Your voice is one of the most essential aspects of writing. It doesn’t matter if you have written one book or twenty, you need to find that voice that is uniquely yours so you can speak to the reader. Now, I have written one book that has yet to be published (Jacob’s Pass), and I think I have roughly found my style during that process, but I can’t say for sure that I have found my particular voice. The ‘experts’ say to write, write, and write some more to acquire that voice.
So, maybe I just haven’t written enough yet. I feel that the book I’m working on now will lead me deeper into my understanding of my ‘voice’—I hope at least. I’ll have to get back to you on that. The articles below will shed some light on this subject of voice and will help you find yours before getting too far into your next book. There is also an amazing YouTube video on the subject of finding your writing voice for you to watch before you get into the articles. I hope you enjoy and use what you learn to sell more books😉
I write only because / There is a voice within me / That will not be still.
Awhile ago, I wrote an article called, “Finding Your Blog’s Unique Voice.” In it, I explain that a blog needs a voice that is both exclusive and authentic.
But here, I want to share a little bit more about how to find your overall writing voice. Which is, I believe, the single greatest struggle for most writers. And it’s also the key to unlocking your creative potential.
Spending some time deliberating over voice is worth your attention and focus. Whether you blog for fun, write novels, craft poems, pencil melodies, or inspire people with your prose, it’s essential that you find your unique writing style.
If you struggle with getting people to read your writing or with staying consistent in your craft, you need to stop chasing numbers and productivity and reboot. It’s time to start finding and developing that voice of yours.
An exercise for finding your voice
Not sure where to start? No problem. Most of us need help understanding our voice.
Here’s a short exercise that can help you — just follow these 10 steps:
1. Describe yourself in three adjectives. Example: snarky, fun, and flirty.
2. Ask (and answer) the question: “Is this how I talk?”
3. Imagine your ideal reader. Describe him in detail. Then, write to him, and only him. Example: My ideal reader is smart. He has a sense of humor, a short attention span, and is pretty savvy when it comes to technology and pop culture. He’s sarcastic and fun, but doesn’t like to waste time. And he loves pizza.
4. Jot down at least five books, articles, or blogs you like to read. Spend some time examining them. How are they alike? How are they different? What about how they’re written intrigues you? Often what we admire is what we aspire to be. Example: Copyblogger, Chris Brogan, Seth Godin, Ernest Hemingway, and C.S. Lewis. I like these writers, because their writing is intelligent, pithy, and poignant.
5. List your favorite artistic and cultural influences. Are you using these as references in your writing, or avoiding them, because you don’t think people would understand them. Example: I use some of my favorite bands’ music in my writing to teach deeper lessons.
6. Ask other people: “What’s my voice? What do I sound like?” Take notes of the answers you get.
7. Free-write. Just go nuts. Write in a way that’s most comfortable to you, without editing. Then go back and read it, asking yourself, “Do I publish stuff that sounds like this?”
8. Read something you’ve recently written, and honestly ask yourself, “Is this something I would read?” If not, you must change your voice.
9. Ask yourself: “Do I enjoy what I’m writing as I’m writing it?” If it feels like work, you may not be writing like yourself. (Caveat: Not every writer loves the act of writing, but it’s at least worth asking.)
10. Pay attention to how you’re feeling. How do you feel before publishing? Afraid? Nervous? Worried? Good. You’re on the right track. If you’re completely calm, then you probably aren’t being vulnerable. Try writing something dangerous, something a little more you. Fear can be good. It motivates you to make your writing matter.
Why do you need a writing voice?
Finding your voice is the key to getting dedicated followers and fans and that it’s the only sustainable way to write. If you’re not being yourself, you’ll eventually burn out.
Once you’ve found your voice, make sure you continue to develop it. It’s a discipline, one that can’t be overlooked if you’re going to have the impact you desire and that your words deserve.
The bottom line is that there’s a lot of noise out there in the world. If you’re going to get heard, you can’t just raise your voice. You’ve got to set yourself apart, showing you have something special to say, and that you have a unique way of saying it.
Recommended reading: For more on this topic of finding your voice as a writer, you should read Bird by Bird (affiliate link), an excellent book on the writing life by Anne Lamott.
Why is it that when you love someone’s writing, you want to read every book they’ve ever written? Why is it that some readers will buy all of J.K. Rowling’s books, even if she’s writing in a completely different genre than the Harry Potter series? And for us writers, how can we go from “unknown writer” to “published author”?
It’s all about your writing voice.
What Is a Writing Voice?
Whether you write fiction or non-fiction, you must find your writing voice. But what does that mean?
Your writing voice is not your particular writing style, although style is part of voice. It’s also not the tone of your writing, although tone is part of voice as well.
Your writing voice is your unique way of looking at the world.
And the unique part is essential.
“The good writing of any age has always been the product of someone’s neurosis.” —William Styron
A writer who sees the world the same as everyone else has either lost their voice or never found it in the first place.
Readers lined up for the next Harry Potter book because J.K. Rowling has a unique way of looking at the world. She revealed a hidden world, filled with extraordinary people, secret wars, and magical creatures.
Readers are so impatient for George R.R. Martin’s next book because he has a unique way of looking at the world. In his world, heroes are killed, the bad guys win (at least for a while), and what’s right isn’t always what’s smart.
J.D. Salinger has a unique way of looking at the world, as does J.R.R. Tolkien, Cormac McCarthy, Anne Rice, Tom Clancy, Ernest Hemingway, and so many other writers people love.
If you want to be a great writer, you need to find a unique voice.
How to Find Your Writing Voice?
“No great artist ever sees things as they really are. If he did, he would cease to be an artist.” Oscar Wilde
It starts by developing your sight. Here’s an exercise to help you see the world in a unique way:
What Do You Value Most?
Morality is essential to every story, regardless of whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction. Even business books have a moral viewpoint (e.g. making money = good, waste = bad).
What is your moral worldview:
• What is most important in life? Family, love, courage, sacrifice?
• Do the good guys always win? If you only enjoy books where the hero wins at the end, then this is an important part of how you see the world.
• What’s not okay to you (e.g. poverty, selfishness, rape, orphans, infidelity, loneliness, betrayal)? Write about that!
Next time you’re in a public place, look at the people around you. Really see them.
• What are they hiding? What are their secrets? Everyone has something that they think if people found out, they would be rejected and excluded.
• Is he a good guy? Is he a bad guy? And remember, even the villains think they’re the good guy.
• What does she want? What’s stopping her from getting it? A good story requires desire and conflict.
• Who does she rely on? Most protagonists have a sidekick. (Most antagonists have a sidekick too!)
• What is their ideal place? What would be the most terrifying/uncomfortable/lonely/boring place for them?
Observe Your Surroundings
Setting is an important character in every story, whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction. Take a deep breath and look around you:
• What are your eyes drawn to? If you squint, what do you automatically look at? Describe that!
• How does what you’re seeing make you feel?
The Secret Ingredient to Becoming a Great Writer
What’s the secret ingredient to becoming a great writer?
The secret is that there is no secret ingredient. J.K Rowling can’t help you. Neither can George R.R. Martin or Ernest Hemingway or any other great writer.
It’s just you.
YOU already have a unique way of looking at the world. YOU already have a unique writing voice.
You’re not one in a million. You’re one in six billion.
To unearth your writing voice, all you have to do is write word after painful word. Today is a great day to start!