Monday, May 09, 2011

Three Tips for Monday

Rooster Tyresta National Parkphoto © 2006 Udo Schröter | more info (via: Wylio)
One of the easiest things to identify in someone else's writing, and yet the most difficult to quantify in our own writing is voice.

Often writers agonize over finding their voice. Will I know it when I find it? What if I never find it? What if, when I find my voice, I realize it isn't unique?

Whew...that's a lot to angst about, and nothing steals your joy as a writer and camouflages your voice like angsty-worry.

First, let's define voice.

Writer's voice is the literary term used to describe the individual writing style of an author. Voice was generally considered to be a combination of a writer's use of syntax, diction, punctuation, character development, dialogue, etc., within a given body of text (or across several works). The definition came from HERE.

It takes time to find your voice, but once you do, you'll have it rock-solid. One thing new writers need to realize is: You cannot find your true voice before you master the basics of fiction writing craft. Until you're comfortable with point-of-view, dialogue, narration, setting, etc. focus on those things. Voice will come after you've become grounded with the basics.

So, here are three tips to finding your voice:

1. Relax. Clear voice shines through when you're relaxed and just let the words and story flow. Voice happens when you're not forcing it, when you're letting the words roll out without worrying about voice.

2. Read widely, and critique for people, because often you will be able to discern another person's voice before you can discern your own. However, identifying other people's voices helps you identify your own. Meg Cabot doesn't sound like Dick Francis, and Elizabeth Peters doesn't sound like Alice Sebold. Each of these writers has a distinct voice, and so do you. 

3. Write. A lot. I didn't discover my voice (and actually, someone else told me when I'd finally found it) until I had written several novels. When I go back to the first one I wrote, I can see a few sprouts of my voice amid all the compost I was throwing around, but by the time I had written four novels, my voice had become clear. When I reread my own work after being away from it for awhile, I often find myself thinking "I should put 'this' in somewhere." only to find that a few lines later, I put that very thing in. My voice was natural, the thought processes, the experiences, the vocabulary all mesh together to make my writing sound different from anyone else's.

So, have you found your voice? Has anyone ever told you your voice sparkles?


  1. I have found my voice - at least in my novels. Not sure if I've found it for my blog yet. But it took my until about my fifth novel for me to really feel like I had a handle on my own voice. I still can't describe it, but I know it.

  2. I have. I've been blessed with positive feedback on this one.

    Sometimes I fear having it, but having no way to have it heard. A Little Mermaid dealeo. God's time. (Hear me talking to myself?).

    God's time. (Okay, I'm all better.)

    Wow, your blog was like therapy for me today. ;)
    ~ Wendy

  3. The steps you listed are spot on, Erica. I didn't find my voice until I'd done all three, the first being the most important. It wasn't until I stopped trying to find my voice and just wrote that it found me. What's interesting is that had I tried to force it, the result wouldn't have been at all the same. There are elements of my voice that surprised me--in a good way. =)

  4. Yes! I think....I'm pretty guess? ;) Of course. Sometimes I think that's all I've found.

  5. Great advice, Erica! I especially like your comment about focusing on the basics of fiction writing before worrying about voice. So true!

    I think I'm finally growing into my voice, and it feels really freeing. I don't have to edit it out to sound like Famous Author A anymore. :)

  6. I haven't found it yet, but one day....:)

    I am bookmarking this post! Excellent points.

  7. Great advice! (btw, are you an Elizabeth Peters fan too?!) :)

  8. Tammy Roberson10:46 AM

    When I read your books, I hear your voice.....does that count? It's very pleasant :)

  9. My voice in non-fiction is apparently distinctive, but it's still developing in fiction. I'm not sure why there's a difference, except that I think I write non-fiction with more authority. In my novels I'm aware of not having my characters sound like clones of me, so perhaps that hinders the development of my novelling voice. After four books you'd think I'd have a handle on it, wouldn't you? LOL.

  10. Katie, that's often the way it is. I can't describe my voice, but I know it when I read it.

    Wendy, you have a crystal clear voice, very appealing. :) It will be heard.

    Keli, relaxing and giving myself permission to write the story I see in my head is always my first step to writing in my own voice. It usually takes a chapter or two to get going and shake off the mind-shackles.

  11. Tana (I love that name, btw) I bet you've got a lot more going for you than just a fabulous voice. :)

    Sarah, I have to be careful who I read when I'm working on a new WIP, because I can quickly fall into the patterns of another author and lose my own voice.

    Sherrinda, keep working at it. Voice is like the statue encased in a block of marble. Keep chipping away and the voice will be revealed.

  12. Gwen, I LOVE Elizabeth Peters's Amelia Peabody series. I adore Ramses Emerson. :)

    Tammy, yay! That's a great compliment. If it sounds like me, it ain't nobody else. :D

    Carol, I admire you for writing non-fiction. I don't think I have a very good non-fiction voice. Maybe I'm trying too hard. I don't relax very well when trying to write non-fiction, but fiction is altogether different for me.