Strengthening Your Voice
We can instantly recognize the works of our favorite authors just by reading a snippet of their work. The greats all had a distinctive voice of their own which could be spotted immediately in their work. Are they characterized by the lyrical description the classics employed? Or by the wit and humor found in a Jane Austen text? Or the concise, fast paced narratives of the modern crime novel? But what is voice exactly? Voice is our unique way of writing that characterizes our writing style. So how do we develop our own voice?
Voice is inherent to each of us, but can be strengthened and perfected through careful practice and training. So how do we hone our voice?
- By reading. A lot. Read widely within your genre. Learn the common tropes used, the archetypal characters employed, and the overused clichés of your specific genre. This will strengthen your voice. Read outside your genre as well to pick up techniques you can blend into your writing, like how to write a romantic subplot (read romance), how to keep action fast paced (read a thriller), and how to world build (read fantasy). Also, read about writing. Learn your craft to improve your skills and your voice. I personally recommend reading “On Writing” by Stephen King, which is a great glimpse into the publishing world and has valuable writing tips. And read poetry. This may seem like odd advice, but poetry teaches conciseness of language and how to write vivid imagery. Both of which will help perfect your voice.
- By writing. A lot. Steal from writers you love and use their voice in your writing. Learn vivid description from Stephen King and how to add depth to your story world from J. R. R. Tolkien. By writing and incorporating other voices into your writing you’ll learn what works and doesn’t work for you. What do you struggle with? Find someone who does it well and practice borrowing from them. I personally am lacking when it comes to setting description, so I make sure I read authors who write setting well so I can borrow from them. Shore up your weaknesses by being aware of them and actively seeking to address them. And write a ton. You need to practice before you get any better. Like any other skill, your writing will improve with time and practice. Do prompts, freewrite daily, set up a writing routine. Make writing a habit. Show up and do the work.
- By finishing things. Don’t just start projects. There’s a lot to be learned from finishing a piece of writing. Challenge yourself to write short stories just to finish something you started. I’ve learned how to work my way through the tricky middle of my stories by getting to the end. You also learn how to write more impactful endings by writing them.
- And finally, by believing in yourself. Be expansive and confident and your voice will shine through. You can’t hem yourself in and stand out. Fake it until you make it and watch your voice blossom as you step boldly into the writing world.
What author has your favorite voice and why? What voice styles do you prefer? Comment below and happy writing!