Finding Your Voice
Updated: Mar 6, 2021
What exactly do I mean when I say "finding your voice"? There's an article on masterclass.com that explains it pretty well. It says, "In literature, 'voice' refers to the rhetorical mixture of vocabulary, tone, point of view and syntax that makes phrases, sentences, and paragraphs flow in a particular manner."
I was speaking with a fellow writer recently. We were discussing how sometimes when we read a certain author, our own writing will reflect the style and voice of that author. I even go to such lengths as to not read genres I'm writing in while I'm writing in them.
As you develop as a writer, your voice will become more and more pronounced. Your style, philosophy, themes that are important to you, word and phrase choice, life experiences and the books you read all contribute to voice formation.
There are three things every writer can do to develop their own voice. One of them might seem counterintuitive. Here they are:
This is probably stating the obvious, but every good writer needs to be a good reader. Don't just read what interests you. Become a connoisseur of your genre, yes, but read other genres too. Make sure your reading diet has a healthy dose of science, history, religion, philosophy, sociology, and poetry. One thing I don't recommend is reading bad writing. Your mind absorbs everything. You don't want to mentally metabolize garbage.
2. Write Often.
Another given. I mean you are a writer, after all, are you not? But having a healthy habit of writing accomplishes two things. First off, you get to practice your craft and sharpen your skills. Practice makes perfect as the old saying goes. Secondly, you can't hope to finish anything if you are not working diligently towards its completion. The larger the project, the more you have to break it down into bitesize manageable parts.
3. Incorporate techniques from other authors.
Here's the counterintuitive one. We're talking about finding your own voice. Why should you try to emulate the voice of others? It's the same reason a small child will try to mimic their parent when learning how to speak. You are the apprentice, they are the master. Every writer brings their own box of tools you can occasionally borrow from. But you won't be able to unless you are reading widely and writing often.
When you think of Virginia Woolf or Ernest Hemingway, Raymond Carver or Kurt Vonnegut, Emily or Charlotte Bronte, Salinger, Capote, Tolkien, Rand, Orwell, Bradbury, Dickinson or Didion, or any other writer you love and respect, you'll notice they each have their own distinct voice that will generally not be confused with another.
Keep doing these three steps, and in time, you will too!