When you're talking to someone, do you need to "find your voice"?
Of course. you only talk
Your voice is not something you "find". It doesn't hide between sofa cushions or under the bed. It's already there, in you and a part of you.
So why do so many writers talk about "finding" their voice like it's a complicated thing?
Because they try to look bold and sophisticated. It's actually not complicated. Elite writers just want you to think you are.
Each author has a unique voice and you don't have to do anything special to find them.
In this post, I'm going to provide a voice definition and debunk the myth that "finding your voice" is hard. Most importantly, I'll show you exactly how to do it.
What is voice in writing?
In writing, "voice" is how you speak and think. It's all about the words you use and the patterns in your writing.
Do you use a lot of rhetorical questions? Long or short sentences? Slang?
Those are all ways your voice can show up in your writing.
Let's look at some examples of voices.
Tiffany Haddish is a comedian who grew up in one of the poorest neighborhoods in South Central Los Angeles. She made her living making people laugh without pulling any punches.
Here is the opening of your book,The last black unicorn:
Hello, my name is Tiffany Haddish. I would like to invite you to read about some of my life experiences so far. I know that many of these stories are going to sound incredible. Shit, I look back on my life and think, "Seriously, did this even happen?" You'll either cry or laugh, and I'm trying my best to figure out how to do the latter. I know life is no laughing matter, but having experiences can be.
If you're reading this, you can practically hear Tiffany speak. It's like talking to her. Her voice comes through loud and clear.
She uses humour. She is open and does not always adhere to formal and correct grammar.
Here is another very different example.
This is the opening toocan't hurt meby David Goggins, an icon of the US military:
Do you know who you really are and what you are capable of? I'm sure you think so, but only because you believe something isn't true. Denial is the ultimate comfort zone. Don't worry. You are not alone. In every city, in every country, around the world, millions roam the streets, dead-eyed like zombies, craving comfort, assuming a victim mentality, unaware of their true potential.
David's voice is completely different from Tiffany's. But it still feels like you're talking to him. It looks authentic.
His tone is more serious but still friendly. His sentences are short and to the point (except for the last sentence where he uses repetition for emphasis). David's writing style is emphatic and makes you want to read more.
That's the power of an author's voice.
It is entirely her property.
To be clear, your "voice" is different from yourswriting style.
Your voice is about how you communicate. In any conversation, on any day, use your natural voice.
Style is about how you approach the reader. It is intended to persuade the reader, explain something to the reader, tell a story to the reader, or describe something to the reader.
No matter what your style, you'll have a consistent voice that shines.
How do I find my author's voice?
People with a literature degree want you to believe that your writer's voice is something you need to work really hard on. They will tell you to develop it over time as part of your craft.
This is not true. Your voice is already part of who you are.
So if it's already a part of you, why is it so hard to find it?
It is not.
Believe it or not, you don't need to find your author's voice.It's your own voice.
You already have a unique way of talking/thinking/speaking. This is the author's voice. That's the same.
You're probably just getting in the way because you're not used to writing - and because you believe that writing is "fine art".
It is not. Or at least it shouldn't be.
Writing is communicating ideas, not displaying them.
They communicate every day. Trust yourself and stay out of their way.
How to develop your writer's voice
Your voice is already a part of you, but if you're like most people, you're probably more comfortable talking with your voice than writing with it.
If you find yourself in this camp, there are 6 things you can do to get back on track.
To be clear, these are not "finding your voice" tips. These are hints to remember that you already have one.
1. Stop trying to sound like someone else
One of the biggest writing mistakes is when people try to imitate someone else's writing.
Don't do that.
I don't care how good they are or how much you like their book. you are not her you are you
You have to be yourself because that's whoReaderwant to employ. They took your book because they thought you could help them solve it.Your problems. If they thought someone else could do it better, they would have bought it.whetherinstead, book.
Give readers what they want: your knowledge in your words. When you speak clearly, honestly and authentically to them, you have a strong voice.
Chances are you like the writers you like because they are true to themselves. They distinguish themselves by expressing their authentic voice in their lyrics.
There's nothing authentic about a copycat. And it only takes readers a minute to understand when someone isn't being honest with them.
If you wantpublish a good book, stop trying to live up to other good books. Instead, live for yourself.
Let your unique point of view shine through.
2. Stop trying to sound smart
This is a subset of the first issue, but I'm highlighting it here because it's something I seeall the time.
Writers often try to use fancy words or complicated sentence structures because they think that's how writing "should" sound.
Or they think they need to "look smart" in order for readers to perceive them as smart.
I don't care how smart you are. Nobody wants to read complicated and dense texts. It doesn't make you look smart. It makes you look unpredictable.
I blame the English teachers - and the textbooks, many of which are terrible. They make people think that if they want to be taken seriously, they need to have a bold literary voice.
But be honest. When was the last time you picked up a book in your spare time and said, "I really want something to agonize over?"
So don't force readers to torture themselves through your book. You are not going.
Big words don't make you sound more authoritative.
Do you know what's going on? Good information, presented clearly and concisely.
Keep your word choice simple and skip the "author voice" you think it "should" have.
People value direct shooters more than false intellectualism or headaches.
3. Stop worrying about grammar
The best way to write is how you speak. And the way you speak won't always be grammatically correct.
That is good.
Stop worrying about grammar, especially when writing your first draft. In reality, grammar rules are not rules. They are suggestions.
Grammar rules are arbitrary conventions that people agree to. Only there are no responsibilities or formal agreements. That's why there are so many different grammar books.
There are only 2 reasons why grammar matters first when writing:
- Make communication easier
- People expect good grammar (that's why it makes communication easier)
You want your book to look professional, but more importantly, you want your book to connect with readers.
People react to people - not to rules and not to grammar.
If you write the way you talk, people will relate to that.
Maybe that means using sentence fragments. Like this. Or maybe it means starting a sentence with a conjunction.
Perhaps it means to be colloquial. Have you noticed that Tiffany Haddish said, "I look back on my life and think, 'Really, did that happen?'"
Most grammar books would never encourage you to use "I'm like" as a replacement for "I said". But he sounds like Tiffany and makes her so much more approachable.
Everyone has their own unique way of speaking. You must also adopt your own writing style. It's okay to break the rules.
Of course, you want your book to look professional, but you can always correct spelling and punctuation errors later.
When you finish writing, hand the manuscript over to a good placeeditor,editor, and oraccountant. But even so, take their suggestions with caution.
The important thing is to preserveyour narrative voiceand connect to the player.
4. Stop editing yourself
I'll take my previous advice one step further: don't stop worrying about grammar. Stop worrying about how you sound.
Just put your ideas on paper. Your first draft doesn't have to be perfect. In fact it won't be.
Give yourself permission to write a mediocre first draft. Damn, give yourself permission to write oneabominablefirst draft.
I always advise writers to write something that wevomit drafts.” Get your thoughts down on paper and stop worrying about whether they sound right.
Just everything out. Put on paper every thought that comes to your mind.
How to vomit, it will not be good. But it will be real. It will encapsulate your writing voice.
The more you struggle to get your thoughts down on paper, the less natural they will sound. You'll question your natural flow of thought and likely block any tics that make your voice sound like you.
Also, it's much easier to create a second draft than it is to write a "perfect" first one.
Think of your vomit as a starting point to help you get closer to the essence of your voice.
Here are 2 charts that can help you channel your own voice into the vomit draft:
- Imagine that you are talking to a friend. This takes the pressure off, ensures that you are being more natural, and ensures that you are thinking about what the other person is learning and absorbing.
- Imagine that you are helping a stranger to heal from the same pain you were feeling. This helps you focus on actionable advice and focus on your reader.
Do you really want to master this voice writing thing?
Imagine that you are helping a friend with something difficult that you have already figured out.
Why does it work? Because your thoughts won't be in your voice. It will focus on helping someone you care about.
Your voice will emerge organically.
5. Write as if you're not done yet
I was just saying that your vomiting will probably be awful. But in another sense, your vomiting potion will beExcellent.
Because it's exactly what it should be: a design.
Many successful people areperfectionists. They desperately want things to be "right" and have high expectations of themselves. When they write, they want every word to be exact.
Now imagine putting yourself under that kind of pressure every time you open your mouth.
What if every word you speak had to beperfect?
You would never say anything.
You can't have a natural voice - or any voice at all - if you're obsessed with perfectionism.
Every great book starts out as a bad book, or at least a mediocre book. I promise. That's because writing a book is a long process. You cannot treat it as a one-time thing.
A book starts with a rough draft - emphasis on "coarse". So it will get better with time. It is better. It is better.
I can't tell you how many writers I've seen who got discouraged early on in the writing process. you leaveher fearget in the way and they get stuck. They fear that their books aren't "good enough" or that people don't care.
Many of them give up.
It's important to keep perspective. This is a process. Your voice will evolve over successive drafts. It doesn't have to be perfect from the start.
Ernest Hemingway had one of the most distinctive voices in literature and was an obsessed editor. He was never satisfied with his first projects.
Stop writing like you're writing a finished book. You are not. You write a draft. If you accept this and relax, your writing voice will sound much more natural.
6. Say it out loud instead of writing
An author's voice is called a "voice" for a reason. It is directly related to how a person speaks and communicates.
One thing that makes typing with your own voice so difficult is that it's hard to type as fast as you speak.
If you are on a keyboard, yourIdeasoften exceed their ability to bring them down. It breaks your flow and kills everythingwriting processfeel stilted and awkward.
If you're having trouble keeping up, stop writing. Instead, say it out loud.
After all, who says you need to write your book? You can speak just as easily.
I recommend dictating your book and sending the recording to atranscription service.
With about 10 hours of talk time and a few minutes of file conversion time, you'll have a usable vomit draft.
Better yet, you have viable vomit.in your own voice. Literally.
If you're struggling with the idea of dictating so much content, go back to the 2 boxes I suggested above. Instead ofintroducetalk to a friend, actually do it.
Talk to someone else about what your book is about, and use that conversation as a guide for your draft.
We've all heard about it.writer's block, but there is no speaker blocking. There's a good reason for that.
It's easy to talk to a friend. You don't have to worry about sounding smart or having to find your voice. You just talk and your voice comes out naturally.
Don't make writing a book more complicated than it needs to be. When in doubt, let your real voice “write” for you.