Some people say you either have it or you don’t. It’s elusive and intangible, but when it’s there you love it and when it isn’t, it can break a book. Writer’s voice is one of the hardest things to identify and equally one of the hardest things to, once you have identified it, translate to paper. These are our seven essential tips on finding your own voice and getting it out on to paper.
1. Know yourself as a writer
A writer’s voice will shine through when they really know who they are as a writer – in fact, when they really know who they are as a person. When you really know who you are, and you are aware of how you sound to others and come across to people, you are a step closer to identifying your voice. When who you think you are resonates with who others think you are, you are even closer. Your voice will change over time, but it grows with you and when it does, you know that you are writing with an honesty that can be incredibly hard to force.
2. Don’t force your voice or your writing
One of the most common symptoms of forcing voice, is when a writer overwrites. When you start to litter your work with adjectives to replace the presence of a voice, and when you really overwork your writing, the words tend to remain words on the page and the writing has none of the real you in it. If the words don’t come alive on the page the reader can almost hear you trying hard to write and that doesn’t sound natural.
3. Be confident and write as though no one will ever see
When you write with confidence and fluency and you are comfortable in your own writing skin, your personality will start to seep into your writing. With confidence you will put a stamp on your writing that makes it your own.
One of the best ways to develop confidence is to free-write. Set some time aside to just write whatever comes into your head. Don’t stop to perfect it or make sense of it, just write and write and write. When it comes to your novel you need to emulate this feeling, just write and don’t feel bound by rules and rigidity.
When you give yourself the chance to just write – make it for yourself. Don’t write as though you want to be published, write as though it won’t ever see the light of day. Focus on shaping your novel when you go back to edit; for now, just say what it is you want to say in the way you want to say it.
4. Practise, practise and practise your skill
Voice is nothing if you don’t have skill – your voice is only ever as clear as you allow it to be through the medium of writing. By practising your skill and becoming a better technical writer, you will find that once you have identified your voice, putting it to paper will be much easier. Don’t only practise your writing skills, but also practise your editing skills. You will be able to structure your writing into something fluid and natural, and that will eventually take on the shape of your novel.
5. Don’t be afraid to emulate other writers
It would be silly to say that we aren’t influenced by those we spend the most time around or those we look up to, and the same applies to writing. If you spend your time reading an author that you love, then chances are you will pick up on some aspects of their style. There is nothing wrong with this, it is part of the journey. It doesn’t take away from your own voice, it helps you to adapt and pick up different attitudes and perspectives. Your writing will evolve as does your personality – from books we are always learning, and as we learn and grow and evolve, so too does our voice.
6. Practise mindfulness
Have you ever had a moment where you are really truly aware of yourself – where you stop what you are doing, you listen to your breathing, you take in your surroundings and for a brief fleeting moment you really are truly living in that moment? This is in simplified terms the definition of mindfulness. By stopping for a moment, focusing on your breathing and yourself within your environment you become acutely aware of your own presence. It is moments like this when we truly know who we are. We can almost visualise how others will see us. Practise mindfulness before you begin to write, hear your own voice in your head and identify with it. Begin your writing by telling the story with the voice that you hear in your head and the person you recognise as yourself in these moments of clarity.
7. Listen to your inner voice
Your inner voice is always there and it is completely private to you. Absolutely no one else can hear this voice – it is the voice that talks to you in the shower, and the one that is background noise in the car or throughout the day. It isn’t always the same. Your voice varies in different situations as it does with your writing, but ultimately it is still the same voice. Most of the time you don’t realise it is there – it is just a part of you, but sometimes, you can hear it more loudly than others.
By identifying the strongest trait of this voice, you know what you are looking for in your writing. This is your true no-holds-barred voice, no airs and graces, and no affectations. It just simply is you – a culmination of your life experiences, a perspective on your world and a sum total of who you are. No one can replicate that. Nor are they privy to it until you let it flow from your head to the paper.
Ultimately, the secret to finding your voice is knowing that it is already there. Voice is equally about what you don’t say as it is about what you do say. Don’t force it, allow it to develop and flow on to the page and keep perfecting your writing and editing skills. Once you have nailed this you could be well on your way to writing a novel that makes a literary agent sit up and take notice.
For no extra charge, when you book a manuscript appraisal, our editors will look at the strength of your voice in your writing and give you tips on how to strengthen it and make it unique. Request a FREE instant quote to see how affordable it is to have your manuscript appraised by one of our professional editors.