Your writer’s voice

Current word count: 12,628

Words written today: 427

Words to goal: 27,372/ 350 words a day til end of September

A writer’s voice seems like one of those elusive things that no one can really truly explain. When I’ve heard it talked about in seminars and conferences, it always seems a bit vague. And that’s because, it kinda is. There’s no one thing someone can point to and say, See that, that’s the voice.

A writer’s voice is basically the style the writer uses. When you read that agents and editors are looking for fresh voices, it basically just means new styles, books that don’t read like every other book on shelves. As writers, eager to be published, we want to know exactly what that means. How do you write a new style? We think there’s some kind of formula, like there are standard plot structures, there’s some key for writing in a fresh voice. Like we can press our version of Staples’ Easy button and have a fresh voice. There isn’t.

I’ve been in two workshops that try to teach voice. In both, the teacher gave us a setting and characters and asked us to write a quick scene. The different ways each of us wrote that scene demonstrates our voice. Demonstrates is the key word. Voice can not be taught. Your voice as a writer, your style is as individual to you as your fingerprints. It might have similarities to other writers, most likely your favorite writers, because you will be influenced by others, but your true voice will be your own.

And it will change over time. The more you read, especially the more you read different authors, the more your writing will be influenced and inspired by them — even changed by them. Think of a painter. Painters are influenced by the great artists, and their work, especially at the beginning, will reflect elements of those artists they admire most. It’s the same with writers. But the more a painter paints, the more he or she will find his or her own style — and that too is true of writers. That’s when we find our own voice.

The Adventurous Writer blog wrote about voice last week in 5 Tips for Developing Your Writer’s Voice. It’s a good set of ideas, but the part I like best in the whole post comes right at the bottom:

 Your writer’s voice can’t be learned. It has to be freed.

Free your writer’s voice by writing and writing and writing, by reading and reading and reading and learning the correct ways to write. All of this will give you the confidence to write the way you want to write, to trust in your own instincts as a writer. When you can do that, your voice will emerge.

How’s your writing coming?

Write On!

5 Responses

  1. Laurie PK says:

    Thanks for mentioning my blog post about finding — freeing! — your writer’s voice.

    One thing I learned from writing that post is that the more comfortable writers are with the rules of writing, the stronger their voice will be. Once we don’t have to worry about grammar, sentence structure, spelling, literary techniques, etc — then we’re better able to focus on saying what we need to say in our own unique way.

    Just my 2 cents, and I welcome different viewpoints! 🙂


  2. Casey says:

    Great post! I think voice really does come out with reading and practice, and especially, confidence.

    I’m still stuck on Chapter 3. I’m having the hardest time with this rewrite.

  3. My pleasure, Laurie. It was a good post. I fully agree with you. When we’re unsure, we writers — at least, I think this was me and I don’t think I’m alone — look for something concrete to point to so we can replicate it. But really, continued writing, reading and knowing the rules of writing will give us the confidence that will allow us to let go long enough so we can free our voice. I loved that choice of words: free your voice.

    Sorry to hear you’re having a rough time with your rewrite, Casey, but hang in there. You’ll get it. Maybe try writing something completely different for a week and then go back to this one with a fresher eye.

  4. Thanks for the link! Yes, voice is very elusive and cannot be taught. It is something intrinsic that we have as writers that usually emerges with lots of practice.

    Ugh! My writing has hit a snag. Still writing but I’m thinking they are “throw-away” words. Oh well, we’ll see how it goes tonight.

  5. Don’t worry, Karen. You might find some aren’t “throw-away” words. You never know when something you never expected will show up. But I know how you feel. I’ve had plenty of days when I’ve thought the words will probably get dumped later. But sometimes there are some nice surprises in them. Hang in there.

What do you think?