We all want it. We worry about whether we have it or not. We're pretty sure we need it in order to get published, yet we might not even know exactly what it is. And it's almost for certain that we don't know how to get it.
So what is voice?
It is your individual style, the unique way you put words together on the page. My blog reads very differently than yours, or at least it better. Have you ever read dull, lifeless writing (who hasn't)? It's a safe bet that writer is holding herself back from full expression of her authentic self.
Your voice can be sarcastic, funny, sardonic, sweet, hip, sophisticated....you get the drift. One of the hallmarks of my novel, Emma Jean's Bad Behavior, is the main character's smart-ass sassy voice. Open a page of that novel anywhere and you'll know you're reading me. It simply sounds like my voice. (And of course, that same voice proved to be too much for most agents, who felt that Emma Jean's voice was a bit too sassy.)
But what if you're struggling with voice? If, no matter what, your writing comes out lifeless and dull? Read on, because I've got some tips for what to do.
1. Experiment with different genres and venues. Blogging is for me, an incredibly natural medium. I have no problem letting the words flow and when they flow, they sound like a reflection of me. But I work with people all the time who freeze up in terror at the thought of putting a blog in the world. Yet those same people may be perfectly at ease writing copy for their website. So try different arenas.
2. Free write. The rules are as follows: set a timer for 20 minutes, choose a prompt, and write. When I say write, I mean write, without stopping or lifting your pen from the page. Yeah, you'll get a lot of crap, but you'll also get to the good stuff. Writing freely is one of the best ways to train yourself to access your natural voice.
3. Write Morning Pages. Popularized by Julia Cameron in her book The Artist's Way, Morning Pages are simply pages you write first thing in the morning. Hence the name. Morning pages (and other journal writing) help you establish an ease with pen and paper. They help you establish a flow of words. And ease and flow are paramount to a natural voice.
4. Emulate Others to Be Yourself. This sound totally counter-intuitive, but copying a writer you admire can teach you so much about their style that it helps you develop your own. Type a paragraph or page of your favorite author's work into the computer, which will incorporate that author's style and flow into yourself. And once you understand it so intimately, you can dissect how that author did it and figure out how to do it your own way. Note: this is a writing exercise, not an encouragement to plagiarize.
5. Work On Your Project Regularly. Keeping a schedule and visiting your current Work in Progress (WIP) helps with your voice, too. Voices get rusty just like muscles do. Realize that encouraging your natural voice takes consistent time and effort.
Odds are good that you'll know your voice when you hit it. And that, my dear readers, is cause for rejoicing.
Create a successful, inspired writing life: Choose one of the recommendations above and commit to it to find your voice.
Have you found your voice? Do you remember how you went about it? Please comment.
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Photo by gerbrak.