Fiction,  How To Write A Novel: Step by Step,  The Writing Life

Find Your Writing Voice in 2021

If you aim to be something you are not, you will always fail. Aim to be you. Aim to look and act and think like you. Aim to be the truest version of you. Embrace that you-ness.

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

When I first began writing fiction, I found it difficult to know or even recognize my writing voice. Everyone has a unique writing voice, just as everyone has a unique speaking voice. I heard this from published authors and I read it in the many how-to books in which I had immersed myself. But still, it remained a vague concept.

What can you do to find your voice, that elusive unique you-ness?

Try on a few voices

Have fun with this. Write a paragraph, perhaps a journal entry about your day focusing on a particular voice. Write as though you are proud of your vocabulary. The flowerier (is that even a word?) the better. Then write the same paragraph as though you have to pay a hundred dollars per word. Write it as though you are a grumpy pessimist and then a perky optimist. Try on whichever voices you like. Finally, just write without focussing on voice. Read all the different versions and see what you think. This activity serves two purposes: 1. It will help you develop particular characters in your fiction and 2. It will help you discover how your particular voice sounds.

Read Your Writing Out Loud

Using journal entries or perhaps the above exercise, read it out loud. Record it on your phone and listen to it again. How do you express your ideas, your feelings? Do you tend to understate or do you love hyperbole or are you somewhere in between? Is your writing guarded, as though your mother or your kids might read it, or are you prone to a lot of detail? Does your writing come across as confident, or is your tone more apologetic? If you developed a sudden case of amnesia and read this, what impression would you get about the writer?

Write for a specific audience

  1. Practice writing for yourself. Write scenes that you choose not to share with anyone. Write with only yourself as the audience,
  2. Imagine you are reading to a specific person or group. When I am actually sending my ms to a particular reader, I instantly fear they won’t like what I wrote. I begin to read through the pages with that person in mind. Somehow, picturing an actual reader makes a huge difference in how I hear what I wrote. If I am giving a chapter to my teen daughter to read, I go back and read through the story as I imagine she will read it. Even though I know I am writing for teens, it’s when I think of a particular teen and how she will imagine the story, that I find those parts where my “mom” voice is bleeding through and I’ve lost my “teen” voice.

Read Your Favourite Authors Again

It goes without saying that if you want to write you must read. Read a lot of books. Read the masters. Read the classics and the brilliant contemporary authors. Pay attention to what helps you recognize whose work you are reading. What makes it distinctive? What do you like?

Keep writing!

Be yourself and keep on writing. You’ll soon recognize your unique style. As you focus on the sounds of various voices, you’ll become more adept at developing distinctive voices for each of your characters as well. But that’s a topic for another day!

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