Visualize your reader--keep them in mind at all times
  • Read widely in all genres
  • Play with your voice
  • Write, write, write and then write some more.
  • Look for patterns in your writing.
  • Fine tune your Voice. Write something, let it sit, review it and highlight those phrases and sentences that appeal to you and strike a memorable chord. Remove everything else. Let it sit again. Review: your voice will be within the remaining phrases.
  • "When it visits, you’ll notice things like sentence length, word choices, metaphors, similes and the like. You’ll see how you turn that proverbial phrase and your natural cadence. In effect, you’ll notice your writing patterns and your voice lies therein. How does one know when they’ve found and matured their voice? It’s when each of your characters has a voice of their own."

Christopher Wills: Can you change your writer's voice?

Yes you can change your writer's voice, just as you can change the way you talk and the way you dance and the way you walk. But to change means you will have to practice and practice and practice, until the new way becomes natural. And then you'll have to practice more and keep practicing in case you slip back into your old ways.

Mary Thompson

One way to discover the strength of your voice is to read back over what you’ve written, underlining the words, phrases, and passages that please you. Spend time reflecting on why you like them. Then write from this springboard – I am a writer who….

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