How do I find my writer’s voice?


In March, we talked about writer’s voice, and I’d like to continue that discussion, focusing on how to find your own writer’s voice.
The best way to find your writer’s voice is simply to write. Write a lot; write every day. Keep a journal, and a copy of the letters you send to friends and family. Write e-mails, and then study them for clues to your own writer’s voice. If you blog, study your blog. How do you sound on the page? Is your style quirky and upbeat, or is it more philosophical? Is it funny, sarcastic, thought provoking?
As you study what you have written, you will notice that you use certain phrases or words instinctively, phrases and words that sound like YOU when you are talking. You may also notice that your writing has a natural rhythm. It may be short and choppy, or long and rambling, but it will be the voice you hear in your head as you relate your stories.
You may discover that you have more than one writing voice. The letter you send to your ailing grandmother will probably sound different from the one you send to your sister. Your grandmother probably doesn’t give a hoot about the Moschino heels you found in Las Vegas ON SALE, but your sister is going to want to know every detail, including if there are any more left at sale price. As you fill in the details, you unconsciously write to your audience, telling your sister or your grandmother the things you think they will find interesting.
My writer’s voice is different for each kind of writing I do. If I am writing a column for Life in This Magic Valley, my voice is folksy, funny, and filled with words and subjects that appeal to my audience. Since it is a humor column, I will relate in a funny way the advantages and disadvantages of living on ten acres in Southern Idaho where water is scarce and always an issue. The voice in these columns is light, funny, and easy-going.
When I write essays, my voice is usually darker, more philosophical as I ponder the central themes of my essay. Generally, my essays raise as many questions as they answer, so my essay voice is more thoughtful, pondering, not quite as funny or sassy as my column voice.
The voice I use to write novels is usually a combination of my column and essay voices. My voice may be light or dark, depending on the story I am trying to tell and the audience I am hoping to reach. I am always mindful of how I sound, hoping that I sound like I am telling a story to my mother or a good friend. I want it to be entertaining as well as enlightening.
The only way to discover your writer’s voice is by writing. Tell your internal editor and critic to go out for coffee, then sit down and write. Then write some more and listen to the words, the rhythm of your own language. In all that un-edited writing, you will find your own writer’s voice.
Bonnie Dodge

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Filed under Archives 2008, Question of the Month, Writing

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