Here are some personally tried and tested tips on how to find your writer’s voice. It might not be pretty and it may not be what you were expecting, but by gum, you’ll find it!
1. Write A Diary
This may sound like a bit of a chore but it can be very revealing of your writing style. A diary is private, secret, personal. There’s a sense of freedom to your writing that you don’t get with anything else. However, it is still part of a story, your ‘life story’. There’s always this funny feeling that, one day, generations from now, someone could find it and understand exactly who you were. It doesn’t matter how mundane the content is, you’ll start to notice the pieces of your life that you find most interesting, humorous, beautiful and heartbreaking.
2. Stop Comparing Yourself To Famous Authors
Sure, you may have to pitch yourself by comparing your work to that of existing, recognisable authors. Publishers might want to hear things like ‘I’m a cross between Jacqueline Wilson and Truman Capote’ (whatever that looks like). You might even have to change your name and bio to get your work sold. Who knows!? But you don’t have to listen to buy into any of that malarkey yourself. You’re an individual and no one will ever write exactly how you write.
3. Ask Someone
This one has to be carefully orchestrated to get an honest answer. If you ask a loved one, you’re most likely going to get something along the lines of; ‘you are great, amazing, inspired, wonderful’, etc. However, if you ask a professional you might get some kind of categorised definition, of which you don’t exactly understand… If you can find someone without an agenda, who actually wants to read your work, and they’re willing to give their opinion on what they feel about it – jackpot! If you can find a handful of those people and a few of them all say the same thing about your writing, the likelihood is, that’s your style.
4. Don’t Be A Copycat
Just because you like the way an author writes, does not mean you should write like them. They had to go through the same process to to find their voice (yes, this exact process, from this exact blog, whether or not they came 50 years before it…) and that’s what you have to do too. This applies to what genre you choose as well. Just because you are crazy about crime thriller books, doesn’t mean you can write them. Write how and what you write best, the more you do it, the better it’ll get.
5. Take A Break
Write something, don’t bother editing it too much, or at all if you can bare to. Then, leave it for a few days to stew. Return to it when you’ve forgotten most of what you’ve written. Do not season it! (Too many cooking references?) Just read it, ask yourself what you sound like; Friendly? Negative? Enthusiastic? Professional? Now, roll with it… Unless the answer is ‘crap’, then you should probably work on that.
6. Use Your History
There are tonnes of articles that are aimed at my age group, my soctal status, my education level, etc. I read these articles, usually about being a ’90’s kid’ or a ‘millennial’ and I immediately relate to them. The companies that write these pieces know what ‘box’ I fit into. The subject matter is broad enough for a large target audience to enjoy reading it, and specific enough for each of us to feel special.
However, there’s a whole lot of information about each of us that doesn’t fit into these ‘boxes’, our history, our past, our memories, those stories about our crazy families and those weird experiences that no one we know seems to have had. Believe it or not, that stuff’s way more interesting to write and to read. Don’t miss out on using it!
7. Say What You Really Feel
Write something honest, whether it’s angry, tearful or confused. Write about an experience that really bothers you, that you want to get off your chest. Even better, write something controversial, write that thing that you never say out loud in discussions but you have a whole speach outlined in your head. You might surprise yourself with what you write.
8. Pitch Yourself
Imagine someone just reviewed your work, what would you want it to say? Imagine you’ve got that lovely little ‘about the author’ column in your new book, what would you want it to say? Try to sell yourself in the length of a tweet. Better yet, next time someone asks about your writing, sell it! You’re on the spot, you’re unprepared, you might find you say something totally unexpected… and it totally sums everything up! Don’t underestimate the power of spontaneity (or being put under pressure in front of someone you want to impress).