Writing Voice Explained For Beginners

You’re going to hear about voice a lot. It’s this elusive thing that writer’s think they will magically just develop, but it’s not magic. Not at all.

Literarydevices.net says this about voice:

When a writer engages personally with a topic, he imparts his personality to that piece of literature. This individual personality is different from other individual personalities, which other writers put into their own works. Thus, voice is a unique personality of a literary work. Depending upon the type of work, authors may use a single voice, or multiple voices.

Literarydevices.net

That’s as good a way of saying this as I can think of, so we’ll go with that. Voice is unique to you. You get that voice by writing as much as you can. When you first begin writing every project is an experiment. Over time, you’ll have a “way” of doing things that is all your own.

Making simple choices

When I began writing, I wanted a clean, simple, short voice, and it lasted probably throughout my first series. It’s changed, morphed over time to include a slightly longer form of syntax. One that is more easily adaptable to content writing and different genres, I believe. That was a conscious choice on my part. What I was doing worked fine for science fiction, but it didn’t translate smoothly to anything else, and I wanted to do something else eventually.

What does your voice sound like?

Read your work aloud. Where you hear consistency, that’s your voice. You find your typical work in the choices you make all the time. Much as I try, I find my characters are constantly “cutting their gazes” at each other and I lean toward a type of dialogue style that is consistent throughout my fiction.

Charles Dickens per example

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

C. Dickens

This is probably the most iconic example of his style, and the most obvious. He used a repetitive lilt in his writing. It worked for him because he got paid by the word. The longer he took to say a thing, the more he made from saying the thing. Which leads me to my next point, your writing style is influenced by outside sources as well.

Writing to your audience

It tends to form habits in writing. Those habits can be generated by what you’re writing as well, so it’s a good idea to mix it up; try new things, new genres and different types of writing.

There’s indeed a disagreement of sorts today among writers about writing to market v. writing for yourself. When it comes to finding your voice, writing for yourself is the fastest way to find your unique voice, even if you’re writing for fun alone.

Journal writing can be one of the most effective ways to find that voice for yourself. We tend to journal in our most conversational manner, and those entries will be most completely you. There are apps like penzu to get you started, or you could just grab the nearest pen and notebook to get going. Whichever you choose, pay attention to the choices you make regularly as you write.

Craft always matters

It’s possible to become far too protective of the sound of your own voice. Polishing our craft is absolutely essential for any writer, yet that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your originality. It, instead, means you can build upon it.

Grammarly is a great tool for finding the simple mistakes we make everyday, but look out for the things an app won’t find. The app will miss a few things especially on word choice. It’s a good check up tool, but don’t become too reliant on technology for good grammar.

For a writer beginning the journey, there’s so much you’re being told about everything. Voice is one of those things that is so subjective and difficult to define as to be almost impossible to control. The bottom line is you have to write. That’s how you find out who you are on the page.

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