Many aspiring writers struggle with finding their writerly voice. That is to say, they find it challenging to write in a way that reflects who they are.
As Cris Freese at Writer’s Digest points out, many literary agents claim that they’re in search of writers with “distinctive” voices. But what does it mean to have a distinctive voice? Freese speculates: “By voice, I think they mean not only a unique way of putting words together, but a unique sensibility, a distinctive way of looking at the world, an outlook that enriches an author’s oeuvre.”
This is a tall order. For a beginning writer, developing a style that is original and reflects your way of seeing the world might sound like an impossible challenge. Plus, it might feel risky: how do you develop a unique voice that resonates with readers but doesn’t alienate them?
One way to work toward finding your voice is to focus on the way that you use language, and to use structures and syntax that feel natural. How? By emulating the way that you speak. Here are three tips to get you working in this direction.
1. Use the words that feel right
Many beginning writers try too hard to conform to a particular style. Academic writers, for instance, might use jargon because they feel that it’s expected of them. Memoirists might try for far-fetched metaphors in an attempt to sound literary. But the unfortunate result is often writing that seems stilted or unnatural.
Instead of using the language that you think you should be using, use the language that actually feels right. When you’re in the drafting stage, choose the words that come most naturally and that communicate your meaning most efficiently. If you need to make changes in subsequent drafts to achieve a desired tone, that’s fine—but start with the language that gets your ideas across in an organic way. Depending on the genre, you might approach your writing as though you’re telling a story to a friend or a colleague.
2. Read what you’ve written aloud
Never underestimate the power of reading your writing aloud. Do this before you send a draft off to your editor. You’ll be surprised at how this simple step can help you catch awkward sentences and phrases, and help you identify word choices that sound uncomfortable. This will help you determine the kind of language that you need to use in order find your voice.
3. Speak as you write
You can take the reading aloud trick to the next level by speaking your words aloud as you write. In his book Vernacular Eloquence, writing instructor Peter Elbow argues that one of the best ways to create beautiful, natural prose is to use the kind of language that you would use when you speak. He points out that most people are very good at conveying information effectively and eloquently in speech, but that when we sit down to write, we tend to let ideas about what readers expect of us to get in the way.
Elbow argues that good writing should flow the way that speech does. Obviously, not all elements of speech are transferable to writing: speech isn’t always grammatically correct, for instance. But by speaking your sentences as you write them, you’ll be able to attain a better flow of ideas and a more natural-sounding voice.
Our ghostwriters and editors will work with you to ensure that your writing project tells your story and reflects your voice. Call us today to find out more.
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