Crafting your author voice takes a lot of work and a lot of screw-ups to get it right. One day, you’ll think you’ve nailed it but when you come back the next day, you’ll realize that you sound like a complete idiot. While this can be difficult, it’s all part of the process of finding the voice that is uniquely yours.
Do you want to jump-start this process? Follow these four tips for crafting your author voice.
1. Study Authors With Strong Voices
According to the University of Richmond’s Writing Center , one of the best ways to nail down your voice is by studying the writings of others with strong voices. If you’re worried that may cause you to imitate their voices, you’re right. But imitation is part of the process of finding your own voice.
You’ll find out what works for you and what doesn’t as you continue to write. The more you read and write, the more those strong voices will mesh and meld into a unique voice that’s all your own.
Take a list of 5 authors who you want to be like. Study their sentence structure. Are they funny? Ironic? Do they use metaphors to get their point across? Make a list in Twitter for these writers, follow their blogs, and continue to read their work every week.
2. Realize that Not Everyone Can Do It
Peter Elbow in his paper titled “Voice as a Lightening Rod for Dangerous Thinking” stated that one of the dangerous thoughts of using the term ‘voice’ is that it implies that “anyone can produce writing that captures the attention and interest of readers without training, without skill, and from the first day of class.”
You’ve all heard the feel-good types who tout that anyone can be an author. Those of us who’ve actually done the work know that’s nonsense.
Elbow goes on to say that people who believe in this simplicity are thinking of voice in terms of writing without restrictive literary conventions. He contends that this type of writing ignores a very important part of an author’s voice: the writer’s presence in the text.
This, he says, requires skills that you have to work on. Your author’s voice, is more than just how your brain sounds when it’s talking. It’s also the mechanism you use to make the reader feel your presence through the transcendence of space and time.
3. Just Write, Already
Laura Spoerri of the Yale New Haven Teacher’s Institute says in her curriculum on finding voice that “Anything written is a great beginning.” A truer statement has never been spoken. You can study the voices of hundreds of different writers and read all of the books on creating a voice that you can shake a pen at, but the truth of the matter is that you will never find your voice if you don’t actually do any writing.
Put the books down and step away from the writing advice blogs. Clear your mind; don’t worry about the dirty dishes or that moldy cheese at the back of the refrigerator. Get away from this world and enter your own. Have a special spot you visit every day where you know ideas and sentences come to you like the rushing wind. And then write! Write whatever comes to your mind whether it makes sense or not. Once you get it all down on paper you can chisel away to make your masterpiece through editing.
4. Go Back to the Drawing Table
Wait, didn’t you just say, ‘Step away from the advice?” Yes, I did. After you’ve taken a break and done some writing, it’s time to start learning again.
After you’ve let your pieces sit for a while, approach them again with what you’ve learned. This can help you pinpoint what you like and trash anything that you don’t enjoy.
Your voice is something that may change from novel to novel or from year to year. However, your voice may also become your calling card. The most important message to take away is that your voice should be yours. Embrace it.