Welcome back folks, I hope you’ve all been making the most of the sunny weather, I definitely have. Today we’ll discuss a topic I personally feel is key to writing development, our own individual, unique, writing voice. The aim is to help you identify if possible, certain area’s that can add value to your writing, therefore improving any work you might produce in the future. Of course, some people reading this may already be doing all these things, congratulations if you are, but if not, hopefully you’ll find this useful and pick up a few tips here and there.
So, what is Your Writing Voice?
Put into simple terms your writing voice could also be referred to as your writing style. Readers will be able identify you from it, by the way you write, it’s something that with time and practice will mature, like a fine wine getting better with age. That said, you won’t have to wait years for everything to just suddenly fall into place and find yourself with a wonderful style, hard work is key here. Part of me also feels it comes down to confidence, a confident writer is more often than not happy with what they produce. They’ve created their own voice with which readers can identify, keeping them coming back for more.
So why is it important to have your OWN writing voice?
There are so many vital reasons for having your own writing voice, perhaps the most important one has already been highlighted above, it gives you a unique style that is yours alone. Why is that important? I hear some of you ask, well if you’re unique you’ll stand out, being just one of the crowd is not interesting, readers want something firstly, that they can relate to, and secondly that holds their attention. If your writing is the same as everyone else what makes you different? Why should they take the time to read your work and not something similar by another?
Now for me writing is quite a liberating experience, it allows me to express myself how I want, when I want and in whichever form I want, whether that’s writing this blog post or putting my time into the children’s story I’m currently working on. There literally are no rules, you can be as imaginative and creative as you want. However, it hasn’t always been so enjoyable for me and I will be honest with you, my first attempts at most forms of writing were pretty average to say the least. Why? Because my writing voice wasn’t my OWN, I was trying so hard to be like, sound like my favourite authors, my favourite journalists. I remember my mother reading an early draft of some vampire thriller I’d been working on and her response was ‘it’s okay but its very similar to everything else out there’. In that moment I realised that it was in fact the same as everything else, and pretty boring really. For me, quite new to writing at the time and inexperienced, I was transferring more of what I’d read directly from others than I should’ve been. This is not something to be ashamed of and in the end I embraced it, a lot of our first attempts are cheap copies of favourite stories, but instead of hiding them away forever, use them as a reference for how far you’ve come, how unique you’ve made that writing voice of yours. Now, I wish it was as easy as sitting down, picking up a pen and being able to write a masterpiece, wouldn’t that be great? Unfortunately, many things affect how quickly an individual improves though and I’ll touch on those now.
How to develop your writing voice
The two forms that have helped me develop my writing voice further are perhaps the most straight forward, reading and writing daily. Let’s focus on reading first, and why it’s so important. Reading allows you to see what works and what you enjoy, it will also show you what you don’t like which will encourage you not to use that in your own style of writing. Someone’s idea of perfection could be another’s idea of rubbish, and that’s the harsh reality, we all like different things, it’s about learning from others. I’m not encouraging you to try and copy other writers, just realise what you enjoyed about their work and why, think of it as having access to all the worlds best teachers and cherry picking what will work best for you. I also feel it’s important to read a variety of different material, my favourite genre by far is fantasy, but I will read crime, science fiction and non-fiction because they allow me to learn and improve.
Writing daily again is important, practice makes perfect right? The more we write the more we begin to see that writing voice of ours shine through, mistakes we make are easier to spot and confidence grows. I do understand with this one though that finding the time isn’t always easy, most people like myself work full time or have busy days to contend with, that’s part of what makes me so motivated to turn my writing into my lifestyle. There are a couple of things I do to make sure I have that time to write, learn and improve. Planning specific days during the week is my main combatant, I then know in advance that I’ve put that time aside to write and cannot let other things get in the way. I have also started to plan how long I’ll spend writing and exactly what needs to be written in that time frame. If you manage to spend 2-3 hours a week writing you’re doing well, sometimes that’s all I can manage what with work and my other commitments, but at least those hours are invested in yourself.
Constructive criticism is another way to help you expand your writing voice, it’s lovely when we give our work to someone and they tell us how wonderful it is, we feel proud, but is that always helpful? I will confess I’m just like you, I secretly hope for positive responses to first drafts of things, but I’ve learned that sometimes criticism is more useful. Nobody really likes to hear it because in an ideal world our writing would be perfect straight away, but that’s not really possible, even the very best authors have numerous drafts before a book can be released. Constructive criticism goes a long way to help iron out mistakes, and most people are only trying to help us improve, you don’t have to always listen but don’t let it dent your pride either.
Always have a notebook handy for when ideas might pop into your head, I never really took this seriously to begin with, I thought my day will be far to hectic to even consider my writing, but I was wrong. Ideas can come at weird and wonderful times, most of mine come when I’m at work and having something to jot them down in is important. As you become more confident you’ll start to find idea’s are pretty free flowing which is why a lot of writers seem to struggle switching off. If like me you find ideas coming to you while at work but aren’t able to just jot them down easily, there are other ways to still get them on paper.
I’ve been lucky or unlucky whichever way you look at it, to have worked in a few different jobs. When working for one of the retail giants if I had an idea I’d tear of a piece of till roll and write on the back, taking it away and then transferring it properly to my notes when I got home. This was only possible in periods of quiet, mostly in the mornings when customers were few and far between, but everyday It worked, I’d write my ideas down, practicing and developing my writing voice. My current job is far more hands on, I sell phones so don’t always have the time to get my notebook out and write something down, instead I open a word document on my phone and type it out, this is much faster, but again I only do this when I’m free to. If you work somewhere that doesn’t allow for this and you have a great idea, tell a colleague and ask them to remember it for when you’re on a break, always adapt to the environment.
Lastly, complete things like word searches, this allows us to learn new words that we might not have known previously, it also keeps our brain engaged. When I’m reading, I’ve started writing down any word I haven’t come across before, researching it and seeing if it’s something I could use towards my own writing. Therefore, improving my vocabulary and where possible making my style unique to me.
Make time for other things
Making the time for other things might sound a little contradictory to what I’ve discussed before but it’s important to get the balance right. Too much writing can cause us to become stale and frustrated, we do have other things we enjoy and we shouldn’t forget about those. I’m expecting a baby boy with my partner in September, we’re super excited and cannot wait, my writing will most likely take a seat on the back burner for a while when he arrives, but that’s not a bad thing, think of how motivated I’ll be when I return. That reasoning is precisely why we need to allow for those other forms of enjoyment in our lives, they allow us to see new things, think up new ideas and come back refreshed.
This could be a simple mountain bike ride or walking the dogs, give yourself that time to gain new life experience that will ultimately help with creativity in the future. That experience can only add to your own opinions and further improve your individual writing voice.
Thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts and opinions everyone, I hope you all can take something away from them. Feel free to comment and discuss what I’ve just been through and also any topics you might want me to discuss in the future.