As a writer who has only begun to openly share my thoughts outside of a private journal entry for a few years, I am still discovering my own voice. We all have a writing voice, whether it is exposed in non-fiction, fiction, or poetry, it is there.
A writing voice comes through in most advanced writers. You can recognize it without even knowing the author. In the early stages of a writer’s career, the voice may be suppressed, afraid to come out, or not quite matured.
How Do You Discover Your Writing Voice?
When you are formulating your voice, there will be many trials and errors. Think of it like trying on shoes. Sometimes, you will know instantly if they are not comfortable to walk in. Other times, the aches and blisters do not show up until miles later. Over time, you start to know what works for you – wide width, short heels, real leather, or other various styles. Just as shoes, you will have a different writing voice for different occasions, but you will still have your own style that you prefer. (I love that I was able to use a shoe analogy for writing!)
There are a few things that will help you develop that writing voice.
1. Read and find voices you can relate to.
Reading is an important part of being a writer. By reading, you can find inspiration and other ideas. When you find a voice that you can relate to, figure out why you identify with that voice. Is is similar to your voice? Is the writing style close to yours? If you can recognize a hint of your voice in others, you have a foundation to further develop and grow. Continue to read, but also continue to write.
2. Write Freely.
Practice your writing voice by putting your thoughts on paper, no editing, no thesaurus. Just write. Take the words that are floating in your mind and reveal them on paper or a word processor. Remove them from your head and keep writing. Don’t stop until the tank is empty. You will be surprised at how much information has been dying to get out and jump onto a page. You can edit when you are finished.
3. Write about your passions.
When you write about things you are passionate about, your voice will rise to the surface quick. When you are trying to find words to describe something you don’t care much about, it can be a battle to squeeze out words. Like a dry sponge. Topics you carry a lot of passion for are going to be closer to your true voice. Most likely, you have read about these topics or have brought them up in conversations. You are intimately familiar with them, so there is more to be said without being contrived.
4. Use your imagination.
When you are writing, imagine yourself there. Picture yourself visually in the story. Use all of your senses. What does the scene look like, smell like, sound like? Pay attention to the details and the emotions the place brings to the surface. Write this stuff down. Freely, openly.
5. Read Aloud
This is something I probably don’t do enough of. It feels funny. But I notice that when I do read words aloud, I can sense my voice either coming through or being surpressed. When you are finished writing a blog post, a chapter, or an article, read it aloud. See how it sounds. Make adjustments if necessary.
6. Work outside your comfort zone.
You may not discover your authentic voice until you are forced to write in a style you are not used to. It is like working a different muscle. As a writer, you should exercise all different creative muscles. Soon, you will be able to focus on the muscle that is required for your voice. Much like athletes who play one particular sport, they will work thier whole body, but pay particular attention to the motions required for the sport.
We all have a voice, but it may not be formulated yet. The voice is inside, but will only develop with time and practice. Often times, as we are trying to find our voice, we try on other voices to see if it is a fit. We may write things as we think they should be written. We fake it. Maybe out of fear, lack of confidence, or even to impress.
Although it is important to remember your audience and the character’s role in your writing, you also need to be true to yourself. Don’t try to be someone you are not. The truth is if you are faking it, you will eventually get bored or burnt out. There is only one Mark Twain and one Jane Austen. Be yourself.