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A few weeks ago, as November ended, Iain Broome posted an article about writers finding their voice on his website, Write for Your Life. Now, I am finally getting around to posting about this topic, which I think is an important one even if it’s not a topic I’ve given much thought. Writer’s voice is defined as “the individual writing style of the author.” When I think of a writer’s voice, I think of whatever makes an author’s style easy to pick out in a crowd. When you read something by James Joyce, it’s pretty easy to pick out. When I read something by Shakespeare, it’s obviously easy to pick out. The characteristics you might use to describe a writer’s style are what make up the writer’s voice. So, how do you find your own?
I was surprised to hear Broome say in his post that not everyone finds their writing voice, leading many writers to simply give up and stop trying. Not only do I find that strange, I find it saddening because the only way to find your voice is to keep trying, no matter how difficult to find or indefinable that voice may be. The only way to find your voice is to begin searching and keep on searching. Broome sums it up perfectly in his post:
All writers are aware of the concept of voice, but far too many ignore the first part of that often used phrase: ‘to find your voice’. They either think that it’s inherent in the very act of them writing, or they don’t actively search.
And if you don’t look for something, you very rarely find it.
Broome is right — if you’re not looking, you’re liable not to find something. For me, writing is the answer to a lot of questions, queries, and quandaries. When I’ve wondered about a specific aspect of writing as a craft, the answer I’ve always received is “go and write and it’ll come to you.” The fact is, you can sit around all day wondering what you’re specific writer’s voice is and what kind of style you should be writing in and whether or not you should punch holes in your paper before writing on it…but you’ll never find the answer to those questions until you sit down and actually begin writing.
For me, my writer’s voice has always been an intuitive thing. I sit down and start writing and what comes out is just in my voice. I don’t want to say it was easy, but I never consciously thought about finding my writer’s voice. Since I live in my head a lot and tend to narrate as my life takes place (it’s not as weird as it seems, I promise), I feel like I’m always living with my writer’s voice. When I sit down to actually write, my voice just comes as I work.
So, what can you do in your writing that will help you determine your voice? The writing blog copyblogger presents four easy to follow steps to find your voice. Step one: “get into the flow.” If you start writing and hit a stride with what you’re working on, chances are you’ll be writing in the way most comfortable to you, which is probably your voice. When you’re writing at your peak, that is probably where you’ll find your voice.
Step two: “write like you talk.” The way you talk has a cadence and style specific to you, that’s where you’ll find your voice. A word of caution –> while this is good advice, you don’t want to write like you talk to the point that you’re using bad grammar and incomplete sentences in your writing. Those types of mistakes may still work when speaking, but they usually confuse readers and make text hard to understand.
Step three: “forget conventions.” Just for clarification, “conventions” means the “standard English” you’ve been taught in school. The copyblogger blog says to do this only when you first begin writing, just to get into a rhythm where you can find your voice, and I agree. Forgetting conventions can be useful because it gives you one less thing to think about while searching for your voice. But keep those conventions close by because you want your writing to remain clear and understandable — standards help you achieve that.
Step four: “write what you know.” This is, of course, the first piece of advice all of us tend to receive when embarking on a writing adventure. When voice is concerned, writing what you know will keep you in familiar territory and keep you comfortable with what you’re writing. Then you’re in a prime position to find your voice.
If you follow these easy steps, provided by the very informative copyblogger blog, you should be able to find your voice. Of course when I say “easy” steps, I mean just as easy as any part of writing is. How did you discover your voice? Are you still looking? What advice do you have for writers trying to find their voice?
– Jet Fuel Editor, Mary Egan