Successful writers have a unique voice.
It’s that combination of style, tone and use of language which makes them utterly readable. Utterly memorable.
Sometimes voice is consistent, which means you can pick up any book written by a particular author and instinctively know who wrote it. Sometimes voice changes depending on the type of writing, the characters involved, the subject matter.
As an aspiring or novice writer, perhaps you’ve struggled to find your own voice. Or worse, maybe you weren’t even aware it was missing in the first place.
Whatever the case, you want to be memorable. You want to be readable.
How can you find your voice?
Here are 5 easy ways to help you begin to unleash it today:
First, go to the library and borrow 3 different books by the same author. Choose books you’ve never read before, ones by well-established authors, and ensure your selections are of the same genre as that in which you write/intend to write.
Go home and start reading, making notes on the author’s voice as you go along.
- Is it consistent throughout the 3 books?
- Does it significantly change, and if so, can you think of reasons why?
- What elements of the author’s writing combine to produce a unique voice?
Next, borrow 3 books by different authors who all write in the same genre. Repeat the reading/analyzing process, this time noting what is unique about each author’s style.
When you’ve finished all of this, you should have a greater understanding of voice.
However, don’t turn around and try to emulate these authors, no matter how much you admire their writing. It won’t work, and may even backfire, as you struggle to force yourself into someone else’s style.
You can’t expect to find your writer’s voice in the first thing you put on paper. It takes time and experience to develop.
Still, there are some quick ways you can start the ball rolling. Try this exercise:
Choose a simple and practical writing subject — perhaps an anecdote from your day. Write a couple of paragraphs about it in your natural style.
When you’re finished, write about the same occurence in the following ways:
- Write Freely. Clear your mind of everything except the subject itself. Forget about grammar, spelling, style, form or anything else. Just let your pen (or keyboard) do the work.
- Write Technically. Take the subject and look at it from a completely objective and factual point of view. Don’t be creative. Do be exact.
- Write Flowery. You have permission (just this once) to be totally verbose. Be descriptive to your heart’s content.
- Write Simply. Write the bare bones, and nothing else.
You should now have 5 different versions of the same subject.
- Which one most resembles your natural style?
- Which version, other than your own, was the most difficult to produce?
- Of the 5, which do you think most exhibits a sense of voice, and why?
Find a Fresh Angle
The beauty of children is that they see everything from a creative angle.
Take my 7-year-old, for example, when we heard a droning sound from outside our window one night. I thought it might be a passing train or an airplane flying overhead.
Instead, my son confidently claimed, “It sounds like someone’s having a didgeridoo party!”
A unique voice comes from seeing the world in a different light.
Whenever you see, hear, feel, smell, or taste something, stop yourself for a moment. Think about it. Think about what words would describe it in the best way, in the most evocative way, in the freshest way.
Imagine you’re retraining your mind to see everything differently to the average Joe.
After all, who wants to read about life from Joe’s perspective?
Bend the Rules
There are all kinds of writing rules.
You probably started learning them on your first day of school and continued until your last. You’ve probably spent every day since then trying to remember the rules and refrain from breaking them.
These might ring some bells:
- Never start a sentence with ‘Or,’ ‘and,’ or ‘but’
- Every sentence must have a subject and a predicate
- Don’t split infinitives
Writers bend these rules every day. The thing is, they bend them on purpose, not because they don’t know any better. They bend them as a stylistic choice which adds to their unique writing voice.
Of course, there are writing rules that should always be obeyed, no matter how creative you wish to be. However, don’t feel constrained by every grammatical rule you ever learned, especially if it feels stiff or detracts from your voice.
Often, the most unique voices in writing are those which say things in the simplest way. Take George Eliot, who said, “The finest language is mostly made up of simple unimposing words.”
Perhaps your writing is too cluttered. Too many words. Too many descriptors.
Next time you sit down to write, make a conscious effort to use only the best words possible. This will mean using fewer words, but choosing them carefully based on their power.
Short and simple can sometimes be the ticket to defining your unique voice. See if it makes a difference in your writing.
If your voice is unclear or seemingly non-existent at the moment, don’t just sit there feeling ineffective.
Try these 5 tips for finding your writing voice, and start seeing a change for the better today.