As an artist, it can be really hard to find your voice, and this applies to every form of art. It took me years to find a style in my traditional art that I really loved and felt comfortable with, and writing is the same. It sucks to feel bland in a world where you can recognize certain writers just by the way that they write. Finding your voice can seem daunting, but trust me, we’ve all been there. It’s a long and hard road, but one every author has to take. So, come on! Let’s go on a journey together!
How do I find my writing voice?
Research, reading, and a whole lot of writing are key to developing your own voice. Only with practice, patience and time will you find what makes you unique and you. This is not something that will happen overnight. Some authors are really inherently talented and find their voice right away, but everyone grows at their own pace. Don’t be upset if it takes a lot longer than your peers. This is something personal and something that only you can work on yourself. Hopefully the tips I list below will give you inspiration! I’m still working on these things myself, so we can grow together!
Who has a great writing voice?
There are LOADS of brilliant authors out there, so I can only share which authors that have been the most influential to me. You’ll hear me talk a lot about this on this blog, but NEIL GAIMAN. He’s my absolute favorite writer of all time. I’ll sing his praises high and low if I can. I really love and appreciate his ability to make everything magical and dream-like. Even though I have not read a lot of his work, Douglas Adams also comes to mind. HIs word choice is sublime and his sentences are punny in ways I cannot even explain. Salman Rushdie, Sylvia Plath, and many, many more could be added to this list. Who you put on your list is really up to you! Depending on what genre you write, compile a list of your favorite authors. Once you have a list of authors that really, REALLY inspire you, it’s time for the next step.
How should I research writing voice?
Books are going to be your best friend here. Remember that list of your favorite writers that you compiled? Good. Now you’re going to get as many of their books as you can stomach at a time, and you’re going to read them. Once you’ve read a little, start taking notes. What kind of word choice do these authors have? What is their punctuation like? How long are their paragraphs? What is their sentence length like? Once you start dissecting their work, you can start to pick and choose what you love from their work. This is going to take a lot of time and a LOT of books, so become best friends with your local library! Whip out that library card and get to reading.
How do I develop my writing voice?
Now that you’ve read a bunch of books and are armed with a list of things that you really love that your favorite authors use, it’s time to pick what YOU’RE going to use. Make a list of all of the qualities you’re going to start using in your own work and dissect what makes them tick. Read additional articles that will help you better understand the concepts you’re planning on implementing. And now… you write.
Using your new tools that you’ve researched, you’re going to write as many short stories as you can. This is where I am in my developmental journey. If you can, aim for a short story a month. They don’t have to be long, and there are plenty of amazing writing prompt Tumblrs, websites, and generators to get you started each month. While you’re writing, don’t keep your stories to yourself. The most important part of this process is getting critique. With every story you finish, either send it to an editor or have a friend read it. Once polished, not only will these stories look great in your portfolio, but you’ll also eventually have a short story collection (or a few) that you can publish. Ask your friends to be honest. What did they like about it? What did they dislike? The goal is to objectively look at your work as if it wasn’t yours.
The reason we do this with little projects is that you don’t have to get as deeply attached to them as a long novel you’ve written. The little projects are easier to throw away and you don’t have to worry about picking apart 50k words or more. These short stories are still your children, but they’re manageable children who need to be raised to be the best that they can be. Once you’ve gone through one, gotten feedback, and taken notes. Do it again. And again. And again.
What types of voice should I use?
Depending on what you’re writing, picking an appropriate voice is essential. If you’re trying to get into academic writing, writing with slang or using conjunctions may not be the best idea. Your writing is likely to get rejected by academic publishers. I’m assuming, however, that you’re here because you want to be a fiction writer. Voice is still something that, while it can be adapted, should be considered for the work. Voice is different than tone in the sense that it’s not which words you use, but how you use them. Neil Gaiman is a perfect example of an author who has a genre-universal voice that can be used for all types of books. He writes a variety of work for a variety of ages, but his voice still rings true.
Here are some great examples of voice:
“The colors are there the green and black her hair is green her teeth are black the Widow stands above high as the sky the sky is black her skin is green children screaming walls are green blood is black and she reaches out and little balls the night is black but children torn in half I look and see the Widow green but I am black the children run their screams are black her hand is green it touches my face is green her nails are black she smiles and I am green my blood is black she is hunting searching skin is green love is black I want out but children grabbed and little balls and the Widow looks for me she grabs but no little balls the sky is black but fear is green.” – Salman Rushdie, Midnight’s Children
“For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much—the wheel, New York, wars and so on—whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man—for precisely the same reasons.” – Douglas Adams, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
“Each person who ever was or is or will be has a song. It isn’t a song that anybody else wrote. It has its own melody, it has its own words. Very few people get to sing their song. Most of us fear that we cannot do it justice with our voices, or that our words are too foolish or too honest, or too odd. So people live their song instead.” – Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys
I feel like that last quote is especially relevant to finding your voice. It’s exactly as Neil wrote; you have to find your voice yourself. It’s going to take a lot of time and a lot of writing, but when you find it, you’ll know. Who are your favorite authors? What particular voices do you like in writing, and what do you like to implement in your work? If you still need help finding your voice, email me! I’d love to point out articles are tips that you can use to push you in the right direction. Happy writing!