Finding your voice

A couple of weeks ago I lost my voice. Not literally, much to my hubby’s dismay. I mean my writing voice. It’s been a while since I sat down to write some fiction. That had to change, so a couple of weeks ago I attempted to write 2000 words a day. It didn’t go well. Apart from the fact that the story needed a lot of work, the writing itself was bad. It made me think about how I found my voice in the first place and why finding your voice is a necessity for every writer.

LittleVoice

Jane Horrocks in Little Voice. Geddit?

What is your writing voice?

Probably best to start at the beginning. Your writing voice is essentially your writing identity. Think about your favourite writers. Would you be able to recognise their stories if you couldn’t see their name on the book?

Your voice is what will make your stories yours, what will make you stand out as a writer. You’ll often see agents rejecting work because the voice isn’t strong enough. All this means is that the writer seems unsure of their voice.

Your voice may be literary (what I like to think of as a bit flowery), sarcastic, humorous or sinister. Finding it is an individual and personal journey and once you do find it, you must be brave and use it.

Tips for finding your voice

  • Read.
    I know, I hate it when writers tell writers to read. Of course you have to read, it’s a huge part of the learning. But this time, as you read, try to listen to the author’s ‘voice’. Does it come through loud and clear, does that author stand out to you? Try and work out how they’ve done it.
    Even if you don’t consciously study these things, your subconscious will pick it up. So don’t worry if you’re not comfortable with breaking stories apart to see how they work, just read and let your subconscious effortlessly do the rest.
  • Ask yourself who you really are.
    So you’re finding out who other writers are. Great. But who are you? The best bit about this is that I don’t mean who are you, who does the world know. I mean, who are you really? To the outside world you might be introverted and polite, but inside are you screaming sarcasm and wit? Writing is your opportunity to truly be yourself and show the world what makes you tick.
  • Write for you.
    The best place to discover your voice is to write something purely for yourself. Forget readers, forget your market, forget your genre even. Just write something that only you will see. Have fun with it, and see what happens. While I often write fan fiction to do this, using other peoples characters and settings can have the opposite effect as their voice will seep through. Fanfiction and copying is great for learning how to structure stories and develop characters but when finding your voice, try using your own characters, settings and plot.
  • Learn how it feels to use your voice.
    Trust me, you’ll know when you’ve found it. And when you do find it, make a mental note of how it feels. To me it feels like freedom, it gives me a buzz and everything just seems to click together. If you know how it feels to use your own voice, you’ll know when you (temporarily) lose it.
  • Practise.
    Once you’ve found your voice, don’t do what I did. Use it! Keep using it. Writing is a skill that can be lost without practise so keep writing. Just 10 minutes a day will do it. Write when you don’t want to, write a journal (I used to write mine in the form of letters), write when you’re inspired, write when a character or scene pops into your head. Never let it die.

As for my writing voice, after a few days I found it again. It’s always in the last place you look. Now to work on that story.

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