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March 23, 2023
Have you ever figured out who penned an excerpt of writing by just looking at it? Sometimes the hint lies in the unique selection of words the writer uses or the structure of the sentences gives it away.
For some writers, the particular way they turn a descriptive phrase has become their literary calling card. Regardless of how the reader recognizes an author’s distinctive writing, this calling card, called a writer’s voice, is what makes each writer authentically unique.
Unlike a fingerprint that is fixed from the start, a writer’s voice is more like a muscle that once flexed, develops and grows. This writing muscle becomes the underpinning of all writing activity, showcasing the best of an author’s abilities, quietly supporting in the background each new project that an author takes on.
The voice of a writer is how readers see, hear, and feel the writer’s perspective in their work. In some cases, a writer’s voice is how their personality comes through in their writing. This voice is what sets you apart from the other authors in your genre because readers can recognize your writing’s distinctive stylistic choices, word selections, and even your humor within the pages.
Authors don’t always start out with a distinct, curated writer’s voice. Instead, most authors find their voice in their earliest works or through intentional work to discover it. But many authors continue to refine and nurture this key element in their work until their voice becomes clear and recognizable in their writing.
In fact, readers eventually will begin to connect your voice with the types of stories that you tell and the characterizations that you create. Your voice will also be associated with a level of quality of writing, too, so your writer’s voice plays an important part in gaining and retaining fans of your writing.
For a new author or someone who doesn’t have a defined writer’s voice already, one of the best ways to discover one’s own voice is to experience other voices. Picking up books to read and evaluate by authors that have clear and well-defined voices is an excellent way to see all the different ways that an author’s voice impacts a book.
It is critical that you read as many books as you can within your chosen genre, so you hear the voices of multiple writers that are covering the same themes, topics and characterizations that your writing includes. Each author, as you will come to discover, takes a little bit different perspective as they develop their storylines, create interesting characters, and use dialogue and other writing techniques to move their plots along.
Some use humor with a satirical twist while others rely on straightforward yet compelling word choices to engage readers. And practiced authors will use their voices consistently throughout their books so readers will be able to expect to hear the same persona telling the story, from the first page to the last. By exposing yourself to as many practiced authors as possible, you can absorb the little and big ways in which an author interjects their voice into their writing so you can practice the skill in your writing as well.
Reading as many books as you can from your genre provides authors with another benefit beyond simply experiencing and evaluating how other writers utilize their voices in their writing.
Exposure to different authors within your chosen genre can give you insight into what readers expect from books in this genre so you can make sure that your books meet with reader’s expectations. In addition, by becoming familiar with the competition, you can begin to understand how high the proverbial “bar” is set for popular books in your genre when creating your own future books.
Putting the metaphorical pen to paper is the best way to find and refine your writing voice. The more you write, the more you will begin to see your own voice emerge on the page.
Create a plan to write as much as you can for a variety of purposes. Producing a short story may take much less time than setting out to pen a new novel, so consider giving yourself shorter writing tasks consistently to not only hone your craft but to also help you uncover your own voice within your writing.
Writing experimentally can help you to hear your own voice as well. Choose a genre or theme that you wouldn’t normally choose so you can see how your creativity and voice respond to that challenge.
Don’t be afraid to try out new approaches that you are unfamiliar with; writing something with no expectations and no safety net will require you to fall back on what you know and what you can do well. A rom-com novelist who challenges themself to pen a short horror or mystery story may struggle to find common ground with genres so different from their own comfort zone of romantic comedies.
But in the process of writing a short story in an unfamiliar genre, and then their second or third, the author might discover that their writing voice begins to emerge. While the genres may be outside of an author’s comfort zone, reflecting on the common feel and tones produced in multiple writing pieces can help an author to uncover and focus on their own writing voice that may be struggling to show itself with a small amount of writing.
Another way to grow and mature your writing voice is by just being yourself. When you write about topics, situations, characters, and themes that you enjoy, your voice will shine through. Readers will see and hear your authentic voice more clearly when your passions and interests come through in your work.
Being yourself may sound counter to what writing is – you are not the same thing as your characters, after all – but the way you present characters, the narration you craft, the word choices you select, and your perspective on your chosen genre all reflect you as a writer. So don’t try to copy another writer’s style or voice; just be yourself.
Growing and developing your own voice is sustainable long-term, too. If your style and voice are closely aligned with another writer’s, interest in their style may grow out of favor with readers which means that yours will too. Instead, let authenticity reveal your own writer’s voice so your readers will recognize your writing and will know what to expect with your future works.
Listening to our own voice, at first, can be hard. We aren’t used to looking beyond the story on the page. Sure, revising content has its own challenges, but honing your writing voice is different from adjusting a plot arc or switching up characterization in a novel.
1 Don’t copy the tone of another author. You run the risk of masking your own authentic voice while misleading or confusing readers in the process. When readers pick up your book, they expect to hear your voice.
If your book sounds like or feels just like another, more established author’s voice, then fans may skip your work altogether and stick with the author whose voice they experienced first.
2 Don’t model your writing after just one voice. Choose positive aspects of multiple proven writers to emulate to help you craft one unique writer’s voice for yourself.
3 Don’t get discouraged. Finding your voice and refining it into a lasting, identifiable writer’s voice can take time. Don’t expect it to be shaped overnight.
Identifying and growing your own writing voice can take time but consistently writing provides ample opportunities to hone it into a voice you will be able to use and replicate in your future writing.
And if you are turning out short stories or other shorter works regularly, you might even want to print a collection of them. Not only will you be able to add to your list of published works, but you may even discover that your writer’s voice has finally transformed from a whisper to a shout.
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