Ask five writers what voice is in writing, you’ll get 15 different answers. Ultimately, a writer’s voice is the key to writing a good story.
“Confident writers have the courage to speak plainly; to let their thoughts shine rather than their vocabulary.” ~ Ralph Keyes, author of The Courage to Write: How Writers Transcend Fear (one of my favorite books about writing).
These tips will help free your writer’s voice – they apply to fiction and nonfiction, poetry and blogging. Lately I’ve been obsessed with voice because I think that’s why my agent hasn’t landed me a book contract yet. My ideas are great, but my voice needs work (ouch). Here’s what I’ve learned about writing style and voice…
Don’t write to impress, fellow scribes. Write to connect with your readers. Your writer’s voice builds a better bridge to your readers. It’s your fingerprint, it’s your individual writing style, and it gives your writing soul. To learn more about freeing your voice, read Finding Your Voice: How to Put Personality in Your Writing.
And, use these creative writing tips to become a stronger, more courageous, more successful writer….
5 Tips on Finding Your Writer’s Voice
“Style is an expression of self, and [writers] should turn resolutely away from all devices that are popularly believed to indicate style – all mannerisms, tricks, and adornments,” write Strunk and White in The Elements of Style.
The only “trick” to developing your writ’ers voice and style is to relax and let it flow…
Follow your literary hunches
In an article about menopause for alive magazine, I used the phrases “the crimson tide” and “Aunt Flo” instead of “your period.” I hesitated at first (would readers get it? is it too casual for a health magazine?), but decided to let it rip – and the editor emailed to say she loved those specific phrases! Taking risks when you write will help you find your writer’s voice and trust your hunches.
Learn the difference between good writing and voice
Developing your writer’s voice doesn’t mean you can wax eloquent for hours, ignore punctuation, or forget about editing. Learn and practice the rules of good writing, and you’ll free your voice. “As you become proficient in the use of language, your style will emerge,” write Strunk and White in The Elements of Style, “because you yourself will emerge…” The more comfortable you are with the rules for good writing, the more your writer’s voice will shine.
Stop comparing yourself to other writers and their voices
You have natural strengths and weaknesses — and so do other writers. Comparing how you write or your writer’s voice to other writers – whether Anne Lamott or the blogger next door – is destructive and suffocating. So, admire other writers’ styles. Nurture your own. Focus on ways to improve your confidence as a writer.
Make envy work for you
If you wrestle with the green-eyed monster from time to time, learn how to harness that energy. Jealousy can work in your favor by showing you what you really want and where you really want your writing career to go. For instance, if you envy a bestselling novelist, then maybe fiction writing is your thing. If you read literary essays in the New Yorker and wish you’d written them, then take a creative writing class and polish up your literary techniques. If you envy freelance writers who make money writing, then maybe it’s time to invest in the latest copy of Writer’s Market!
Speaking of envy, read The #1 Reason You Haven’t Written the Book You Want to Write.
Picture one specific reader and write to him or her
When a publisher asked me to rewrite a few sample chapters of See Jane Soar, she specifically asked me to make my writing more edgy and quirky. I tried, but it didn’t fly. I was too focused on trying to impress the publisher and get my book published! I hadn’t learned the creative writing tip of picturing one specific reader — one that I’m not trying to impress — and just communicating with her. That publisher rejected my manuscript, and I learned the importance of finding my writer’s voice.
Your writer’s voice can’t be learned. It has to be freed.
For more insight, read Expressive Writing – 5 Ways to Write With Emotion and Hook Readers.
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What say you, fellow scribes, about your writer’s voice? I welcome your thoughts below!